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story.lead_photo.caption Eating more veggies and fruits? Farmers Markets, such as this one in Rogers, are a great source. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo/FLIP PUTTHOFF)

It has been seven weeks since I returned to the gym under the watchful eye of a fitness trainer and, on her urging, gave up my beloved ketogenic way of eating to try out one that was mostly plant-based ... unlimited fruits, almost unlimited vegetables -- raw, steamed, grilled, boiled, stir-fried, baked, sauteed -- and very limited whole grains along with legumes, tofu and such.

Eating an abundance of veggies is encouraged with keto, too, but when you're trying to make most of your diet plant-based (I do take "treat" meals/days), fresh vegetables become vital. You find yourself not only buying more of them more often. You also find yourself branching out and hunting for a nice variety of them to cook up some creative, guilt-free dishes to satisfy your appetite and put to shame those all-veggie plate-lunch specials whose choices seem to only consist of greens, green beans, side salad and starchy stuff.

Saying goodbye to regular consumption of meats whose villain status had been stripped away by the keto community wasn't as tough as I featured. But plant-based food shopping and consumption opens up some whole new worlds.

A few first-time-ever purchases that introduced me to those:

• Lentils, of which I naively cooked a whole, relatively small bag. And which resulted in enough cooked lentils to have fed Coxey's Army and its families.

• Tofu, the great go-with-the-flow protein food of the plant-based world; it takes on the flavor of whatever you put it with, and it helps fill the tummy. I've had it forever in dishes like Chinese stir-fry and hot and sour soup, but had not bought it before embarking on this way of eating and therefore didn't know how it looked in a package. To anyone about to end their tofu-buying virginity, expect a block of what looks like petrified ectoplasm from the Ghostbusters movie, wallowing in a mysterious pool of liquid. Don't panic. Don't ask it what it wants or call a priest. It'll be OK. You put some flavor on it, cook it and this stuff will be your new best friend, again.

• Chocolate almond milk. I'd had the regular; I somehow missed the chocolate until I was turned on to it by the smoothies my trainer makes. It takes me back to pleasant memories of that grade-school morning cocktail: extra white or chocolate milk, which we were allowed to order for a few cents and guzzle in the classroom. Online, it's said to be good for building the muscles and, due to its magnesium content, good for relieving stiff muscles. And hey, this stuff comes with no lactose-intolerance symptoms! Now, if only somebody could do something about the effects of beans, lentils and cabbage.

Some assorted plant-based observances:

• Trust me: Veggies are actually good when they're not breaded, fried and served at the fair or the restaurant chain; and/or drowning in dip.

• And I'm really digging fruit, which I'd previously kept on "out of focus" when grocery shopping because except for berries, fruit is of the devil to keto-ers. Ah, the joy of eating bananas, always in the 50-cents-a-pound range ... apples, when they're not a mini-king's ransom ... and strawberries, although there's always, always got to be at least one rotting one in that plastic container, no matter how thoroughly you thought you examined them. And that's just the regular fruit fare. I saw some things in the fruit section the other day that looked like they had been plucked from a coral reef and might get somebody arrested for trying them.

• Straight from the Everybody Has the Same Idea playbook: Why is the produce section always packed? The grocery-chain location at which I regularly shop needed traffic lights the other Sunday. Worse, the store always manages to be out of whatever specialty veggie I find myself hankering for the most. Interestingly, the candy and junk-food aisles are usually clear. My guess is that it's more fashionable to flaunt a healthy lifestyle in the produce aisle while slipping quietly into the bad-food aisle and sneak-grabbing something extremely unhealthful.

• There are things in your fridge that you can forget about for quite some time and will still be edible when you rediscover it. Forget about a fresh fruit or vegetable, and it will have turned into a cross between The Blob and The Stuff. Run.

By the way, if you feel you're being watched as you chow down on your veggies, you are. It's your mother. She's slowly shaking her head, now gray ... due not to age but from trying to get you to eat your vegetables when you were a child.

Eat your veggies and send your email:

hwilliams@arkansasonline.com

Style on 08/25/2019

Print Headline: Eating my veggies like a good adult

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