Thursday, April 06, 2006

Spaghetti with Garlic & Mushroom Sauce

Okay, this is my first day of trying to pack a HEALTHIER vegan lunch. I just had my cholesterol checked and I was expecting to get a really low number back. Well, I didn't. In fact, it was the highest it has ever been in my life, even higher than it was when I was eating meat, dairy and eggs. I hadn't realized how many bad carbs and how much fat was in my current vegan diet, and I didn't realize that THOSE things could affect the amount of cholesterol that my liver produces. I guess I was just stupid. I figured if I wasn't eating any cholesterol, then mine must be low. WRONG! From now on, I am going to concentrate more on foods that are good for me, and my cholesterol level. Things won't have to just be vegan, they will also have to be somewhat healthy. For my first attempt, I am going to try and turn one of my previous lunches, which really wasn't that healthy, into something that's better for me.

First of all, I've got spaghetti. Previously, I used regular old pasta, which is full of refined carbohydrates. This time, however, I used Barilla Plus Pasta, which contains better carbs, more fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. I'm as much of a sucker for slick marketing as anyone else, but reading up on this, and seeing what people had to say, I think it is a healthier choice if you are going to be eating pasta. (4/7/06 UPDATE: Well, I obviously was suckered in by all the charts and graphs on the box explaining how much healthier the pasta was because someone was kind enough to point out to me that this pasta is NOT VEGAN. It does have egg whites in it. I can't believe I didn't catch that. I have looked at every other ingredient list on every other box of pasta I have ever bought and this is the first time it has had egg whites in it. I wasn't expecting it. But stuff like this happens. I wasn't paying close enough attention. So next time I will just be using whole-wheat pasta) The sauce just came out of a can and I added some fresh mushrooms and a bunch of fresh minced garlic (which can help lower your cholesterol level) to it. Now that I think about it, next time I will just whip up the sauce myself from scratch with a can of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste and all the spices. I could save myself from eating a bunch of sugar that way. I wish I had done that this time, but I didn't. DANG IT! Live and learn, I guess. At any rate, this should be healthier for me than my last spaghetti lunch because of the reduction in refined carbs and increase in fiber, protein, and essential fatty acids (and more garlic!).

I have a salad again this time around, so there's not much change there, except that this salad looks a whole lot better than the last one. It's just some red leaf lettuce and baby spinach leaves with some fresh mushrooms, onion and mandarin orange slices. I did kick my dressing up a notch by adding flax seed oil to my usual mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sesame oil. As far as I know, these are excellent fats. I assume if you're gonna' be eating salad dressing, you want it to be made out of something like these guys.

I removed the bad carb filled garlic toast that I had last time and replaced it with some steamed vegetables. I also removed the chocolate chip cookie that I ate last time and replaced it with an Apple Pie Larabar, which of course, is just made out of uncooked, unprocessed raw fruits and nuts. Don't get me wrong, I will still have to cook up batches of chocolate chip cookies, brownies and such every now and then. I have just got to stop packing them in my lunch every single day.

Over all, I think this meal is quite a bit healthier than the previous spaghetti lunch. I haven't been vegan that long (just a few months, I was vegetarian for about a year before that) and I guess I was still in that stage where I was just basically trying to replace all the junk I was eating before with vegan versions, but they were still pretty unhealthy, according to my cholesterol levels. Luckily, my tastes have changed, and continue to change, from my omnivore days. I totally kicked the cheese addiction after a couple of weeks. I really don't even try to fake it anymore. So luckily, I know that eating BETTER will be easy. I mean, I'm sure this lunch will taste just as good as, if not better, than the previous one which was a lot less healthy.

Comments are welcome as I try to quit eating so much junk food. If you have any helpful tips or know of some top-secret ingredient or product that can replace something not-so-good please shout it out.

Well, that's about it for Thursday. Thanks for stopping by and I hope everybody has a great day. See you on Friday!


tibi said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog thus far. One thing you may want to try for your pasta is whole wheat pasta, or brown rice pasta. Both are much better for you then refinded pasta. You just have to read the labels to make sure you are getting actual whole wheat. Here's an article you might like (its mentions whole wheat being good for lowering cholesterol):

Anonymous said...

I'm overweight and my cholesterol is too high. When I periodically claw my way down ten pounds, it goes back into the normal range. So I think just plain weight is a big factor.

Jane M said...

I love how the lunch looks! It is so colorful and I am imagining I can smell the tomatoe sauce...extra garlic please! I found that my tastes changed dramatically after being vegan for a while. What really bothers me is salt...foods just naturally seem salty enough now.

Cee said...

Your lunch looks delish! I have never heard of that pasta, I will have to try it. I have tried whole wheat pasta and I don't like it at all. This looks like a good alternative. Your salad looks really good too! I love to have fruit in my salads.

kennyboy said...

Yeah, that was one reason I tried this one over whole-wheat pasta because I've never met anyone who liked whole-wheat pasta. I think they even say something about that on the Barilla website like "yeah whole wheat pasta would be the best for you but how's it gonna' do you any good if you can't stand to eat it?"

I do have a package though that I intend on trying. Heck, I might love it.

I just made some homemade buns to use with sandwiches and just made up a whole-wheat recipe that used ALL whole-wheat flour. All the recipes I found online had SOME white flour in them.

