There’s something invigorating about the change of seasons. It evokes a sense of renewal and new beginnings; a perfect time to shed some bad habits and introduce one of those new ones you’ve been meaning to get around to. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an October baby, but my favorite season is fall. Crisp morning air, vibrant outdoor colors, the serenity-inducing scent of the wood-burning fireplace. Doesn’t it just make you want to cocoon under a warm cozy blanket with a steaming bowl of homemade soup?
One Dish Comfort
I love to cook and my fall repertoire includes lots of one-dish comfort foods. They’re so easy to make and even easier to enjoy. I love getting home after a long tiring day and to find that dinner is ready and waiting for me. If you get in the habit of making a big pot of soup on the weekend, you’ll appreciate finding it in the fridge on one of your busy weekday nights. What a perfect way to warm your insides on a chilly autumn day. It also becomes a fantastic way to incorporate more vegetarian meals into your life.
Whether you choose to follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle or not, it’s a good idea for all of us to incorporate meatless days at least once a week. Never thought about it? Maybe this is the season for you to give it a try!
Plant Based Advantage
The benefits of a plant-based diet are well documented. Evidence based research consistently suggests that reducing the amount of animal products in our diet and increasing the amount of grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables can reduce the incidence of chronic illnesses including cancer, heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. By minimizing animal consumption, we effectively reduce the level inflammation in our body. Inflammation has been linked to arthritis and joint pains, asthma, digestive ailments, allergies, lethargy and muscle soreness.
What happens when you introduce more plant based foods into your diet? You’ve likely just boosted the intake of your fibre, which can help manage hypoglycemia, diabetes, and estrogen metabolism (which can significantly improve the sometimes debilitating symptoms of PMS). The complexion of your skin starts to brighten, elusive weight loss goals suddenly become realistic and you will probably start to find you have more energy than you thought possible. Why not make this fall season the time when you make the effort for yourself, introduce more meatless meals into your days and see how great you can feel!
Protein For Vegetarians
Many athletes are often concerned about their protein intake. Vegans and vegetarians also should pay special attention to ensure their protein requirements are being met. Protein is abundant in plant foods, but it can be harder to consume adequate amounts as most vegetarian sources are considered “incomplete proteins”. In total there are 22 amino acids, 8 of which are essential (meaning that our body cannot synthesize them therefore they must be obtained from our diet). Proteins we ingest are broken down to amino acids and, in turn, amino acids, form the building blocks for all our protein tissues. We tend to think of muscles and bones as the main protein structures in our body but the role of protein goes far beyond that. Just to mention a few, all of our hormones, enzymes, blood cells, immune-system antibodies, and collagen structures are composed of amino acids. High quality and adequate levels of protein intake are key to providing your body with enough energy to prevent deficiencies, the catabolism of tissues or undue fatigue.
Animal products are known as “complete proteins” because they contain all the essential amino acids. Plant-based foods usually lack 1 or 2 of the essential amino acids and therefore are considered “incomplete”. For this reason, it is important to ensure you eat a variety of whole grains, legumes and leafy greens each vegetarian day as they offer complementary proteins. It was once believed that these foods had to be combined within a single meal but newer research suggests that as long as they are eaten within the course of a day, your body will be able to access the amino acids provided. The main goal should be to eat a variety of whole plant foods each day in order to ensure all nutrient needs are being met, as well as to ensure adequate energy consumption.
Soup – The Ideal Vegetarian Meal
Soup is the ideal vegetarian meal because you don’t need meat to make it hearty and satisfying. This lentil soup recipe is brimming with goodness. You can make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for several days or freeze half for another day. It’s a great source of fibre, iron and protein. It provides plenty of antioxidants from all the veggies and immune-boosting powers from the garlic and cumin in particular. Serve this delicious soup with some crusty whole grain bread and a spinach salad and you’ve got the perfect vegetarian meal.
(this recipe was inspired from “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” by Ina Garten)
2 cups green lentils
3 large onions, choppped
2 leeks chopped (white part only)
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups diced celery
3 cups diced carrots
12 cups of vegetable stock
2 tbsp red wine
- In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain
- In a large stockpot, over low heat saute the onions, leeks, garlic, pepper and cumin in the butter.
- Cook slowly for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent.
- Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes.
- Add the stock and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the red wine and stir.
Starting new habits was never so easy! Bon appetit!