How to Be a Healthy Vegetarian

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Selection Of Fresh Vegetables

The Healthiest Diet

It’s hard to ignore the evidence mounting against factory-farmed meat: Raising livestock for food is one of the largest contributors to global warming, accounting for 20 percent of man-made greenhouse gases emitted each year. If all Americans skipped their daily eight ounces of meat one day per week, we could save more emissions over the course of a year than if we gave up traveling by cars, trains, planes, and ships combined.

There are the health benefits to eating less meat, as well. People who consume a plant-based diet weigh less, have lower incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and many cancers, and on average live longer than meat eaters.

So why aren’t we all vegetarians? Are we really that attached to meat?

Making It Fun

Tara Austen Weaver, author of “The Butcher and the Vegetarian”, claims there’s no other food to which Americans are so emotionally connected. For many of us, meat = fun and vegetarian = boring.

But for a growing number of chefs, cookbook authors, lifelong vegetarians, “flexitarians,” and hard-core vegans, refusing meat is not a limiting proposition. If you approach it the right way, it’s the opposite; it can be a world-expanding adventure.

How to Get Started

Eating less meat doesn’t have to mean subsisting on lettuce and carrot sticks alone. By choosing hearty meatless proteins, strong flavors, and meals with a stick-to-your-ribs quality (like this black-bean and chickpea chili), you won’t go hungry or feel denied.Our vegetarian strategy guide — which includes dining tips, meatless-protein options, and 11 veggie-packed cookbooks — will help you make the transition more easily.

Spring Vegetable Ragout

Ready to start cooking? Try this light vegetable ragout, for starters: You may be surprised at how flavorful it is. Sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with oil, and serve it over pasta, polenta, or tortellini to make it a main dish.

Spicy Cauliflower

Everyday cauliflower gets a flavorful kick from cumin and mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, and chiles. A cup of cooked chickpeas adds three grams of protein per serving.

Cold Peanut Noodles

This vegan dish is an excellent combo of whole grains, plant-based protein, and healthy fats. Garlic, ginger, and soy sauce add flavor, while a topping of bok choy and carrots provides a serving of vegetables as well.

Mushroom, Spinach, and Scallion Tart

Button and shiitake mushrooms give this vegetarian tart a meaty texture without the saturated fat.

Tomato Soup with Poached Eggs

This hearty soup makes a hearty meal at any time of year — and the poached eggs are a valuable source of meatless protein.

Shallot-Marinated Tofu

Extra-firm tofu, cooked until crisp and served with a miso dipping sauce, can be a satisfying substitute for meat.

Vegan Till Dinner

Food journalist and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman is a “less-meatatarian”: Before 6 p.m., he eats only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (like tofu, pictured herestir-fried Thai-style); after 6, he has whatever he pleases.

“I noticed that the quality of the food most people were eating was getting worse, animals were being treated worse, the environment was suffering, and people — myself included — were getting fatter and less healthy,” he says.

The Price of Meat

Cut down on meat and reduce your carbon footprint: Here’s a look at the numbers.

    • Cows expel methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2.
    • Sixteen times more fossil fuels are needed to create one steak than to produce a plate of broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, and rice.
    • Twenty-eight percent of the world’s assessed fishery stocks are “overexploited or depleted,” according to a 2008 estimate from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
    • Seventy-seven percent of U.S. soybeans and 46 percent of U.S. corn feed farm animals. That’s a lot of land.
    • Going vegan saves 1 1/2 tons of CO2 equivalents, compared with the average American diet.



Why Breakfast Is Important

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You’ve probably heard it said on countless news programs and in countless articles that breakfast is important. And yet, one-fifth of adults are ardent skippers. Many women forgo this vital meal to shave off a few calories in the day, not knowing they’re setting themselves up for health risks in an effort to drop a few vanity pounds.

We’ve all been there, hit snooze one too many times, can’t figure out what to wear, dash out the door without having breakfast. Next stop is Au Bon Pain and a muffin half the size of your head. Blueberry muffins are kind of healthy, right? Wrong! Or perhaps you’ve been in a no-breakfast rut. You’re low on funds to pick it up in the morning and you’re low on time. Here’s why you need to eat that first meal of the day and why you should never allow yourself to skip the meal that doctors and nutritionists repeat over and over again is the most important meal of the day.

