Join 3,427 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


If I Eat Any More Leaves I Am Going To Turn Into A Sloth
January 18, 2014 5:10 AM   Subscribe

My gall bladder tried to explode three months ago, and the only thing maintaining its good behavior is a fat free vegan diet. DOESN'T THAT SOUND JOYOUS? I am so fed up with my limited dietary options it is all I can do to ask you, oh beloved Mefites, for what recipes and suggestions you can offer to allow me to taste a food again.

I am done with leafy salads. It's summer where I am and I have eaten every permutation of green leaf + whatever. I've even sourced many a kale, chard, pea leaves, the works. Done, man. Just done. Three months of leaves.

The fat free thing is a fucken nightmare. It's a big wrench into my google fu, as an awful lot of appealing vegan recipes I keep finding have pain makers in them. No avocado, no coconut milk, no coconut cream, no nut milks or butters, no olive oil, nothing. Nada. Zippo. Every time I have tried sneaking bits into my diet I have wound up in agony. I can manage small amounts of ground up nuts as a half-hearted flavouring agent, but no more than a slight, sad drizzling. Just so you can taste that maybe, there should be a taste, but not enough to identify what it is. Just enough to make me weep lightweight, nutritionally incomplete tears.

Right now I'm living on cucumber sushi rolls, dry-fried tofu, vermicelli, and goddamn salad. I've generally pretty adventurous when it comes to food, so any flavour profile is welcome. I love Indian cooking in particular, but the NO FAT NO HOW LADY part of the equation is making life difficult here. I also have access to various ethnic food places from all corners of the globe (seriously, there's a Phillipines grocer next door to a Russian deli across the road from a Greek run greengrocer and that's just on my block) so I can probably source, like, khlav kalash or whatever if only you swear to me it doesn't taste of boring.

My only other request is that I avoid anything that is too sugary, as I don't have much of a sweet tooth and my partner is trying to go as carb light as possible. Also, I have a six month old baby so nothing that will take five hours of careful maceration followed by a ritual flensing and then into the oven to be rotated at ten minute intervals for an hour...you get my drift. Relatively quick.

I don't yet have date for surgery. I've gotten a sort of "your-organ-failure-has-been-logged-and-placed-in-a-queue" letter from Queensland Health but haven't seen the surgeon yet. The gall bladder is coming out, I just don't have a timetable yet.

If you don't have any food ideas, maybe you could help me work out which god I've offended and whether this is an old priest/young priest moment or one requiring a black ram and a relaxed attitude to chthonic invocations.
posted by Jilder to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
 
This might be what you're looking for: Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
posted by lizifer at 5:16 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


What about Japanese cooking? There are a lot of vegetables, and very little oil. I suppose soy sauce has some oil in it, but if you stay away from deep-fried foods (which use canola oil) it's pretty damn tasty.

The basic seasonings are salt, soy sauce, mirin (a sweet cooking sake), sometimes sugar, and miso paste. Ginger, chili peppers, and green onions are also used, as well as sesame powder.

As well, bonito soup stock and kombu kelp stock are used.

It might be worth a try, if you can tolerate soy.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:39 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


What about pickled things? Kimchi is a flavor blast that can be put on all sorts of stuff. You can make it yourself (very little actual time, but it takes a while to ferment) or buy a billion different kinds at any Korean grocery.
posted by rockindata at 5:39 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Get a juicer, man. I bought this thing and it is amazing. Pricey, yes , but we have made delicious concoctions with tumeric and spinach and all kinds of weird combinations. No fat, no added sugar. If I weren't so lazy I would drink a green smoothie for every meal.
posted by deathpanels at 5:41 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


I have lived for months on grilled fish (avoid sardines and mackeral - too oily) and roasted cauliflower in place of rice. But then, I love salad and greens and would never get tired of them.
posted by zaelic at 5:52 AM on January 18


Just yesterday I had a yummy pumpkin-shiitake onigiri. Some chives were in there as well. Really great combo.

Here is a pumpkin-shiitake-chickpea stew. Really filling, healthy and a good flavor profile. No added fat. If you don't have a slow cooker (I don't), cook it in a large pot.

