I had a telling conversation with one of my cooking assistants the other day. It was quite revealing. I was demonstrating my Buttermilk Polenta Muffins to go with my Authentic Smokey Tortilla Soup. When the class was over, I offered her a muffin. She said, “No no, I can’t eat corn”. I said to her,” Are you allergic or have a food intolerance?” She said, “No, I’m on that Blood Type diet. Have you heard of it? Corn is fattening.” Attempting to dispel that misconception, I proceeded to share the health benefits of corn. “It falls under the yellow vegetable category”, I explained. “Corn has numerous vitamins. It’s a heart healthy veggie, and it’s an insoluble fiber…ahem… aids in moving things along through your system quite nicely.”
The revealing part for me was that what I thought was common knowledge for most; there are still individuals who could use education on healthy eating. What exactly does it take to eat satisfying, simple and healthy?
A couple of years ago, my annual blood test revealed a high LDL cholesterol level. My doctor told me I had to bring it down or go on the pills. That was a no go, as I tend to be a purest…no pills pour moi. Along with aerobics, strength, stretches, and weight bearing exercise… I proceeded to diligently research creative ways to bring my cholesterol level down. It was August and I had until February to bring it down. And that I did. All the way down in less than 3 months.
How did I do it? I followed the Canada Food Guide , American Food Guide, UK Food Guide and the likes. Consult with your physician, dietitian, and nutritionist on what is right for your personal health requirements.
Power Lunch Salad – egg
Power Lunch Salad – feta and asparagus
Power Lunch Salad – chicken
Power Lunch Salad – Cod
Portuguese Style Cod
My regimen for a healthy dietary lifestyle is as follows:
Portion control – follow quantities laid out in the food guides and/or those outlined on product packaging “Nutrition Facts” per serving in your supermarkets.
Your dinner plate should be 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 carbs, 1/4 protein 4 oz portion or the size of a deck of cards or your fist as a guide.
4-ounce portions of low fat proteins and no red meat. Meaning high omega 3 food sources like fish, crustaceans , shellfish, and mollusks. White meat high in DHA like turkey and chicken. Low fat cheeses like feta, ricotta, close to or around 17% M.G. or M.F. I enjoy some rich cheeses, usually less than 25 g of MF fat. Follow serving quantities outlined on packaging.
Eat as many green leafy veggies as possible. No limit to the amount of veggies you eat. So fill yourself up with a variety. Combine as many coloured veggies as you can in a given day. Different colours mean a varied vitamin rich diet. In order to ensure I get my daily requirement of veggies, I created the Power Lunch Salad. I eat one on a daily basis. The possibilities are endless I keep it interesting. Look forward to lunch! A daily regimen is a “good thing”, as Martha would say!
Only eat whole grains for your starch intake. Must outline the word “whole” grain on the package or bin. This is so much fun to experiment with: quinoa, brown rice, and multigrain pasta. Eat a maximum of 3 servings of whole grain carbs in a day. Look for at least 3 grams of fiber in the nutrition facts on product labels.
Experiment with legumes in place of your starches. Again, follow quantities on cans, boxes etc. Try fresh beans like fava beans found in the produce section of your supermarket. The canned ones work well too. They are so convenient. Make dips with black beans, salads with chickpeas, navy beans, white kidney beans, lentils…endless varieties.
Totally cut down on sugars. Cut out refined sugars like white and brown sugar. They have absolutely no health benefits and can cause your body many ill effects. If you have a sweet tooth, replace with the more desirable and delicious unrefined. They taste better and some even have antioxidant cleansing health benefits…but keep them down to a minimum. Maybe limit yourself to a combined total of one tablespoon per day. Suggestions for unrefined sugars: fruits, concentrated pure fruit juices and fruit butters or no sugar jams, raw agave nectar, molasses, honey, brown rice syrup. Many of my recipes incorporate such sugars. I am not a big fan of sugar substitutes. I believe in natural sugar sources.
Eat lots of tomato-based products rich in lycopene , low in fat and additives. Canned tomatoes of all varieties paired with a bit of olive oil are wonderful sources of lycopene…and do a great job of cleansing your arteries . Other sources of lycopene are watermelon, mangoes and papayas.
Which brings me to the healthy fat issue. Use only the good fats, polyunsaturated like canola, olive, and safflower…or perhaps nut oils or alternatives like avocado oil. Cut out saturated fats like animal fat or synthetic fats like margarine. Use butter sparingly or combine a small quantity with healthy oil. Giving the flavour of butter that we love with less of the saturated fat. I subscribe to the belief that our bodies have an easier time processing butter than hydrogenated or unhydrogenated margarine. Our body understands natural fats better than synthetic. Again keep it down to about a total of 1 tablespoon per day.
Eat lots of fruit. But eat less fruit than vegetables as they are considered sugar. And therefore could fall into the carb category. Follow the food guides to keep daily quantities in check.
Pump up the omega 3’s . Eat a handful of nuts and seeds in a given day. Flaxseeds are very rich in omega 3’s and flaxseed oil is a good way to ensure you get the daily requirement through your body. Avoid whole flaxseed, as they are not easily absorbed. Ground flaxseed is a good choice too! Remember that too many nuts in a given day i.e. over the daily requirement can pack on the pounds. Having said that they are a good fat and can also help speed up your metabolism to help you lose weight. This can get confusing. I invite health professionals out there to comment and to assist in clarifying this phenomenon.
During the week, every other day, I can have a healthy dessert. This can be a ganache made with 65% or more dark chocolate, soy milk blended with an unrefined sugar with fruit for dipping. Or warm sauteed/baked apples or pears sweetened with pure fruit butter or a drizzle of pure maple syrup, topped with a serving of low fat frozen yogurt crowned with toasted nuts. That kind of treat is satisfying and yummy. Go ahead and reward yourself on the weekend with any kind of treat of less than 220 calories.
I am really good at being a foodie. And I am a big believer of everything in moderation. So for special occasions or if I am really craving something, I may treat myself to a decadent dessert like Hazelnut Chocolate Tart, or Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake! Once in a while and with attitude! Life is to be enjoyed by a little self-indulgence. Throw caution to the wind. Forget the fad diets and just eat healthy!