1. Your Memory

By the time you get to your desk in the morning, chances are you’re already frazzled. You open up your email and are bombarded with the need to pack your short-term memory full of the most important things to get done, asap. More than one study done on adults (and young people) found those who had nothing for breakfast underperformed on short-term memory tests compared to those who’d had their first meal. Think coffee will give you the buzz you need? One study used a group who’d only had coffee. Their memory test results were poor too. You need food!

2. Your Energy

The longer you go without eating, the more your body starts to slow and shut down. It doesn’t take rocket science to glean that food is your body’s main energy source, just like gas is for your car. Without it, thoughts, speech and reaction time sputter and come to a standstill. Do you really want to find yourself in that position when the boss wants you to conduct a meeting in the afternoon with an hour of prep time? Or during a promotion interview? Nah, probably not.

3. Your Concentration

Your brain does an interesting thing when it hasn’t had food for many hours (say the time between you go to bed and decide to grab lunch), it starts focusing on storing the energy it has left — as if you’re in a famine. This is when you start to lose your ability to concentrate. Not to mention headaches and hunger pangs start to take your focus away from what’s really important. Don’t let it happen to you.

4. Your Impulse Control

Back to the studies: They show that when you don’t eat breakfast, you tend to look for high calorie, complex-carb snacks against your will. Researchers think your body craves the sugar and carbs because they’re a fast source of energy — they take less time to break down. If you don’t eat breakfast, you’re likely to go for the Snickers in the vending machine, even though you have that package of string cheese in the office fridge.

5. Your Heart

Researchers have also proven that adults who have a years-long habit of skipping breakfast tend to have higher cholesterol, higher LDL and higher insulin levels. These are all precursors to heart disease and diabetes.

Breakfast Dos and Don’ts: Here’s the rub. It’s not just about eating something, anything, shortly after you wake up. It’s about eating the right things. Love your cinnamon toast crunch? Your body and brain doesn’t. It’s better than nothing, but it’ll hold you over for minutes instead of hours and will have you reaching for a mid-morning doughnut faster than you can come up with an excuse for being late. Stock up on the following for breaking your fast instead: real fruit (not just fruit juice), oatmeal, nuts, cheese, low fat yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, eggs, egg whites and whole wheat breads. You can pair any of these things together for a breakfast that works and prevents all of the previously outlined issues. Make a breakfast burrito with eggs and a wheat tortilla. Hard boiled eggs and an apple are also a good combo. Low fat cottage cheese with fruit on top is delicious. But resist the urge to buy cottage cheese packaged with syrupy fruit toppings; they’re loaded with extra sugar.

Smart Food Shopping

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Woman with Tablet PC Shopping List

We have the power of choice to decide which foods to buy at the grocery store. Making the healthiest food choices when shopping and eating out is a key to consuming a well-balanced diet.

Guidelines for a Healthy You

Healthy food choices are important for good health and well-being. Eating well means eating a variety of nutrient-packed foods and beverages from the food groups of MyPlate and staying within your calorie needs. This, combined with choosing foods low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and salt (sodium) will help to ensure that you are eating a healthy diet while helping to maintain a healthy weight. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so sensibly and in moderation.

For great information on how to meet these goals- both at home and when eating out, take a look at Let’s Eat for the Health of It (PDF|968 KB). This brochure is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (the federal government’s science-based advice to promote health through nutrition and physical activity). View the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans hereand visit for more guidance and tips for eating healthy.

Basic Healthy Shopping Skills

Keys for making your shopping the most healthful:

  • Know Your Store!
  • Bring a List!
  • Use the Facts!

Grocery stores have thousands of products, with most food items grouped together to make your decision-making easier. Many grocery stores have sections where foods are shelved much like the food groups of MyPlate.

The MyPlate food groups put foods with similar nutritional value together. These groups are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Milk (calcium-rich foods)
  • Meat and Beans (protein-rich foods)


Where are these food groups in your store?


