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New year and time to reboot the meal plan

By Deirdre Parker Smith


More vegetarian options, a friend asked. Healthy eating, another said.

Good idea. With the Mediterranean diet being named one of the best options for losing weight and maintaining a healthier you, veggies are high on the list.

And with cold weather returning, a hot soup or a warm vegetable medley might be just the thing.

Wondering about keto, Whole30, Paleo and all those other diets? We’ll call on some experts to explain those in the coming weeks and offer the appropriate recipes. It can be so confusing.

One thing is sure, though. To lose weight and keep it off, you must not just diet, but change the way you eat — permanently. Fad diets may help you shed pounds fast, but once you stop the regimen, your body will revert to its old ways.

Doctors and nutritionists often advise people to start slow. Make small changes that can become second nature, then work on the bigger things.

Let’s start with our old friend, the slow cooker. Lentils are filling, full of fiber and do not require a pre-soak. You don’t have to use green lentils — pick any color. The red (or pink) lentils have the brightest flavor.

Slow Cooker Easy Lentil Soup

4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium vegetable broth

1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes with their juice

1 small yellow onion, diced

1-2 medium carrots, diced

1-2 medium celery stalks, diced

1 cup lentils

1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for serving

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Place all the ingredients except the vinegar in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low until lentils are tender, about 8 hours.

Remove the bay leaf and stir in the red wine vinegar. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of olive oil and chopped fresh parsley or cilantro if desired.

Editor’s note: Lentils get thicker after cooking, so you may need to add more vegetable broth or water when reheating leftovers.

This makes six servings with just 159 calories per bowl; 3 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbs, 5 grams fiber and only 3.6 grams of sugar.

— the kitchn

Crispy Chickpea Grain Bowl with Lemon Vinaigrette

2/3 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups water plus 1 Tbsp., divided

1/8 tsp. salt plus 1/4 tsp. salt, divided

1 (15 oz.) can no salt added chickpeas, rinsed

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

4 tsp. olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp., divided

1/4 tsp. pepper, divided

1 bunch kale, stems removed, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsp. lemon zest

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 Tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine quinoa, 1 1/2 cups water and 1/8 tsp. salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain any excess water.

Meanwhile, pat chickpeas dry with paper towel. Toss with onion, 2 tsp. oil, and 1/8 tsp. salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread over the prepared baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes.

Toss kale with 2 tsp. oil and the remaining 1/8 tsp. salt in the large bowl. Stir the kale into the chickpeas and roast for 15 minutes more.

Whisk mustard, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, the remaining 1 Tbsp. water and the remaining 1/8 tsp. pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp. oil.

Divide quinoa among four serving bowls, top with kale mixture, red bell pepper slices, feta and pumpkin seeds and drizzle with vinaigrette.

This 370 calories and 18 grams fat, but it has 9 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein, along with vitamins A and C.

— Diabetic Living magazine

Vegan Jambalaya

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

Half a green pepper, diced

Half a red pepper, diced

1 (14 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. sweet paprika

1/2 tsp. smoky paprika

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 bay leaves

2 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Pepper, to taste

2 cups uncooked brown rice

3 cups mixed beans (such as white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 green onion, chopped

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add a splash of water or a tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the celery and peppers and another splash of water, if necessary, and sauté until just beginning to soften.

Add the crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock, herbs, spices and sauces and rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer gently until the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed, 30-40 minutes. Stir from time to time to prevent sticking.

Once the rice is tender, stir in the beans and taste. Adjust salt and pepper if needed. Let the beans heat through and serve topped with parsley and green onions. Serve with salsa, if desired.

— Cilantro & Citronella



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