Being a part-time vegetarian just might be the ideal diet. It’s healthy, cheap and yummy — and you don’t have to give up a thing.

The key is to fit in more produce at every meal and think of meat as an accompaniment, not the main event, when you eat it. Turn one or two servings of protein into a meal for your family when you make a stir-fry, pasta or stew.

A Little Prep Goes a Long Way

Here’s an easy fitness tip:  devote an hour on the weekend to washing and cutting several vegetables. Keep diced onions, chopped peppers, trimmed asparagus and clean lettuce in baggies at eye level in the fridge. Although chopping in advance causes some nutrient loss, pre-cut carrots trump processed foods by a long shot. Or take a supermarket shortcut; grocery stores offer everything from diced butternut squash to pre-washed greens.

If you’d like more ideas on effectively navigating the weekly grocery store run, try these grocery store shopping tips.

No Boring Veggies Allowed

Boiled-to-death Brussels sprouts? No, thanks. Here are three ways to cook veggies right for tasty and healthy eating: grilled veggies

On the grill: Marinate mushrooms, onions, and peppers in olive oil, lemon, and herbs, then grill on skewers. Alternately, you can grill them in a metal basket designed specifically for keeping your Grade A produce out of the fire. Then there’s my favorite way – cut the pieces large and put them girectly on the grill. This way you get those marvelous grill lines that make all your dinner guests swoon. Check out this photo… see what I mean? Yum.

On the stove top: Heat is your friend. Err on the side of getting the pan almost too hot, so when you add the vegetables, you hear a loud sizzle. That’s the sound of flavor being imparted. Don’t crowd the pan or you risk steaming the veggies; contact with the hot surface should be maximized.

In the oven: Roasting bite-size pieces at 400 degrees until tender brings out sweetness. Not just a dinner side dish, roasted vegetables are wonderful when added to baked potatoes and pasta, or even plain as snacks.

Use Up Produce Before It Perishes

Don’t let asparagus die a slow, droopy death. Set your fridge temperature to 35 degrees to 38 degrees, and know which vegetables belong in the crisper (cauliflower, radishes, carrots, and beets) and which should live on the counter (avocados until ripe, tomatoes, and garlic). Check your produce daily and use the most perishable items — tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini and cucumbers — first.

Store veggies unwashed in original packaging in the fridge until you’re ready to prep them; if they start to go limp, wash greens and roll them in a towel and submerge crunchy produce (carrots and celery) in water. If you have more produce than you can eat fresh, stock your freezer with soup or smoothie fixings.

Veggies Won’t Break the Bank

A part-time vegetarian can make meals at home for less than making meat-based ones or dining out. A USDA study found that about a third of fresh veggies — including carrots, cabbage, and cauliflower — are less than 50 cents per one-cup serving. Cut costs by planning your meal around what’s in season; check out the cheat sheet at eatwellguide.org/seasonal. Frozen vegetables, which are often picked at their peak, count too.

The veggie skewer photo is by Claire Benoist. See the full article here.

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