Posts tagged ‘simple cooking’

February 8, 2017

On Track For February

Let’s see if your eating plan is on track for February. If you made a resolution to eat healthier this year, are you on track? If you’re not sure, take a look at our January posts. We’ve been getting to know our food so that we can make a reasonable plan and stick to it. So far, we’ve covered the most commonly consumed breakfast foods.

Now it’s time to talk about the basics for lunch, dinner, and snacks. Before we get into specifics, it’s probably worth noting that some people need more protein and fewer carbs; some people need more carbs and less protein; some people need a perfect balance of protein and carbs. You may already know what works to keep you feeling your best. If not, keep a food journal for a few weeks and note how you feel each day. This can help you decide what your optimum combination should be.
tomatoes
Keep it fresh!

Fresh food prepared in interesting combinations is a great start for any meal. You don’t have to choose organic or grow it yourself. Just buy raw vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, and fish at your local grocery store and prepare them at home.

Starting fresh has several advantages. Fresh food tastes better! If you’ve ever eaten a perfectly ripened fresh peach at a roadside stand, you know I’m steering you straight. With fresh food that you prepare, there’s no need to look for hidden ingredients or allergens. Fresh food retains its nutrients without sodium and other preservatives. Because you’re getting fresh flavor and full nutrients, there’s no need for chemical additives.

If you’re concerned that starting fresh will take too long, look around the produce section of your local store. These days you can buy fresh and still avoid much of the prep. Many stores offer broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peppers, onions, spinach, kale, celery, squash, and carrots that have been cleaned and and/or chopped. You can also find pineapple, honeydew, or cantaloupe that has been sliced or cubed for your convenience.

It rarely takes more than 20 minutes to bake fresh fish so it’s always a good choice when you’re in a time crunch. Steak, pork chops, and chicken breasts are also quick and easy. Larger cuts of meat like beef or pork roasts can be made in advance and eaten over several meals.

Recent research from Vanderbilt University shows that most of us believe healthy food means more expensive food. The research also seemed to assume we would choose packaged convenience foods rather than fresh food.

If you think you can’t afford fresh food, be sure to look closely at the shelves in your store. The produce section of the largest local grocery chain where I live has a $1 rack in each store. Whatever has been grouped in a net bag and placed on the rack is $1. I recently bought a bag filled with 3 orange bell peppers. They were still fresh looking a week later and they were 33¢ each.

I check this rack on each shopping trip. I’ve bought eggplant, potatoes, apples, summer squash and bananas there. It’s not unusual to find other fresh produce marked down. I always check for manager’s specials. There are manager’s specials in the meat department as well.

veggie sticks
Keep it simple!

Instead of breading, frying, or creating casseroles, keep it simple. Steam, sauté, boil, or oven roast vegetables that are better cooked than raw. Bake, broil, or grill meat, poultry, and fish. Eat raw or dried fruit (no sugar added). Serve dry beans, lentils, rice, or quinoa in place of dinner rolls. Eat raw nuts, plain Greek yogurt, fruit, veggie sticks, hummus, and guacamole as snacks.

Of course it’s okay to add some cheese, butter, or sour cream to a dish. It’s okay to serve pasta with a sauce or make enchiladas with tortillas, cheese and sauce. Just let the vegetables or meat be the star most of the time. This will accomplish two things. It will make prep time faster, and you’ll end up with a higher proportion of vegetables and protein to creamy, cheesy sauces more often than not.

Keep it delicious!

I love tasty food, so please don’t think I’m recommending a bland diet with no personality and no treats! I just know that homemade cookies taste better than those from a package and fresh food eliminates many worries. When you salt your food, you don’t have to worry about hidden sodium. When you use olive oil, you don’t have to worry about trans fats. When you season your chili with salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin you don’t have to read a label to see if the seasoning is gluten-free.
green beans
Keep it real!

Let me repeat. If a health plan isn’t sustainable, it won’t work. Rather than adopting drastic changes, find some small ones that you can make consistently. If that means eliminating soft drinks, that’s a great start. If that means having a salad with your burger instead of fries, that’s great! If that means eating eggs for breakfast rather than boxed cereal, that’s good too. If that means cooking in advance and freezing your entrees, get that freezer ready.

Everything you do to create a lifestyle that will support the healthy changes you want to make is a step in the right direction. Change is always made one step at a time. Change is sustained through a supportive lifestyle structure.

With knowledge and a willingness to experiment, you can find a healthy balance that’s right for you. Next week, we’ll explore specific lunch and dinner options.

https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2016/12/01/251860/