Cooking soups and stews, of which many can be made vegan and in large batches, is not labor/time intensive and works without adding fats. And I like to eat both chilled, with a splash of yoghurt on top (you could try soy yoghurt).

Hope you get a date for the surgery soon. Best of luck!
posted by travelwithcats at 6:01 AM on January 18


My sympathies! Vegan is easy, fat free can be tough.

As linked above, FFV is a fantastic resource for the sort of thing you're looking for. Here are some more recipes: Vegan Connection's Fat-free Vegan Recipes and Low Fat Vegan Chef. Here's a list of almost all vegan fat-free Indian recipes. The Engine 2 diet folks are both vegan and very big on discouraging people from eating any oil at all, so they have a lot of information for you here.

Vegan pro tips:
* Nutritional yeast (nooch) is fat-free, a lot of omnivores just eat it on popcorn but a lot of us vegans use it on everything! We think it tastes like cheese. Leahey Foods' Cheese-Flavored Sauce Mix is divine, it comes together in just a couple of minutes and it's super great for baked mac and no-cheese (sprinkle some breadcrumbs and oregano on top... YUM).
* Seitan is also fat free and (imo) very delicious. Sift together 1 cup vital wheat gluten, 1 tsp flour, 1/2 tsp each garlic and onion powder, and 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper (and/or whatever other spices you like), then add 1/2 cup cold water and 1/4 cup soy sauce and knead everything together thoroughly for 3-5 minutes. Slice up the resultant "dough," add the slices to a stockpot containing 6-8 cups cold vegetable broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the slices are firm. Let cool and store in broth. Voila! You can use in place of beef, chicken, or whatever.

You may find these links helpful in terms of relearning how to cook: Substitutes and Techniques for Fat-free Cooking and Fat-free tips.

Do you have a slow cooker? Slow cookers are your best friend in terms of really developing flavor with little to no added fat. I just picked up this book and there are tons of amazing recipes, many of which are fat-free, with tips on how to reduce the fat content next to the recipes that contain it: Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.

When it comes to low/no-fat cooking, the most common suggestion I see is to "water-saute," which does what it says on the tin -- just fry off your aromatics in a bit of water or vegetable broth instead of oil. You can also microwave the ingredients for a couple of minutes in a small bowl with some water or broth rather than sauteeing them.
Unsweetened applesauce or flaxseed (1 Tbsp ground flaxseed/flaxseed meal + 3 Tbsp water = 1 egg) are very popular no-fat substitutes for eggs in baking.

These are all very easy, flavorful one-pot or one-pan fat-free vegan meals (leave out any oil mentioned, natch):
* Ethiopian stewed red lentils
* Chickpea and tomato curry
* Indian red lentil dal
* Mexican black bean & corn soup
* Sweet potato & black bean chili
* Fat-free tofu stir fry with Chinese garlic-ginger sauce
* Black beans & rice with garlic-citrus kale
* Fat-free spicy lentil soup
posted by divined by radio at 6:15 AM on January 18 [14 favorites]


Can you eat tofu? This brand of silken tofu is great for blending into anything - puddings, dips etc. for eg you can blend it with onion, spinach, cayenne, lime juice and salt for a tasty dip. I like it because it can be made to taste incredibly greasy even though it isn't. Google around for more recipes.

Compress it with your hands or squeeze it between two plates to get the excess water out before you use it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:27 AM on January 18


This Mixed Bean Masala is pretty much unfuckupable in my experience, and I think would work fine leaving out the oil. Its also really easy and delicious. Same with this .
I haven't tried this one yet, but it looks good:
Smoky Yellow Dal
posted by Fig at 6:30 AM on January 18


One thing that I really like that fits the brief is Gordon Ramsay's broccoli soup. (Just leave out the cheese/ oil garnish). 'Creamy' and hearty and you can pretty much doctor seasonings any way that you'd like. I do it with cauliflower too and add curry powder and cayenne and it's delicious!
posted by hellomiss at 6:40 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


Beans and lentils flavoured with veg and spices may help with nothing feeling flavoured and gives you something a bit more substantial. They're less carb-y than grains but maybe still too much for your partner? If not . . .

