Can recipes really be nutritious, delicious and filling, yet still be low enough in calories to help you drop a few pounds?
If that sounds too good to be true, you’ve been missing out on what has become a major global movement – WFPB. And no, that “F” has nothing to do with fried chicken!
It actually stands for the “whole foods plant-based” diet. More and more people are buying into it because it allows you to eat until you’re full and happy without having to keep track of calories.
In January, we launched a series of stories called the 30-Day Challenge. The first month-long challenge had to do with weight loss and overcoming poor eating habits. We heard from many readers who wanted more information, along with some who said they had finally found success by revamping their eating habits to emphasize the WFPB way of eating.
Yes, it works. Is it easy? That depends.
You have to be willing to change. And you need to enjoy a range of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains while going easy on the meat, eggs and dairy. It would be too onerous and limiting if you’re a fussy eater. You also might want to adopt a few new cooking techniques – most notably, sautéing veggies with water instead of oil – along with working a little harder to build deep, complex flavors to rival, say, baby back ribs or brisket cooked in a smoker.
Can you chop up a chicken breast or a lean cut of beef and add it to these recipes? Sure. That could be an appropriate way to make the transition from the standard American diet – known as SAD – to WFPB. But if you want to elevate your health and vitality while shedding some weight, this may be the time to try going all in.
“Generally, the food that most people eat has too much sugar, salt and fat,” said Jill Nussinow, the Santa Rosa-based cookbook author and nutrition expert known as the Veggie Queen. “The flip side of the issue is people don’t get enough fiber and fruits and vegetables. It’s a bad combination. People are eating a lot of processed food that doesn’t have a lot of the nutrition they need, and it leads them down the wrong path.”
I contacted Nussinow for this story because I am a fan of her latest book, “Vegan Under Pressure,” which combines two things I believe in strongly – the pressure cooker and vegan food. One of her recipes in the book, wheat berry and barley salad, is something I make regularly. The tender, chewy texture of the whole grains is satisfying and filling, and the subtle flavors of the lemon juice and garlic provide a bright citrusy/savory balance.
If you have yet to experience the benefits of pressure cooking, you’re missing out. The electric version, like the best-selling Instant Pot for about $100, is your best bet.
For this story on food for weight loss, Nussinow has given us permission to share another delicious and healthy recipe, 4 Cs warm rye berry salad.” If you’re unfamiliar with rye berries (or the wheat berries mentioned earlier), they can be found in the bulk bins at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op or other grocery stores that specialize in whole foods. Bob’s Red Mill, the company devoted to whole grains and flours, offers them in 28 ounce packages for about $3.
“You don’t need to eat food you don’t like, but sometimes you there needs to be a re-education,” said Nussinow, who for years has taught the renowned McDougall Program in Santa Rosa. “If you didn’t grow up eating a lot of salad, you may have to learn to love it.”
If you start that education process with the coconut and green papaya salad provided by Michael Thiemann of Mother Restaurant, you may be hooked on salad before you know it. If you tackle the included recipe, you can compare your dish with the one at Mother – it’s one of the newest items on the menu at the restaurant downtown.
Farro, like wheat berries and rye berries, is a super-nutritious whole grain that provides fiber, protein and scores of other nutrients. It’s a key ingredient in one of Mother’s most popular salad dishes, which changes little by little through the seasons. Go easy on the dressing if your priority is weight reduction.
“Whole grains are really important and really good. They provide soluble and insoluble fiber, and they really fill you up, which is very important,” added Nussinow.
The McDougall Program was featured in the documentary “Forks Over Knives,” which details the many health-inducing qualities of plant-based eating. Two recipes below are from Forks Over Knives, which has gone on to publish cookbooks, provide a wealth of free information on its website and, most recently, offers an online cooking class to help folks learn the ins and outs of cooking without meat, dairy and, yes, oil.
The folks at Forks Over Knives are so meticulous that when we contacted them about recipes for shedding weight, a representative combed through the collection and settled on two – but not before asking us to leave out avocados in the spiced sweet potato tacos. Avocados happen to be relatively high in fat and calories. Once you get to your ideal weight, feel free to include them in these very tasty tacos.
“Eating whole foods, plant-based means you don’t have to think about portion control or dieting,” said Darshana Thacker, the chef and culinary project manager at Forks Over Knives. “It’s all about understanding which foods give you the maximum amount of energy and the least amount of calories.”
The one recipe you’ll want to put in your regular rotation is the mixed beans and root vegetable stew. Feel free to make tweaks based on what veggies you have on hand or what kinds of beans you prefer. Add-ins like wheat berries, barley or mushrooms? Go for it. One ingredient may baffle you – nutritional yeast, or nooch, is commonly used by vegans to make dishes taste, well, cheesy. It’s loaded with B vitamins and even a little bit of protein.