Food Group Typical Store Location(s) Best Choices
Fruits Produce Aisle
Canned Goods
Freezer Aisle
Salad Bar
Variety! Fresh, Frozen, Canned and Dried Fruits.
Vegetables Produce Aisle
Canned Goods
Freezer Aisle
Salad Bar
Pasta, Rice & Bean Aisle
Variety! Fresh, Frozen and Canned (especially dark green and orange). Dry Beans and Peas.
Grains Bakery
Bread Aisle
Pasta & Rice Aisle(s)
Cereal Aisle
Whole Grains for at least half of choices.
Milk,Yogurt, & Cheese
(calcium-rich foods)
Dairy Case
Refrigerated Aisle
Non-Fat and Low-Fat Milk, Yogurt, Low-Fat and Fat-Free Cheeses
Meat and Beans
Soy,& Nuts
(protein foods)
Meat & Poultry Case
Seafood Counter
Egg Case
Canned Goods
Salad Bar
Lean Meats, Skinless Poultry, Fish, Legumes (dried beans and peas), Nuts.


Don’t forget that your local farmers market is a great place for finding healthy foods, Find a Farmers Market in Your State.

Resources for making healthy food choices:

And stick to it! Healthy decisions start at home. Planning ahead can improve your health while saving you time and money. Before shopping, decide which foods you need, and the quantity that will last until your next shopping trip.

Consider creating a shopping list based on the MyPlate food groups to include a variety of healthy food choices. Think about your menu ideas when adding items to your list. Write your list to match the groups to the layout of your store.

Have everyone in your family make suggestions for the shopping list. Kids (and adults too!) are more willing to try new foods when they help to pick them.

The Nutrition Facts that is! The Nutrition Facts panel on the food label is your guide to making healthy choices. Using the Nutrition Facts panel is important when shopping to be able to compare foods before you buy.

What are the facts? When reading the Nutrition Facts panel consider this:

Keep these Low: Look for More of these:
  • saturated fats
  • trans
  • fats
  • cholesterol
  • sodium
  • fiber
  • vitamins A, C, & E
  • calcium, potassium, magnesium & iron

** Use the %Daily Value (DV) column when possible: 5%DV or less is low, 20%DV or more is high.

Gym Workouts for Women

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The gym is a jungle of shiny weight stacks, clanging dumbbells, and more than a few sleeveless beasts screaming through every rep. Then there’s the gridlocked cardio area (um, does anyone enforce the 30-minute-limit-while-people-are-waiting rule?), the dozens of group fitness classes — and what’s up with that 24-ingredient concoction they dole out at the juice bar? It’s no wonder women eschew this chaos for a simple elliptical routine. But when you’re shelling out an average of $55 a month to exercise, you should be getting more for your money. We asked fitness club owners, doctors, nutrition gurus, and trainers to share their insider info so you can make the most of every dollar.


Pick the right tunes. Keep your body moving at a fat-frying pace with songs between 130 and 170 beats per minute, says Corry Matthews, a Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute expert trainer. For reference, Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” clocks in at about 130 and the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” at around 170. Go to Dynamix Music and Power Music to find CDs tailored to different types of workouts. Or download user-submitted playlists at fitPod.

Change up your footing. On bikes, stair steppers, and elliptical machines, push with different parts of your feet. “Push with your toes and give your quads an extra workout,” says Lindsay Dunlap, creator of the Fat Fighters program at Sports Club/LA in New York City. “If you push with your heels, you work your butt and hamstrings more.”

Don’t waste time in line (Part 1). Favorite machine taken? Try something different. You might get even better results.

Popular: Treadmill
Alternate: Stepmill (old-school escalator-like thingy) If you increase the speed and stand tall, you’ll burn up to 200 more calories an hour than you would on a treadmill, says Eddie Carrington, a personal trainer at Bally Total Fitness in New York City. “We have five in our gym, and rarely are they all taken.”

Popular: Elliptical trainer
Alternate: Recumbent bike “They both decrease stress on the knees, shins, and ankles,” Carrington says. “On the bike, use 2- or 3-pound dumbbells, punching forward at shoulder height to simulate the elliptical’s push-pull arm movement.”

Popular: Stationary bike
Alternate: Rowing machine Rowing burns 40 to 50 percent more fat than cycling because it also works the upper body.

Free Weights

De-bug your dumbbells. Neoprene weights may be easier on your hands than metal ones, says Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. But they’re also more hospitable to bacteria and viruses. So either stick with old-fashioned dumbbells or bring along a 4-ounce bottle of Clorox Anywhere ($2, Clorox) and spray the weights and benches. “It has a chlorine bleach that kills 99.9 percent of bacteria on contact, but it doesn’t stain fabrics and doesn’t need to be wiped,” Reynolds says. Other disinfectant sprays and wipes can take 10 minutes to kill germs.