This lentil and asparagus sour dal is not authentic, but it is tasty and I bet you could manage it without the oil. Make sure you keep adding salt until it tastes good - it needs more than I expect.

Likewise these beans are, yes, better with olive oil, but are quite wonderful without. I eat them with spinach cooked with lemon and garlic and nice crusty bread.

If you can relax the low carb requirement, the lemon cous cous recipe here is quite wonderful. If stock has too much fat, it would still work with a bit of extra salt.

You can always just do roasted vegetables drizzled with balsamic vinegar. You don't actually need oil to roast veggies, though the results will be slightly different.

Good luck with finding food that helps you feel happier.
posted by kadia_a at 6:52 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


I am neither vegan nor fat free, but one of my favorite recipes can be:

One cup dried quinoa (or a different grain if you prefer)
One 12 ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice + the tomato can of water
One half cup or so of corn, or more
One can black beans, rinsed
Ground cumin and chili pepper to taste
Salt and pepper

I just pop it all in the rice cooker and hit go- it will turn off when done. If you don't have a rice cooker simmer it all together on the stove for maybe 20 minutes, just make sure it doesn't stick.

I usually serve with sour cream and avocado, but it is also good without, and very filling.
posted by ohio at 7:05 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Into a saucepan dump a chopped onion, a clove or two of finely minced garlic, a small can of tomatoes, two zucchini cut into small pieces, half a tablespoon of harissa powder (mixed with water) and a can of chick peas (drained). Bring up to a simmer, cook until the onions and zucchini are cooked. Taste it and add salt & pepper as needed.

Serve over lightly steamed shredded cabbage or raw baby spinach - the hot food will wilt the spinach.
posted by essexjan at 7:08 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Spice! Spice doesn't bother the gallbladder at all, so since you like noodles, go for soba noodles with Thai sweet chili sauce on it. Or brown rice with mixed veggies and lots of peppers. Or a stir-fry of vegetables with tons and tons of garlic and ginger (stir fry it in a tiny bit of water instead of oil).

My total sympathies. It took months before doctors would take out my gallbladder, and I remember the "please kill me now" pain of it.
posted by xingcat at 7:30 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


I believe these were the cookbooks that were used by relatives who were doing the fat-free vegan diet:

The Engine 2 Diet
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease

I ate many meals at their house, and the food they made from these books was delicious. So much chewing... but the food was delicious.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:58 AM on January 18


Fast easy lunch idea I eat a lot - drain and rinse a can of black beans, top with about a quarter cup of salsa, microwave for 2.5 minutes. Stir and yum.
posted by cecic at 8:34 AM on January 18


Lime wedges. Squeeze lime wedges on things. This should give you a new flavor for a while.

Good luck.
posted by amtho at 8:50 AM on January 18


Maybe you got to avoid all this media coverage because you're in Australia; whatever god you offended is the same one Bill Clinton did. If you look up "Bill Clinton diet" you're going to see a lot of articles about it from a few years ago, many of which will have recipes (for example).
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:59 AM on January 18


Following up on St. Peepsburg's question: if you can eat tofu, use it to make dips and spreads and sauces. It adds great body and lots of protein and is wonderfully adaptable.

I often make artichoke tofu dip to serve as a dip or a sandwich spread, but it's also a great salad dressing or sauce thinned down with extra lemon juice. That link describes using olive oil, but you could easily leave it out without a substantial loss in flavor; if the spread is too thick to blend nicely, add more lemon or a splash of water or, if it's not too salty, a spoonful of the artichoke brine.

So, in a food processor or with an immersion blender, mix

1 can plain artichoke hearts, chopped coarsely
8-10 ounces silken tofu
a hearty squeeze of lemon (if you can tolerate the tiny amount of oil from the zest, add some)
grated pepper
red pepper flakes
a clove of garlic, smashed or minced
a small handful of basil if you have it

until smooth-ish and salt to taste. Basil is great in this, but if you have any fresh herb on hand, try it.

