Vegetarian diet: The green way of life

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Updated 04 December 2013
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Vegetarian diet: The green way of life

You might think maintaining a healthy body weight would be easier for vegetarians as they eat mainly fruit and vegetables? Actually, vegetarian food includes many items that are rich in fat and carbohydrates, such as cheeses and potatoes.
Nutritionist Hessa Al-Saeed will help our readers understand more about being a vegetarian and how to lose weight and eat healthy. She also shared a great recipe for you to enjoy and benefit from.
“Before beginning I would like to clarify the different kinds of vegetarians. Total-vegetarians, or vegans, only eat foods that have a non-animal origin. These can be vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. Then comes the lacto-vegetarian who eats plants plus cheese and other dairy products. The ovo-lactovegetarian adds eggs to their diet. A semi-vegetarian does not eat red meat but includes white meats as well as plant foods, dairy products and eggs,” said Al-Saeed. “Most vegetarian diets are lower in fat than non-vegetarian diets. This is better for the health, as most of the foods they eat contain a rich amount of vitamins and natural oils. Studies also shows that vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, coronary disease and cancer,” she added.
All vegetarian diets should include a wide variety of foods to obtain the energy and nutrients a human body needs. “I highly recommend vegetarians to stay away from foods that are rich in fat and sugar because they are low in nutrition and high in calories,” said Al-Saeed. “Choose fat free or low fat dairy products and stay away from artificial and non-beneficial additives,” she added.
Salads and soups are the best kinds of foods to help you lose weight, while keeping you full and comfortable. “When making a salad, try to choose a dressing that contain citrus juice, and herbs. Stay away from fatty dressing that contain mayonnaise, oils and butter,” said the nutritionist. “When at a restaurant, ask the waiter to put your salad dressing on the side so you can control the amount you add to your salad. Remember to not overdo it,” she added.
Soup is the best comfort food because it is warm and fulfilling. Soups contain much more of the natural nutrients, vitamins and general essences in vegetables and beans than you would get by frying or stewing them.
Al-Saeed recommends making sure your soup is rich in protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins that come with vegetables and beans. “Soups are great for your body, cold or hot. They will fill your stomach with comfort and love so try to take advantage of that and add a bowl of soup to your daily diet,” she said. “Add all the vegetables you love, from carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, zucchini and more and try to stay away from potatoes. These are filled with carbs that your body does not need, especially when you want to lose weight,” she added.
When on a diet, limit your intake of pasta, rice, bread and other carbohydrates. “Focus on eating fresh greens and other colorful fresh foods instead,” said Al-Saeed. “If you fancy having cooked vegetables, just eat them with a fork and forget about rice or dipping your bread in a sauce. That will make you feel full but it won’t provide many nutrients. If you must have a small amount of rice or bread, make sure they are brown to at least gain some nutrition,” she added.
When you are on a diet, it’s all about losing weight in a healthy way. A food pyramid can be a helpful tool to guide you to the quantity and amount of foods you should eat in every meal, said Al-Saeed. “The Vegetarian Diet Pyramid suggests the types and frequencies of foods that your body required for healthy reasons. The pyramid is divided into daily, weekly, and monthly frequencies, but does not recommend serving sizes,” she said. “Your vegetarian diet pyramid should include whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables and includes moderate amounts of nuts and seeds, soy, egg whites, dairy products and plant oils,” she added.
Finally, water. Al-Saeed said she could never stop talking about the importance of drinking water. “Make sure you always carry a bottle of room temperature water. You need at least eight full cups a day to benefit from it,” she said. “It helps with balancing the diet structure and it prevents dehydration,” she added.
A plant-based diet can be an excellent source of all the necessary nutrients, such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and all nine essential amino acids. Some vegetarians will need to add supplements to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need. Al-Saeed also recommends drinking green smoothies or juices that are filled with vegetables and fruits for a great alternative drink in a hot summery weather.

This recipe is great to jumpstart your morning with a high-fiber, low-calorie breakfast drink.

Ingredients:
2 cups of spinach
1 cup of kale
½ cucumber
¼ ginger
¼ head of celery
½ bunch parsley
1 bunch mint
3 carrots
2 apples
¼ orange
¼ lime
¼ lemon
¼ pineapple

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a blender, add ice and enjoy.

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OPA: Enjoy a traditional Greek experience in Dubai

OPA, a Greek restaurant in the Fairmont hotel Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 18 February 2019
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OPA: Enjoy a traditional Greek experience in Dubai

  • OPA offers a range of traditional Greek dishes and treats
  • Take a step into Greece with OPA's lavish decor

DUBAI: Upon entering Dubai’s latest Greek restaurant OPA at the Fairmont Hotel, diners are transported from the concrete jungle to a lavish, plant-filled lobby with a tree growing right in the center of the room, before moving into the dining area that’s been made to look like a traditional Greek establishment, with white-painted walls and light blue linings.

OPA offers a range of traditional Greek dishes and treats, many of which are similar to those found in most Mediterranean cuisines, but with a fancier touch.
Before we even sat down at our round, saloon-style couched table, loud (like, loud!) Greek music burst from the speakers as the waiters, dressed in chiton and peplos — traditional Greek clothing — gathered around and began dancing across the restaurant, inviting guests to join the fun and be a part of the unique experience. White, clay plates were passed to every table and diners were encouraged to smash them on the floor. More people were willing to get involved in the latter. Who knew the dining experience would come with an anger-management class?
First up was a trifecta of spicy feta, tzatziki and tarama dips coupled with seasoned and toasted triangular pita bread. While the tarama dip was fishier than others I’ve tasted, the spicy feta and tzatziki dips were lick-the-bowl-clean good. After came a chunky and refreshing Greek salad (because why not) and a black truffle tuna tartare that hit the spot both taste-wise and texturally, as the velvety softness of the raw fish worked well with the crispy koulouri.

The hot appetizers rolled in later — grilled octopus, prawns saganaki, and grilled Cypriot halloumi. While the grilled octopus offered little to differentiate it from other restaurant offerings, the saganaki offered a twist to the traditional flaming saganaki, with its feta cheese and roasted peppers-infused spicy tomato sauce. The halloumi was on another level — the sweetness of the grilled fig and grape dressing went hand in hand with the saltiness of the cheese, making it a pleasant surprise to the taste buds.
The mains began with three lamb chops served with pickled cucumbers and tzatziki, a hearty and rich dish that will have you sucking at the bone just to get more of the lamb flavor. Next up was the lobster orzo “risotto” (according to the menu), a grilled half-lobster marinated with seaweed butter laying on a bed of orzo mixed with tomato sauce. While the dish sounded extravagantly rich, it was actually rather flat — the flavors never really reached their full potential: the sauce was a tad bland and the lobster-to-orzo ratio leaned heavily on the orzo.

For dessert, we were served the OPA baklava sundae, a large crispy filo cup stuffed with pistachio cream, caramel and Greek yoghurt ice-cream, pieces of baklava and topped with crumbled pistachios and caramel sauce. It resembled a massive Turkish cupcake, and was enough for a table of four hungry diners. If you’re skilled enough to dig through from the top to the bottom and manage to balance all its components without having one fall, then you’re in for an exciting mouthful.

All in all, OPA is well worth a visit. Whether you’re in a group celebrating a birthday, a couple going out on a date or even going solo to reward yourself for surviving yet another hectic work week, take a step into Greece and away from Dubai’s tall towers and traffic-filled roads.