Veggies: Friend or Foe?

Veggies: Friend or Foe?

Writing and cooking in: Pittsburgh, PA

I set out to make 2013 a very healthy year. Recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, stuck on a low residue diet, and drinking lots of Ensure shakes over the summer, I found myself at the end of 2012 with a hearty sugar addiction, going for Ensure, a cookie, or white toast and complaining about the lack of nutrients allowed by the low residue diet (but snaking Oreos on the side “because they’re safer than broccoli”). I was staring longingly at salads my friends would order in restaurants (I’d never noticed how healthy you guys are before – go you!) while I sipped on some soup or ate a turkey burger with no cheese and no veggies, but a side of hot, salty fries. I was baking and eating lots of chocolate and loving every little sugary morsel – Reese’s cups, biscotti, mince-style pie, pancakes with real maple syrup, buckeyes…the list goes on. It was a lovely, carefree time for awhile, especially during the holidays.

But eventually, reality calls and the thought of chocolate starts to make you nauseated. (Isn’t that sad?) So, in the lead-up to January, I pored over my cookbooks looking for healthy and low residue recipes. On Saturday, I spent the day roasting and pureeing vegetables in my kitchen filled with hope and proud of making it through the first several days of 2012 eating at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies and feeling fantastic. I woke at six am, wrote morning, pages, and headed to the farmers market. I picked out kabocha squash in 2 varieties, hearty parsnips, red beets, and golden beets. I arrived home with visions of gorgeous orange purees in my mind – perfect for soups or for serving underneath a nicely broiled piece of fish. It was a lovely day. I made strawberry banana smoothies for lunch. I munched on a tender, roasted carrot fresh from the oven mid-afternoon. I made Beet Pappardelle with Yogurt-Cumin Sauce for dinner from the delightful Dirt Candy cookbook. It was heaven. I was so proud of myself.


And then…Sunday morning…pain. Enough to wake me up. Something fibrous was waging war on my insides – and winning. I took the dog out to pee, poured a glass of water, and staggered to the couch where I flailed about and watched Forks Over Knives (yes, I am that mean to myself, and yes, I did think Forks Over Knives was fantastic). Afterward, I spent six hours drinking a single glass of apple juice. At lunchtime, Kevin asked: “What do I need to eat so it doesn’t tempt you?” “The beets,” I replied, “Eat the beets…they’re evil.”

You see, as I was sitting there with my apple juice watching How I Met Your Mother, I considered every morsel from the day before and I remembered how a slice of beet eyed me with distaste at the dinner table. I held it on my fork and inspected that dark purple slice, so grateful for the nutrients it would bring my body and the joy it would bring my tongue  with its sweetly roasted  tenderness bathed in yogurt-cumin sauce, I was so pleased I ignored the flash of doubt in my mind as I speared my sixth slice of beet and I ate every bite. Even the slices with a hint of crunch left. I was invincible.

I was so wrong. That little crunch in a few of the slices? That thought that I might not have gotten all the skin off? Those were my warning signs. That and the postcard from the beets:

The challenge of the low residue diet is more mental than physical. It’s easy to follow if you want it to be. You could do a simple, no cooking menu of Rice Krispies with milk and banana for breakfast, a PB&J with a side of applesauce and a cookie for lunch, and scrambled eggs with white toast for dinner. There are lots of easy variations on this that would keep you safe. But there aren’t a lot of nutrients in this meal plan and that drives me bananas.

Beets – I’m going to kick your butts in 2013. You will not win the war. Game on.


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