This is not just another healthy recipe blog. I enjoy eating, but I dislike feeling that I’ve cheated myself nutritionally, whether I’m eating on the run, at home or at a restaurant. I have researched and want to share healthier choices I’ve found that taste good, regardless of where you are eating.
I was food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant for three years, which kindled my interest in cooking. I now have a frightening number of cookbooks, watch a lot of Food Network and FitTV cooking shows, and tend to tweak nearly every recipe I try. This is particularly true when it comes to baking, as I use soy milk rather than regular milk. When I heard The Oakland Press came up with an opportunity to do a blog, healthy eating and cooking was a logical choice.
I’m not a health guru by any stretch of the imagination. I eat and enjoy real food, including many vegetables, which I attribute partly to the fact that I grew up with a garden in the back yard. (I was primarily the assistant, although I’ve shucked many peas and snapped numerous beans.)
I do not claim to have perfect eating habits, but I have learned what to do (and what not to do) by trial and error. I actually prefer some things that are better for me: dark chocolate in place of regular milk chocolate, shredded wheat rather than frosted wheat bites and brown rice instead of bland, white rice. I refuse to eat rice cakes because they taste like flavored cardboard. And I have a love/hate relationship with salmon, depending on how it’s been prepared. There are a few other things I haven’t tried, and probably won’t, such as seaweed as a vegetable.
Eating anything while we are doing something else is, as I’ve heard at numerous Weight Watcher meetings, a very bad idea. So is eating on the run. I have done both, a trend which will continue. I’m sure some of you do the same thing. People are busy!
We cannot always control where we eat, but we do have choices. Substitution is one of the keys to healthy eating.
On a Dan Ho show rerun I saw last week on FitTV , Dan was helping a young woman to come up with crunchy, sour, salty snacks to meet her cravings. He introduced her to the idea of substitution. The concept is to think of what you like about a snack (in this case, it was salty and sour tastes as well as crunch of her favorite potato chips) and find a healthy substitute. He chose Granny Smith apples, sliced them, and added salt as well as vinegar. It was the same concept as vinegar-flavored chips, but much better for the waistline.
You can try these substitutions that I’ve come up with on my own or borrowed from friends:
Eating blueberries when I’m craving chocolate often works for me; I learned this accidentally. It sounds weird, but I think it worked due to the fact that both blueberries and chocolate have antioxidants.
Instead of eating instant oatmeal, which has added sugar and salt, in order to warm up on a cold morning, why not try cooking standard oatmeal (I use Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats) in the microwave? Place a heaping ¼ cup oatmeal in a microwaveable dish with just a bit less than ½-cup water. My microwave, which is quite powerful, cooks it nicely at between 55 and 60 seconds, depending on which bowl I’m using. Every microwave is a little different, so start at 50 seconds and cook a few additional seconds as needed. You may cook it with dried raisins or cranberries or stir in the dried fruit later with your choice of cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Add some protein by incorporating either a few chopped, unsalted nuts and/or 1 TBSP natural, unsalted nut butter of your choice.
Regular cheese is high in both fat (mostly saturated) and sodium. Cabot and Kraft both make reduced-fat cheeses that are better choices than the full-fat cheese. Generally, I go for the one I can get that is lowest in fat and sodium. I really enjoy Cabot's 75% reduced-fat white cheddar, though it is more crumbly and a little drier than most cheeses. I also often substitute Veggie soy cheese shreds or slices (Swiss or provolone slices are my favorites) by Galaxy Nutritional Foods in my own meals. For those watching your salt, the soy cheese is lower in saturated fat but may be higher in sodium than regular cheese! I once bought the vegan version, which wasn’t as terrific as my favorites, but it still tasted OK. If you’ve never tried soy cheese, I’d recommend you start with the provolone.
Substitute ground white meat chicken or turkey for beef in chili or meatballs. If you substitute it in a burger, I would suggest you season it differently than hamburger. Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals has a ton of chicken and burger recipes that you can search within the Food Network site.
While substitution is a good practice, there are times that you want to eat the real thing. Some of these, such as dark chocolate, are even good for you in moderation. Once in a while, I’ll buy a Lindt dark truffle or two when I am out. I don't keep it in the house or buy it by the bag, so it's a special treat.