I also love roasted red pepper puree as a sauce over pasta, over steamed or blanched or roasted vegetables, over grains, over tofu. Again, you can add red pepper flakes, dry-roasted garlic, black pepper, fresh herbs. Since you can tolerate a bit of nut, you could add some pan-toasted almonds or hazelnuts to make a lighter version of romesco sauce. It's traditionally made with smoked paprika, too (but obviously, leave out the oil that is common to romesco).

That might be an answer: look for the flavors that don't rely on fat. Smoked paprika, smoked salt, tangy lemon juice and zest, vibrant red pepper, fresh basil or rosemary or chives, caramelized onions* or pan-roasted garlic. You seem to be missing flavor, not fat, and there are a lot of sources for flavor.

I second cecis's suggestion of black beans with salsa, though I often add a big splash of water and cook it off to meld the flavors and soften the beans, then eat it with rice or serve in a corn or flour tortilla. If you can't find fat-free tortillas, try stuffing the beans into pocket breads or flatbreads. Or you can make my simple black bean soup. Again, the recipe there calls for a bit of fat to soften the onions, but instead just use a splash of the liquid (wine or sherry, or you can substitute beer) called for in the recipe. It won't make a big difference in flavor.

You say you can tolerate a little bit of nut or seed, but a little bit in the right dish makes a big difference. I don't really have a recipe for this, so it's different every time: I make a dressing/sauce of miso, a spoonful of fresh-toasted sesame seeds, a splash of mirin, grated ginger, and a big glug of water to loosen it all up for blending until smooth. (It's a sweetish dressing, so I usually add a pinch of sugar, but you can leave that out.) It's similar to the dressing served at Japanese restaurants, usually over avocado. I know avocado is off-limits for you, but I also love this stuff over cucumber and tomato salad, over green vegetables, to dip tofu into, or to pour over a baked sweet potato.

*You can slow-caramelize onions to a deep mahogany richness without butter or oil, but it takes patience and attention. I start with a big pan full of sliced onions, splash them with sherry or wine to get them started sweating, and leave them mostly covered over low heat for at least an hour, more often two or three, stirring often enough to keep them from sticking or burning. A friend tells me this works just as well, but slower, in a slow cooker or in the oven.
posted by Elsa at 9:43 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


This may be too obvious, but my go to combos when I want to smother something with seasoning are 1. balsamic vinegar plus soy sauce, 2. lemon plus garlic and salt, 3. ginger, garlic, soy (and maybe miso), 4. basil and garlic, 5. cumin and red pepper.

Also, this corn, tomato, basil, okra salad is delicious and can be made without the oil.
posted by slidell at 9:55 AM on January 18


Vietnamese vegan summer rolls!

Don't know if soy, rice vinegar, chili and so on is out, but once you get started there are so many combinations of stuff you can mix in a roll and dip in sweet/sour/salt/weird sauce you'll be set. I don't know if it's the multitude of ingredients that does it, but ever since discovering it we've had it a couple time a week, and have not grown anywhere near tired of it. Mind, I'm vegan to begin with, so whatever flavours you're pining for might still be unavailable to you, but it doesn't take much effort to get great variation.

Basically, if you cut up 10 different ingredients — carrots, steamed leek, smoked tofu or tempeh, rice noodles, mint leaves — and get two sauces for dipping, you're set.
posted by monocultured at 10:17 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


You could involve roasted garlic? Surely that can be done without oil if you bake it in the skin. Sounds grim :-( hope its not forever.
posted by tanktop at 11:34 AM on January 18


gOOGLE wELLNESS FORUM, ENGINE 2, MCDOUGALL, FAT-FREE VEGAN BLOG
posted by TRUELOTUS at 11:36 AM on January 18


I was able to tolerate eggwhites while awaiting the removal of my gallbladder, which gave me a lot more variation in food-prep options. For example, greens shredded and cooked in an eggwhite omlette didn't give that "urgh, Leaves Again?!" feeling.