Jockey for the adjustable bench. By varying the angle of the bench, you’ll hit the muscle from every direction. For example, to work the mid, upper, and lower chest equally, do one set of dumbbell chest presses on a flat bench. Incline it to 45 degrees for the next set, then decline it to 30 degrees below flat for the final set.

Weight Machines

Get a bonus ab workout. Work your core when using upper-body machines by placing your feet close together or lifting them off the ground, Dunlap says. On lower-body machines, tone your midsection by folding your arms across your chest or clasping your hands behind your back instead of grabbing the handles.

Be super. Get your heart pounding (read: burn more blubber) by working two muscle groups back to back with no rest in between (also known as supersetting). Target opposing muscle groups for balanced results without overworking any one muscle, says Todd Durkin, personal trainer and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. He recommends pairing bench presses with lat pulldowns and leg extensions with leg curls.

Don’t waste time in line (Part 2). This time, ditch the machine and try these just-as-challenging moves.

Popular: Hip Adductor/Abductor (works inner and outer thighs)
Alternate: Wide-Stance Squat Grab two 5- to 8-pound dumbbells and stand with legs wider than your shoulders, feet turned out 45 degrees. Bend your knees and bring the dumbbells straight down in front of you so they’re between your legs. Slowly lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then press up to standing. Complete 12 reps.

Popular: Lat Pulldown (works back and biceps)
Alternate: One-Arm Dumbbell Row Grab a 3- to 8-pound dumbbell in your right hand and stand facing a bench. Get in a lunge position, then bend at the waist and place your left palm on the bench. Let your right arm hang at your side. Pull your elbow toward the ceiling until the dumbbell reaches chest level. Lower and repeat. Do 12, then repeat on the other side. Complete three sets, resting 30 to 60 seconds in between.

Popular: Leg Press (works glutes, hamstrings, and quads)
Alternate: Lunge with Dumbbells Studies show that lunges work the glutes 20 percent harder than leg presses. Hold 5- to 10-pound dumbbells and lunge with your right foot forward. Press back up through your right heel. Step your right foot back in line with your left, then repeat, lunging with your left leg. Alternate until you’ve done 12 reps on each side. Do three sets, resting 30 to 60 seconds in between.

Group FitnessÂ

Sign up for class. Need motivation? A 2006 A.C. Nielsen survey of 1,000 group fitness participants found that they visited the gym an average of 2.9 times a week. Gym members who don’t take classes show their face about half as often, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.

Choose wisely. Spinning, step, and Tae Bo classes burn as many calories as 45 minutes of running at a 10-minute-mile pace, according to a 2006 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. While great for bone and muscle building, body-sculpting classes burn far fewer calories. Best bet: Tae Bo, which tones your body and zaps mucho calories.

Juice Bar

Java up. Contrary to popular belief, caffeine doesn’t dehydrate you, according to a 2005 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. “A cup of black coffee before a workout can boost energy levels and increase calorie burn,” says Molly Morgan, R.D., founder of Creative Nutrition Solutions in Vestal, New York.

Bounce back fast. You could waste time and brain power calculating the perfect carb-protein combo for your postworkout fix. Or you could just grab a 12-ounce glass of low-fat chocolate milk. “It has the ideal ratio of carbs to protein for recovery,” says Molly Kimball, R.D., of Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans.

Avoid protein boosts. “On average, a 130-pound woman needs 71 to 100 grams of protein per day,” Morgan says. Many shakes pack 40 grams or more — too many on top of a typical nonvegetarian diet. Plus, these juice bar specials tend to be high in calories. And extra calories — even “healthy” ones — get stored as fat.

Locker Room

Suss out the towels. Unless they’re bleached, community towels can be dirtier than Chris Rock’s stand-up routine. Germs survive regular washing, according to Reynolds — so ask the manager whether the gym’s laundry always uses bleach. If not, bring your own towels.

Secure your stuff. Any gear worth owning is worth locking up. Pick up a Masterlock G.l.o. padlock ($14,, which has a cool easy-to-spot LED-lit dial and is twice as strong as an ordinary combination lock.

Warm up before your massage. Step into the sauna for 10 minutes to prep for a recovery rubdown. “By dilating the peripheral blood vessels and increasing circulation into the muscles, you’re helping your massage therapist be more effective,” says Gary Brazina, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles.

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