Over the past two weeks, I attended two family weddings on two opposite coasts of the country. This meant that two times over the past month, I’ve had approximately 5 days or more of eating mass-produced Indian food potent in spices and oil. I’ve also had the fortune of eating out during, before and after travelling due to the timing of flights/exhaustion from all that travelling and my brain getting used to 3 time zone changes in a span of 14 days. One of those dinners at Midway Airport consisted of fruit smoothie with granola, but I wonder if I should worry about how much sugar I consumed during that meal. So I didn’t do much cooking during that time, but as I search Pinterest for “healthy summer recipes” as things get back to normal, I can’t help but notice that just because a dish has tons of veggies, grains and beans, it does not necessarily mean that it is a healthy dish. I think it is a common misconception to think that eating those ingredients (and eating vegetarian especially) is healthy by nature, but I’d really like to take a closer look at what I’m eating and how healthy it actually is, nutritionally speaking. I’m one who would automatically think that eating stirfry veggies with tofu , brown rice and soy sauce is healthy, but that’s not necessarily true (it depends on what kind of oil I use, how much oil I use, how much soy sauce and how much sodium is in the soy sauce- talk about complicated).
The first step in deciphering this puzzle is establishing one’s daily nutritional needs:
The US government has launched a new campaign called Choose My Plate which has replaced the idea of the “Food Pyramid” with which we are all familiar. The basic idea of this campaign is to eat a serving of all the food groups during each meal, ensuring that you get the daily servings you need of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. I really like how the food group “meat” has changed to “protein foods,” by the way. It seems that America is becoming more cognizant of foods that can nutritionally replace meat, whereas this concept was unfathomable during my childhood, as I remember from the numerous comments I got when people found out I am vegetarian: “You don’t eat meat! what do you….. eat, then?”
The website they created makes it easier to try to apply this campaign idea, and they even have a “healthy eating” tips page that highlight the following:
-make at least half your grains whole
-vary your veggies
-focus on fruit
-get your calcium rich foods
-go lean with protein
I wonder about all this hype about whole grains. Rice is fiber but it is also carbohydrates, and all the “healthy eating for diabetes” research my father-in-law has done indicates that rice is a “heavy” food and to avoid too much of it. So, I started thinking about how whole grains translate into calories, and it turns out that whole grains are actually more carbs than they are fiber . The only way to make whole grains worthwhile is if the food is 100% whole grain- otherwise, apparently the minerals are just added.
Here are some other tips to eating healthy that we’ve tried to incorporate at our house/ have incorporated:
-use olive oil instead of vegetable oil or peanut oil, and especially instead of lard or fat if you’re cooking carnivore 😉
– use lemon juice instead of salad dressing over salad
-defer using canned veggies/fruits as much as possible, to avoid extra sodium from added preservatives. For example, when making Mexican food, make your own beans instead of buying a can. Make your pizza dough instead of buying it pre-made.
-substitue Cool Whip (you can even go “lite” on this) for frosting when making baked goods
-when making puri, bhakri, or any other Indian food item requiring using oil during the rolling out process….use all purpose flour instead to help you roll it out
-try to make your own salsa or pasta sauce to avoid the preservatives/sodium. This is simple to do in a blender or food processor. Make little bits at a time or it won’t actually stay good.
-use little soy sauce in stir fry, or use a low-sodium soy sauce. It has a lot of salt in it!
I think I’ve finally recovered from my oily-greasy-salty-junk food because I’m travelling era, but now I think I might be more conscientious as I make my list of summer recipes to try. Happy eating!