Veg Out!

You must know that getting your veggies is a must for good health, but consider this: Upping your produce intake may get you a little closer to your weight loss goals too.
Veg Out!

Studies suggest that replacing animal fats with veggies (as well as healthy proteins like beans and nuts) may help you shed more pounds by reducing your calorie intake. Sure, veggies pack feel-full fiber, but those who rely on a veggie-rich diet tend to eat less fat and fewer calories than their carnivorous counterparts. In fact, studies suggest the estimated 5 million Americans who eat plant-based diets weigh around 15 percent less than meat eaters.

How should I get my protein?
Going veg doesn't have to mean losing out on filling protein — non-meat proteins have plenty. Plus, they tend to be cheaper, lower in calories, and higher in feel-full fiber. Below are some options to help you meet the recommended daily allowance of protein (46g a day for women; 56g for men).

Dairy With more than 8g of protein in every cup, skim milk is a great pick; in fact, it has slightly more protein than whole milk. Low-fat and nonfat cheeses are also protein-rich, with between 4g to 6g per ounce. When it comes to yogurt, go Greek since it contains nearly twice the protein of nonfat plain (2.5g per ounce versus 1.5g).

Beans Some of the most concentrated sources of proteins come from beans. Soybeans have an impressive 29g per cup, while others (lentils, black, garbanzos, etc.) pack 14g to 17g per cup. To use, toss them into salads or soups or blend them into dips.

Nuts Although nuts average between 4g and 6g of protein per ounce, dieters beware: It's often tough to stop at just one serving, and nuts tend to be high in calories. To stay in check, eat nuts you have to shell—like pistachios, since shelling 40 (3 PointsPlus™ values' worth) takes time and may force you to eat more mindfully.

Whole grains Yes, you can get some protein in the form of a carb. Just make sure the label says "100 percent whole grain" — "whole wheat" or "wheat" alone won't cut it. Other nutritious protein-rich grains include the couscous cousin quinoa, which at 24g per cup has as much protein as four eggs.

Eggs Many vegetarians do eat eggs, which pack 6g of protein and just 5g of fat. Also, there's good news on the cholesterol front: Recent studies show that eating an egg a day may not increase the risk of heart disease and stroke among healthy adults, as previously thought. So allow yourself one egg a day. If that doesn't satisfy you, supplement it with extra egg whites, which are lower in fat and cholesterol than the yolks.

Tofu Soy is a protein powerhouse, with 8g per 3.5-oz. serving of tofu. Although there's been controversy about the use of soy, particularly for breast cancer survivors or those at risk for breast cancer, the new thinking indicates that eating a small amount (about a ½ cup of tofu or edamame) daily may actually lower your breast cancer risk. Not crazy about tofu's spongy texture? Try tempeh, which offers a similar protein punch with a meatier consistency.

Meatless meals Ready to boost your fruit and veggie intake without sacrificing taste or nutrients? Check out our suggestions below for three days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

Breakfast
Hearty Oatmeal
Mix ¾ cup hot cooked oatmeal with 1 diced small apple and 1 Tbsp chopped pecans. PointsPlus values: 4

Tomato and Egg Scramble
Scramble 1 large egg in 1 tsp olive oil with ½ cup grape tomatoes and 2 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs. PointsPlus values: 3. Toast ½ whole-grain English muffin; serve with 1 tsp jam. PointsPlus values: 2

Creamy Berry Parfait
Alternately layer ¾ cup each plain low-fat Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries and 2 Tbsp crushed bran flakes in a parfait glass. PointsPlus values: 4

Lunch
Italian Pita
Stuff 1 small pita with ½ cup drained and rinsed canned white beans, chopped plum tomatoes, 2 Tbsp red-wine or balsamic vinegar, and 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil. PointsPlus values: 6

Soup and Spud
1 cup vegetable-lentil soup sprinkled with 10 slivered almonds. PointsPlus values: 4. 1 small baked sweet potato topped with chopped scallions. PointsPlus values: 2

Flatbread Salad
Toss ½ cup baby spinach, ¼ cup shredded carrot, and 1 tsp each feta, sunflower seeds, and low-fat vinaigrette together. Spread 1 (2-oz) piece toasted whole-grain flatbread with ½ cup fat-free pineapple cottage cheese and top with salad. PointsPlus values: 3

Dinner
Veggie Burrito
Sauté ½ cup each peppers, onions, and spinach plus 1 minced scallion in 1 tsp olive oil. Toss with 1 oz shredded part-skim mozzarella and 3 Tbsp fat-free salsa. Stuff into 1 medium whole-grain tortilla. PointsPlus values: 8

Meze Platter
Cut ½ large whole-wheat pita into triangles, spray with olive-oil cooking spray and toast. Serve with 2 Tbsp each store-bought hummus and baba ghanoush. PointsPlus values: 5. Drizzle 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, and ½ cup diced cucumber with 1 tsp olive oil. PointsPlus values: 1

Hoisin Tofu Stir-Fry
Stir-fry 3 oz low-fat tofu, diced, in 1 tsp vegetable oil for 3 minutes. Add ½ cup each sliced mushrooms and grated carrots; stir-fry 3 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce and then toss with ½ cup cooked quinoa. PointsPlus values: 7

Snacks and meal add-ons
* 1 container nonfat plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey PointsPlus values: 2
* Banana smoothie (blend ¾ cup fat-free milk, ¼ cup fat-free yogurt, ½ banana) PointsPlus values: 3
* 1 pear, halved; spread with a wedge of Camembert cheese PointsPlus values: 3
* 2 stalks celery spread with 1 Tbsp peanut butter PointsPlus values: 3
* 5 whole-grain crackers with 1 Tbsp hummus PointsPlus values: 3
* 3 cup air-popped popcorn PointsPlus values: 2
* 1 cup sliced pineapple PointsPlus values: 0
* 1 large apple PointsPlus values: 0
* 1 cup sliced red bell peppers PointsPlus values: 0
* 1 small orange PointsPlus values: 0

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