Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse ("Lyssie") Lakatos are twin sisters and nationally recognized registered dietitians and personal trainers with 15 years of experience helping thousands of clients boost their energy naturally, get healthier, happier and into tip-top shape.
Through their books, media appearances, nutrition counseling, lectures and blogs, they've built a brand that empowers people to take charge of their health and make changes that last a lifetime.
Now, in their savory new book, Veggie Cure, The Nutrition Twins can help you get started on the path to a happier and healthier and more energetic you! The Nutrition Twins are revealing which vegetables help specific health and beauty problems, and providing more than 100 delicious and nutritious recipes to put this "cure" into action on your plate.
Each chapter starts with a goal such as more energy, stronger bones, younger-looking skin, improved mood, flatter stomach, etc. In clear, conversational language the authors lay out what veggies will help you to succeed in reaching your goal, why they work, and how to reap their benefits via the delicious recipes available just pages away.
Tammy and Lyssie recently sat down with me for this insightful interview on the almost magical powers of veggies.
The last time we worked together you were battling America's love of salt. So, what led you to follow up with a book about veggies?
When it comes to most foods, the nutrition research is always changing. One day a food is shown to be good for you, the next day it’s proven to be harmful. Vegetables are the exception, for nearly two decades we’ve been bombarded by research consistently showing that no matter what vegetable you eat, it can improve your health, your well-being and the way you look.
Everyone admits they need to eat more veggies, yet no one seems to do it. This is a huge shame, and so we wrote this book to share our foolproof ways to ensure that everyone – even the most vegetable-phobic person – or the most time-pressed person will meet their veggie needs so they can reap all of the health and beauty benefits of vegetables and so that they can live the strong, wonderful and vibrant life that they deserve.
Whether your goal is to relieve stress, beat the bloat, fight heart disease, improve your skin, or to lose weight, etc., there’s a vegetable to help you to do it. We wanted to share the research in an easy-to-understand way. Followers can pick their goal, see the veggies that will help them most and then be provided with numerous recipes to put their plan into action.
We all know that veggies are good for a healthy diet but you're also saying veggies can give us more energy and improve our looks? Wow! How does that work?
Yes, kiss caffeine goodbye and head right to The Perk-Up Factor: Veggies for Energy chapter. The veggies in this chapter not only provide the most essential fuel for the brain, the muscles and nervous system, but they’re loaded with B vitamins and magnesium to help you to turn your food into usable energy and help you to feel invigorated and refreshed. They’re water rich to keep you hydrated, antioxidant rich to flush out those toxins that tax your system and copper-rich to help you produce energy.
Veggies also help all aspects of your appearance, including your skin. Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants like vitamin E, C and beta carotene found in specific vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers are the skin plumpers, fillers and Botox of the food kingdom.
How poorly are we doing as far as getting our proper fill of vegetables?
Only 27% of Americans are getting the recommendation of 3 cups of vegetables a day. And most Americans aren’t even getting half the recommendations. When it comes to vegetables, the more the better. Everyone admits they need to eat more of them but they just don’t seem to be doing it—that’s a big reason we wrote this book! We want to help everyone to meet their veggie goals and reap all of the health and beauty benefits.
What are a few simple tricks for turning ho-hum veggies into savory meals?
Besides making/ordering omelets, sandwiches, pizzas, wraps and burritos with veggies added, one of the best things you can do at any meal is order (or microwave from frozen at home if short on time) a side of steamed veggies without added butter or oil. Simply mix them right in whatever meal you are eating and you’ll add great texture, flavor and color to your meal and the veggies will pick up the flavor from the sauce in the meal. Chinese chicken and rice? Pasta and chicken? Mac ‘n cheese? You end up eating less of the heavy stuff and fill your stomach with the lower calorie, fiber-and nutrient packed veggies.
Added bonus: If you’re a fan of large helpings you can bag a third of the meal for later and mix the veggies right in the remaining two-thirds and you’ll still have a large portion and you’ll fill your stomach with nutrients and fiber but without extra calories. This way you won’t feel cheated or deprived because your meal won’t appear smaller, only your waistline will!
Other ways to get more veggies? Use nori or lettuce for traditional sandwiches or wraps rather than carb-rich bread. Eat your rice and other grain-based meals by putting them in cups made with veggies—like scooped out tomatoes and bell peppers, zucchini and cucumber boats—these are delicious shells for the carbs and help to keep the carb portion in check (we have several recipes that do this in our book). You can also easily make dips and spreads with spinach and yogurt—we have many veggie based dips that can double as sauces for grains and meats and are perfect for dipping veggies).