“This is a very hearty soup. It’s got lots of vegetables and lots of different beans,” Thacker said. “The flavoring is strong, so that helps. It will fill you up and you will feel full much longer. If you can make a whole pot, it can last you all week.”
4 C’s warm rye berry salad
Serves 4 to 6
This hearty salad tastes great but has very simple ingredients, including cabbage, caraway, carrots and chives. If you’ve never cooked rye berries before, you might be surprised by their firm texture and amazing flavor. You can also make a salad with other whole grains such as farro, Kamut, spelt, wheat berries or – if you want it to be gluten-free – whole oat groats (refer to Grain Cooking At-a-Glance, Page 51, for the right times and liquid ratios).
Reprinted with permission from “Vegan Under Pressure,” Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt
25 minutes high pressure; natural release
1 cup chopped red or yellow onion
1½ cups chopped red cabbage plus 1½ cups thinly sliced red cabbage
1 cup rye berries, soaked overnight and drained
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
¾ cup vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon date or maple syrup
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium carrot, grated (½ to 1 cup)
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Heat a stovetop cooker over medium heat, or set an electric cooker to sauté. Add the onion and the 1½ cups chopped cabbage and dry sauté until the onion starts to look translucent. Add water by the tablespoon as needed to prevent any sticking.
Add the rye berries, caraway seeds, bay leaves and stock. Lock the lid on the cooker. Bring to high pressure; cook for 25 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you.
Carefully remove and discard the bay leaves. Transfer the grain mixture to a large bowl and let cool until almost room temperature. Once cool, drain and discard any remaining cooking liquid.
Combine the mustard, date or maple syrup, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add the dressing to the cooled rye.
Stir in the sliced cabbage, carrot, and chives. Add salt (if you like) and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.
Mixed beans and root vegetable stew
This is almost a chili – except that there are more root vegetables than beans. If you want to make it into a chili, just cut down on the vegetables and up the beans. Serve as is or with cooked grains, tortilla chips or baked potatoes.
1 onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 carrot, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
5 ounces mushrooms, cut into ½-inch dice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 cups vegetable broth
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, cut into ½-inch dice
¼ cup tomato paste
2 chipotle chilies (whole pods)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup lemon juice
ground black pepper
2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped, divided
Place the onion, rutabaga, parsnips, carrot, mushrooms, garlic and oregano into a stockpot. Add ¼ cup of water and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, if needed, to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pot.
Add the broth, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, chili pods, nutritional yeast, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until the vegetables are well cooked, about 20 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and half of the parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes until the stew is creamy.
Remove the chili pods before serving. Garnish with remaining parsley and serve hot.
Spiced sweet potato tacos
From the book “Forks Over Knives Family.”
1 very large sweet potato (about 1 pound)
½ small red onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
2 small garlic cloves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 (15-ounce) can pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained (about 1½ cups)
½ cup frozen sweet corn kernels, rinsed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ancho chile, or to taste
12 to 16 corn tortillas
2 Roma (plum) tomatoes, cored and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup)
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
Cut the sweet potato lengthwise into 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick sticks.
Place a steamer basket in a sauté pan, and add 1 to 2 inches of water to the pan. Cover and bring to a simmer. Place the sweet potato wedges in the steamer, cover, and steam until the sweet potato is cooked through but not too soft, 7 to 10 minutes, making sure not to overcook. Remove the sweet potato from the pot and set aside.
In a large skillet, place the onion, garlic, and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook over low heat until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the reserved sweet potato, beans, corn, cumin, ancho chile, and salt to taste. Gently fold to coat the sweet potato with the spices. Cook over medium-low heat until heated through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Line a plate with a damp large, clean dish towel. Warm the tortillas one at a time for about 20 seconds on each side in a dry skillet set over medium heat. Or, if you have a gas stove, place a tortilla straight over the flame for a few seconds on each side. As you heat the tortillas, stack them on the damp towel and cover the tops of them with the towel to retain moisture.
To form the taco, spread some avocado on half of each tortilla. Spoon some beans and sweet potato on top, and then add the tomato, scallions and cilantro. Drizzle with some lime juice. Fold each tortilla in half. Serve at once.
Coconut & green papaya salad with farro
Courtesy of Michael Thiemann of Mother Restaurant in Sacramento.
1 1/2 cups cooked and chilled farro
1 cups shaved green papaya
1/2 cup snow peas
1/2 cup shaved watermelon radish
1/2 cup cucumber rings
2 tablespoon picked cilantro
2 tablespoon picked basil
1/2 cup coconut lime dressing
Coconut lime dressing ingredients
½ cup coconut oil or coconut milk
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup lime juice
2 tablespoon shallots, finely minced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
touch of cayenne pepper
Warm the coconut oil until liquid then place into the blender with all the other vinaigrette ingredients and puree until creamy. Serve at room temperature. If using coconut milk, simply use straight out of the can then store vinaigrette in the refrigerator.
Makes 2 cups
In a bowl mix all ingredients and serve with lime wedges.