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 Healthy Kitchen: Tips for making the switch to a Vegetarian Diet 
 
Convenience foods cut cooking time. Natural foods stores stock a huge array of instant soups and main-dish convenience items. Regular supermarkets also carry many fast vegetarian foods. Many canned soups, such as minestrone, black bean or vegetarian vegetable, are vegetarian. Flavored rice mixes, like curried rice or Rice-a-Roni, can be stretched into an entr‚e with a can of beans. Or try vegetarian baked beans, refried beans, sloppy joe sauce, and meatless spaghetti sauce.

Ask for it! Even restaurants that don't offer vegetarian entrees can usually whip up a meatless pasta or vegetable plate if you ask. If attending a catered affair, catch the waiter before you are served and ask him or her to remove the chicken breast from your plate and slip on an extra baked potato. Airlines offer vegetarian meals if you ask in advance; ask your travel agent to order you one, or call the airline reservations number.

Order your next pizza without cheese but with a mountain of vegetable toppings.

Find vegetarian cookbooks at the library or bookstore and have fun experimenting with new foods and recipes.

The best bets for finding vegetarian food when dining out are international restaurants. Italian, Chinese, Mexican and Indian restaurants all offer a good variety of vegetarian dishes.

Texturized vegetable protein (TVP) is fat-free, has a texture like ground beef, and is wonderful in tacos, chili, and sloppy joes. Look for it in natural foods stores.

Summer barbecues are healthy and fun with meatless hot dogs and burgers. Or, for a real change of pace, grill thick slices of marinated vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, or tomatoes.

Check out ethnic groceries for special vegetarian foods. Middle-Eastern delis offer stuffed grape leaves, falafel, and eggplant spreads. Italian markets are a wonderful place to find hearty homemade breads, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh pasta. Indian and Asian markets offer many vegetarian delicacies, also.

The simplest dishes are often the most satisfying. Brown rice, gently seasoned with herbs and lemon and sprinkled with chopped nuts or sunflower seeds, is a perfect dish.

Add variety to your diet with ease by preparing familiar foods in interesting new ways. Cook rice in a mixture of water and apple juice. Toss broccoli with raisins, sprinkle sunflower seeds or chopped almonds on vegetables. Simmer carrots, turnips, cabbage, or parsnips in orange juice.

When traveling, pack plenty of vegetables snacks like instant soups, fresh fruit and raw vegetables, trail mix, granola bars, and homemade oatmeal cookies. Fill a cooler with sandwiches and individual containers of juice and soymilk.

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 About The Author
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and......more
 
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