I was able to tolerate olives as well, so made a no-oil-added tapenade to use as a spread/topping, which was a godsend.
posted by desuetude at 11:53 AM on January 18


Speed Vegan! Delicious, easy to prepare recipes.
posted by elf27 at 12:14 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


I came in to recommend rice paper rolls, as suggested by monoculltured. If you have an Asian grocery nearby, you can probably get mint and coriander very cheaply, and together they are a taste sensation! While you're there, see if they have a product called "five spice bean cake" or "savoury pressed tofu" (in the fridge with the rest of the tofu). I adore five spice bean cake and I can and do eat it straight out of the packet - it reminds me of pressed chicken (though I haven't eaten pressed chicken in 16+ years, so idk how accurate that is!) I also use it on summer rolls and sometimes grated in salads, pasta sauce etc. I just went to the fridge and checked the label - it's fattier than regular tofu (11g/100 vs. 4.8g/100 for regular hard tofu) but part of that is that the water is pressed out. It might still be possible to have a small amount e.g. thin slices in summer rolls.

Others have mentioned flavourful things to try, and I will add Liquid Smoke. It's hard to find in AU but I've seen it in specialist grocers sometimes, and you can order it from USA foods or eBay e.g. here. I use it in bean dishes to get a really smoky rich flavour.

I just wanted to note as well that having to eat fat free while your partner is trying to limit carbs means it's going to be a struggle to make satisfying meals that will feed both of you. You are already cutting out one whole macronutrient, and it's not surprising if seriously limiting another one makes you feel short of options! Have a think about whether there's something quick and easy one of you can add that will be a better fit for your needs. E.g. you have lemon couscous + salad, your partner has less of the couscous and cooks up some fish to go with it? I know with a baby spending more time on food prep is probably not a priority, but maybe on weekends you might have more options? Good luck!
posted by Cheese Monster at 1:52 PM on January 18


I've made the Southern Fried Tofu version of this Baked Nutrional Yeast Tofu recipe and, as an omnivore, I have to say it was really delicious. If you line a baking sheet with foil or parchment instead of greasing it and skip the "mist the tops with cooking spray" step, I believe it should be fat free. All the spices are awesome. Don't limit yourself to dry-fried tofu! Spice that stuff up!

Also, have you done tofu scrambles? Previous thread on tofu scrambles. The reason why these are awesome is you can combine the satisfying, high-protein, textured heft of tofu with all the vegetables you want and (again), all the spices you want! I suggested a quick-meal shortcut in that thread of scrambling tofu with packet curry to season it. I kind of doubt fat-free packet curry is much of a thing but I have also used canned curry pastes like Maesri and Mae Ploy (the picture shows the MP Panang flavor as having shrimp, but I'm pretty sure that most of the other flavors are spices only--I used the Maesri ones all the time. In all fairness, sometimes the paste comes out of the can looking a little oily, so maybe it's not OK for you?) as well as spoonfuls of garam masala powder.

This also works for flavoring a fat-free fried rice, made in a nonstick/cast iron pan with no oil. Cold rice (leftover from another meal, easy!), vegetables (leftovers or frozen is totally great!), soy sauce, curry paste, or other flavoring. Done and on the table in minutes.

Since it's summer where you are, a hot soup may not be appetizing, and this is the opposite of carb-light, but the easiest, laziest real-food thing I make is jook/congee, which is a comfort food for me. It works like this: put a cup of dry rice into the slow cooker insert. Throw some chunks of ginger in, if you have it. Since I'm an omni I put in soup bones and concentrated chicken broth paste at this point, but you could easily put in concentrated vegetable broth paste and dried shittakes or something instead. Fill to an inch or so from the top with water, depending on the size of your cooker (you want, say, 8-10 times the amount of water as rice, so if you have a small pot use less rice). If you don't have concentrated broth paste, which I keep around because it's easy, you could use non-condensed veggie broth instead of water. Put the cover on, turn it on low, go to work or to bed (or just wait 4-8 hours) Come back, and the rice will have simmered so long it will have turned into a thick, creamy sort of porridge. Eat with soy sauce, hot sauce, salt, whatever. If you don't have a slow cooker, you can just simmer it on the stove. It's extremely low-maintenance. Here's a proper recipe, you can skip the egg and oil.

I could be wrong, but I'm operating under the idea that what you're craving is more flavor and satiety than you're getting from things like cold salads made only of leaves. Thus, all the flavor and hearty-food recommendations which still include vegetables.