Heck, I like the things. You can definitely tell though that they are ALL WHOLE-WHEAT. It's probably not something that would sell in stores on a large scale, but I like 'em and they're much healthier for me.

So I might actually like all the things that most people dislike about whole-wheat pasta. The pasta that I have are little curly ones so I was thinking about making some kind of pesto soon to put on them.

Okay, I'm hungry.

Becky said...

I really hate to play vegan police, but I'm almost positive that Barilla Plus Pasta contains eggs in some form (egg whites, I believe). However, there are plenty of great whole-wheat pastas out there, and the majority are completely vegan. Try buying whole-wheat pasta in the bulk section of your local co-op or supermarket. There is also a brand called Healthy Harvest ( that I also like. If you're feeling more adventurous, you could even check out different pastas made from spelt and other cool grains, which would most likely also be found in a local co-op/health-food store. Good luck and keep up the great work with making great and *healthy* vegan food!

Anonymous said...

Nice lunch!
Oatmeal also helps lower cholesterol, so adding it to cookies or having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast once in a while may help, too. You might also want to avoid trans-fats (anything partially or wholly hydrogenated) as this is along the lines of saturated fat. And I may be wrong, but I believe I've read that in order to get the most out of flax and other sources of veg omega3's, you need to balance the ratio of omega 3's and omega 6's. I also think I've read that non-flax veggie oils like olive oil and safflower oil, skew that ratio too heavily toward the 6's. So maybe just the flax oil in your salad dressing. . . I love your blog! Here's to your health!

Merry said...

I find that the shaped whole wheat pastas (fusilli, bowtie, etc) are easier to take than the spaghetti or angel hair. I think it's because you expect those shapes to be firmer than spaghetti already. Dunno, just my experience.

I have high cholesterol too (maybe b/c I'm an omni). I think your genes play a big role as well. My uncle has been veggie for 20+ years (and eats very little if any junk) and he has high cholesterol. I'm trying to up my intake of oatmeal, fiber and soy all which are supposed to help lower your cholesterol.

Good luck!

kennyboy said...

DANG IT! You are right. That pasta does have egg whites in it. I am normally so good about reading the labels. There was just so much writing all over the box about how much healthier it was with charts and tables and stuff that I got too engrossed in that I guess.

Plus I am used to the fact that all the pasta I have ever previously bought did not contain any eggs. I think I have looked at the ingredient list of every other pasta I have ever bought. So I really wasn't expecting it. Like I said, I am a sucker for slick marketing.

So okay people, ignore everything I said about this pasta, it is NOT VEGAN. As you know, unfortunately, sometimes companies or restaurants will sneak something in that they don't tell you about, or that you miss because you didn't expect it.

Lesson learned. Whole wheat pasta it will be.

And don't worry about playing vegan police. I never would have eaten that if I had noticed that but I didn't. At least you have saved me from eating the rest of the package.

Why do they have to put egg whites in EVERYTHING!?!?!?!

Marieke van Vugt said...

Thanks for starting this blog. I also just got my lunch box and it's great to get some more ideas for what to put in it. As regards junk food replacers, I found that banana chips are a pretty good bet. they are really delicious, make you feel filled pretty quickly and if I have a chocolate/cookie craving they work quite well as an alternative. Any type of dried fruit is very good by the way and not too expensive if bought in bulk.

gamín said...

Hey there I love your blog, all looks great, especially those pumpkin muffins! If you're interested, Tinkyada brown rice fettucine (pad thai style) is really really awesome, especially in asian dishes. Also, corn-quinoa pasta ("Ancient Grain" brand, I think) is super good if you like a slight corn taste (think millet). Maybe whole-wheat couscous is more your style? You could make taboule. Whenever the scale creeps up on me I usually stick to massive amounts of fruits and veggies versus grains- fills me up more. And lots of spicy foods! I feel satisfied after those. Hope all goes well, as soon as uni ends (in May) I'm going to be trying to lose some extra pounds too... take care!

scs said...

I didn't like whole wheat pasta at first either, but after half a dozen times or so I really started to like it (the white kind actually seems tasteless). I've heard you have to try something you don't like ten times before you start liking it; maybe that's true. Healthy Harvest (mentioned above) is a very good place to start because it is a blend of regular and whole wheat to get you gently going in the 100% whole wheat direction. Good luck with your ongoing health push!

Freedom said...

Hey, just wondering why you changed the name of your blog? Was it a bit controversial before or something?
Wholewheat pasta is yummy!

kennyboy said...

I just noticed that it was getting caught by the filters when I would look at it at work and I saw where the IT department had checked it out to see what it was. There was no problem, but I didn't want other people who might be looking at it at work to maybe have attention drawn to them because of the name.

Plus, I went to submit the site to one directory (can't remember which one) and it automatically rejected it just because of the name.

I didn't mind it. I actually kinda' liked it. But I guess food porn is not mainstream enough yet because I got uncomfortable looks from some people when I would tell them about it and I had to go into the whole explaination about what food porn meant and they would still look at me like I was lying or something.

Lunchcast is easier, more mainstream I guess, and I actually like it better now.

Superhappyjen said...

My first boyfriend was vegan, so I know that it is possible to eat VERY unhealthy without the aid of meat, dairy and eggs. Power to you for trying to eat healthier and dispelling the myth that vegan automatically equals nutritious. Cheers.