Wednesday, December 29, 2010


In the past few decades, our kitchens have become bigger and fancier, and we’ve stuffed them with more kinds of small appliances than can be easily accommodated, and much less used with any frequency. At the same time, we have lost our connection with food and with our kitchens. Too often what we've used in the kitchen, at the end of the day, is just the refrigerator, coffee pot, and microwave. Clearly we aren’t doing real cooking. That’s because we eat too many meals at restaurants or buy most of our meals pre-processed. Just “heat and serve” has become our eating motto. Let's change those habits and include healthy eating as one of our New Year's resolutions.

Amazingly enough, as a country, many of us watch more hours of cooking on TV than we spend in our kitchens making real food. We talk about “getting dinner”. In that case, the “getting” means putting together a few highly processed or ready to eat foods on the table and calling it a meal. When we do this too many times, families quickly lose their sensibility to taste, become fat, and over time, lose their energy and resistance to illness. Instead of eating to get full, we need to eat to be healthy. That calls for a new eating motto – something like: “Cook and enjoy.” If we would spend at least a full hour (or more) a day actually making meals and another full hour (or more) enjoying them, our families would get a lot of healthful benefits.

Remember our poor eating habits didn’t happen overnight. They were years in the making, just like other bad habits such as smoking or heavy drinking. We’ve got to overcome the faulty subconscious message that has been misleading us for our entire lives. The same mistaken message that we have said to ourselves thousands of times (which is both created and reinforced by television and magazine advertising) is: "Get out of the kitchen fast!" It may be actually be a lack of time or just the notion that kitchen time is some sort of slavery that drives us to eat at restaurants and serve up pre-processed foods. We may even believe that these eating habits have made our lives easier. The reality is different – the illnesses that follow bad eating habits will take up a lot of time and money. They’ll end up doing us a lot more harm than any good that could ever have been achieved by fewer cooking hours.

You probably don’t doubt that better meals can improve your health, but may still not know how to create a whole new dietary lifestyle. Don’t worry so much about it. You don’t have to give up your past eating habits all at once. If change is going to be hard for you, plan for 3 or 4 homecooked meals this week as a beginning. It’s best to take a slow, steady approach to overhauling your cooking and eating practices. Try making small substitutions of healthy foods for others that you know are unhealthy. By improving our eating habits, we can be more energetic, fight off so many seasonal respiratory infections, lose a few pounds, and save some money in the process. What follows is a list of rules that will help you prepare and enjoy healthy, wholesome meals.

Rules for healthy eating
- Eat three meals a day (don’t skip breaksfast)
- Limit your snacking
- Cook (don’t heat up) meals at home
- Eat a variety of foods
- Avoid highly processed foods
- Eat some raw food at every meal, if possible
- Eat lower on the food chain (By eating more vegetables, nuts, beans and grains and less meat and dairy, you can, at the same time, reduce your carbon footprint.)
- Don’t include more than three or four types of food in a meal (including bread).
- Take your time eating meals – chew thoroughly, enjoy flavors, swallow well, and breathe between bites.

Green salads are part of a healthy diet
Among the healthier ways to eat, is to include green salads in at least one meal a day. One of my favorite types of salads is a combination of greens, fruit, cheese, and nuts. That mixture makes for a great side dish and, served more generously, can even be a light, whole meal.

Some salad combinations work better than others. As to fruits, the best tastes for salads are pears, apples, cranberries, and Mandarin oranges. For cheeses, almost any kind - I like cheddar, Roquefort, Gruyere, feta, and ricotta. For greens, the best nutritional buys are dark leafy greens, like spinach, endive, and kale. You can get more crunch by adding celery, sprouts, bamboo shoots, and purple cabbage. All kinds of nuts go well with salads. The main stays are walnuts, pecans, almonds and pine nuts, but if economy is a big factor, peanuts and roasted soy beans can be substituted for more expensive nuts in almost any recipe.

Here’s a healthy salad recipe that’s tasty and easy to make.

Spinach Greens with Fruit, Cheese, and Nuts
4 cups finely chopped spinach (about 6 ounces, washed in two rinses of water)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped toasted almonds
1 sweet apple, cored and diced in 1/4-inch pieces
2 ounces medium cheddar cheese, diced in 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
Salt to taste
1 garlic clove, puréed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One-half cup of toasted bread cubes
Combine the spinach, almonds, apple and cheese in a large bowl.
Whisk together the lemon juice, salt, mustard powder, garlic and olive oil. Add to the salad, and toss well. Then sprinkle the bread cubes on top. Serves four to six.

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