I totally sympathize. I hope it works out in your favor soon!
posted by spelunkingplato at 2:02 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Fajita-style dry sauteed peppers and onions might be another nice addition to your dry-fried existence.
posted by redfoxtail at 5:21 PM on January 18


This won't help you much today, but be assured that once the surgery is over, you no longer have to worry about eating fats - you'll wonder why you even had a gallbladder.

One other thing: I was eating a great deal of fiber and even taking fiber supplements and my doctor told me to cut it back a bit because almost everyone has some diverticulosis, especially old people like me, and too much fiber is a set-up for diverticulitis which can be serious, very painful, and can even result in bowel obstruction and surgery.

Good luck to you. My cholecystectomy was a breeze - hope yours is too and hope it comes very soon.
posted by aryma at 6:08 PM on January 18


Seconding DeathPanels, get a juicer.

I don't own a juicer, but I occasionally get fresh juice when I'm out.

Just yesterday, I had a really delicious, refreshing green juice, and I'm not a good veggie eater at all. Kind of a kale hater actually, so it really surprised me how good this kale-containing juice was.

It was kale, celery, cucumber, apple and I'm not sure what else, but I suspect it was close to the recipe on this page:

Green Refresher:
1 cucumber
3-4 stalks of kale
3 stalks celery
1 lime
1 apple
1/4" ginger

I also really liked what she had to say about how to make a green juice taste really yummy. Just follow these three rules:

1) It must have a sweet fruit (like apple)
2) It must have a citrus (like lemon or lime)
3) It must have ginger
posted by marsha56 at 11:53 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


I had my gall bladder out a couple of years back after it got seriously infected and started to fuse to the things surrounding it. The surgery took almost five hours and I was in hospital, in excruciating agony, for a week. Remember, this is a relatively minor keyhole procedure and the stay is usually just overnight. Happily I got a private room for the first few days, probably because they thought something was going to go wrong.

My point is, I feel your pain, but luckily for me it was only about a month from the diagnosis to the surgery (at QE2, of all the godawful places). I hope your surgery comes about as swiftly, and goes a lot better than mine did, which I am pretty confident it will because I put off going to the doc's for a long time.

I never had to go full vegan (which I could have coped with) or zero-fat (which, ehhh, not so much), I simply had to avoid wacky, super-fatty stuff like pizza and fish and chips (which are the things I had that set off attacks). I was still able to enjoy pastas and meats and stews and such, with minimal discomfort. I went to Govinda's (in town) for the banquet quite a few times without incident. Skinless chicken breast was no problem. I mainly had to steer clear of cheese and deep-fried shit.

I found that digestive enzymes and charcoal supplements helped me quite a lot, and I was swallowing a lot of vitamin I (ibuprofen) and codeine when things got too bad. I would experiment with taking a bunch of those things and just eating whatever.

Also, when I was vegan, one of my favourite foods was Sanitarium "Vegie Delights" hot dogs. They're fairly hot-doggy in their way, and pretty much zero fat even when you factor in the bun, mustard, and tomato sauce. You can get them at Coles or Woolies, and I recommend they be microwaved in a container of water, rather than fried or grilled, mainly because it helps with the texture.

Good luck with your surgery! Can I strongly recommend you stock up on PEPPERMINT TEA (for making your tummy feel better), HOT PACKS (for making your tummy feel better), and PRUNE JUICE (for making your poo come out, because the stuff they use will clog you up severely). It helps to walk around as much as possible when you are recovering, breathe deeply to clear your lungs out when you first wake up (you need to cough, though it will hurt), and scalding hot showers at hospital water pressure are BLISS.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:32 PM on January 20


This won't help you much today, but be assured that once the surgery is over, you no longer have to worry about eating fats - you'll wonder why you even had a gallbladder.

Oh, and seconding this. Gallbladders are bullshit and should be genetically manipulated out of fetuses. I am on a keto (60-70% of calories from fat) diet now, and it's been a breeze.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:33 PM on January 20


« Older My wife was having a miscarria...   |  I am programmer who has done d... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments