body and taste bud friendly meals
Hi, everyone. My husband and I just got back from a short trip to visit our relatives in the Midwest. The culture shock effectively scared me into resolving to cook healthier foods. Mainly, I plan on just taking some of the staple dishes at our household and tweaking them to add some more nutritional value, i.e., I was thinking about using whole wheat pasta instead of the white variety. Would anyone like to suggest ways to keep my familys meals tasting as normal as possible?
Having just returned from Iowa a few weeks ago, I totally, completely understand your pain. ("Do you have any vegetables? What do you mean, look in the cupboard?!") It's very much a starch-and-meat place out there.
I would replace plain pasta with whole wheat -- it doesn't taste terribly different, and I really like it. I tend to cut starches out of dinners I make (why do you need the potatoes, the rice, the noodles, or the bread, what does it add nutritionally?), and I use fresh vegetables (failing that availability, at least frozen -- never canned). Also, within reason, I don't boil or steam vegetables... I almost always roast them or stir-fry them, both for flavour and for health.
Dessert is often just a little bit of cheese with some fruit.
re: Das Ubergeek
I'm puzzles: how do you find roasting and stir-frying more healthy than boiling/steaming? I understand that the flavor issue, but boiling and steaming should be less fattening because they don't require any oil.
I always considered steaming to be the most healthy way of preparing veggies because it requires no oil, but allows the vegetables to retain vitamins (boiling leeches out some nutrients). We won't get into an argument here about whether raw=better, but there are good arguments on both sides of that camp. If you're going to cook your veggies, consider steaming them, or using half of what you think is a good amount of oil for roasting and stir frying.
Personally, I cook my vegetables using all those methods, depending on my mood. I figure it's always good to eat a large amount of vegetables instead of a slab of cheese or a fatty steak, even if I use a tablespoon of butter or oil to make it taste better.
I find that if I fill up on vegetables before other foods, I end up eating less in general. So eating a big salad before your entree is a great idea, as long as you don't douse it in dressing (and remember to wait a few minutes before starting your next course to let your brain catch up to your stomach).
Look abroad. Mediterranean cultures have some of the healthiest diets of anyone and you can bet they aren't eating whole-wheat pasta. But they aren't eating a half-pound of pasta at a sitting, either. Think lots of vegetables (yes, including potatoes), beans, grains, bread, small portions of meat or fish. Pick up one of Martha Rose Shulman's "light" books--Mediterranean Light or Provencal Light.
Is it too obvious to mention nonstick pots and pans? I still use some fat for flavor (in sautes, curries, etc.), but much less than called for in recipes. For family meals, I cook with a lot of garlic, onions, and spices and tomato-based sauces (rather than butter and cream). I use the food processor to finely-chop vegetables to sneak into pasta sauces. I've also found some tasty ways to use ground turkey rather than beef, i.e., in chili, meatloaf, meatballs, and tacos. My favorite "healthy" cookbooks are Jane Brody's.
I am NOT all that familiair with what a typical Midwest household menu would include, but I have a suggestion about the pasta (and a few other general hints).
I think a better alternative to maintain the taste of macaroni dishes if to use the new Dreamfields brand pasta and add fiber in your diet every morning on a regular basis by taking one or two tablets of Chitosan (if you are not allergic to shellfish).
The three cheese macaroni and cheese I made the other day with Dreamfields was as tasty as any I've had before because the pasta flavor is almost exactly that of regular macaroni and fits into the recipe the same.
Dreamfields touts that there are only 5 "digestible carbs" per serving (which is probably a smaller portion that what you are used to eating in one seating). The taste and texture is like regular old pasta/macaroni >> absolutely. However, the price can be as much as three times what you might be used to. That said, try not to eat as much pasta/macaroni and when you just have to, buy Dreamfields.
And, Chitosan blocks fats. It is made from grinding lobster, crab, shrimp, etc, shells (no flavor though). But, don't take several a day for blocking fat as a rule (adjust your diet instead). Take one every morning with your vitamin pill and it will benefit your health because it will be increasing your fiber intake (without much effort and no calories)
There are professionals (even a few on TV Network) that will take YOUR favorite recipes and make them more healthful. To be specific to you, that may be a way to go.
However, there are certain rules to remember that you may want to follow to change your everyday diet and have your familiar homestate/household recipes less often or tweaked successfully. These are (1) The basic rule is K.I.S.S., which means keep it superbly simple. Eat fresh and (2) follow the food group categories at each meal - which is typically 30% Protein > 20% Fat > 50% Carbohydrate. And (3) portion control.
There's a whole nother spiel on what to do about eating meats and eating right to match an individual's metabolism.