Also, simply sautéing greens with a little olive oil, and then splashing with basalmic vinegar and lemon and a few spices can turn drab into fab. And simply roasting a veggie rather than eating it raw can make a vegetable that is often thought of as bitter into sweet, caramelized delight!
What are the best veggies for the dieter – and why?
All non-starchy vegetables are a dieter’s dream-come-true. They fill you up with fiber and water and very little calories. So you can pretty much munch mindlessly on them and never gain weight. They limit your intake of high-calorie food and prevent you from overdoing it on unhealthy items. Some of the best ones are cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, celery, broccoli, turnips and bell peppers. They’ll all help to fill you with their fiber; get enough fiber and you’ll actually absorb 90 fewer calories a day—that’s equivalent to a 10-pound weight loss each year!
What's your thought on corn and potatoes – should they even be considered veggies and can they be part of a healthy diet?
Corn and potatoes absolutely should be considered veggies—and they should be included as part of a healthy diet! They’re both fantastic for boosting energy thanks to their quality carbohydrates. One potato has 3 grams of fiber, plus, it’s packed with so many antioxidants that it rivals broccoli in its nutrients and has an incredible ability to fight cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. Corn contains powerful antioxidants that help to protect against cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Corn is packed with nutrients that play a role in eye health, pregnancy, and healthy skin.
Where does meat fit into a healthy diet? You're not advocating we all go vegetarian or vegan are you?
Meat does fit into a healthy diet. It sounds cliché but balance and overall diet quality is much more important than shunning one particular food. All foods can fit into an overall healthy diet! The key is to eat a diet that is full of nutrient–rich fruits and vegetables, legumes, lean proteins and some healthy fats like nuts, olive oil and avocados. This way, there’s room for a few other things that may be considered more indulgent. We are definitely not saying we should all go vegetarian or vegan (although that’s a great way to live and eat too!). We are simply advocating getting more vegetables into your body to reap the health benefits.
Is it true that frozen or canned veggies are just as nutritious as fresh?
Surprisingly, yes! Frozen vegetables are typically just as good as fresh and may even be better. They are picked and frozen immediately, nutrients intact. Fresh vegetables lose nutrients depending on how long they’re exposed to heat, air and light. So they lose nutrients as they’re shipped to the market, as they sit on the shelves or in warehouses, and even while they’re on display and waiting to be purchased.
Let's get personal, ladies: what is your personal favorite veggie and why – and how do you prefer preparing it?
Oh goodness, you may have just opened up the flood gates! Just choosing one is so hard!! We must admit that we are guilty of falling into the same veggie patterns and using the same dozen vegetables on a regular basis. However, while writing our book, we started to delve into the research and we found ourselves including a wider range of veggies in our daily repertoire.
For instance, Lyssie began reading the research about all of the health benefits of fennel and began experimenting with it. Now it’s one of her faves and included in her daily intake, while Tammy’s loyal to her red bell peppers but also loves turnips. Lyssie fell for fennel (which tastes like candy to her—and just happens to play a role in both phases of the liver’s detoxification process) and she either pan roasts it and lets it caramelize (YUM—sweet as pie, really!) and then eats it plain or with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Or she roasts it in the oven with a spritz of olive oil—and prepares them just as we do our Roasted Fennel recipe in our book, with a dusting of grated parmesan. Tammy eats her red peppers raw because she loves that they’re sweet and crunchy, and as for turnips, she grew to love that taste after experimenting with them for our book. One of her favorite ways to prepare them is roasted, like the Roasted Turnip Nips recipe in our book – they taste like candy to her!
What's next for the Nutrition Twins – and what are you currently immersed in?
It’s hard not to smile with this one—although we are, like always, immersed in many new projects (such as launching a new website with many interactive features for our users), we are currently enjoying hearing from people who have read our book and who are enjoying veggies for the first time, or trying new ones that they have never had in the past and who are making veggies a part of their lives. It’s a thrill for us to hear that people are feeling healthier and better than ever and looking their best by eating more vegetables. We also are getting a real kick out of watching Tammy’s twin daughter’s, the “New Twins’ on the Block” grow up and enjoy eating their veggies too!
For more information on the Nutrition Twins or their newest book, go to their website.
eDiets Chief Editor John McGran has an extensive background in online dieting and tabloid news. He covers the celebrity beat for eDiets.