Friday, April 17, 2009

Yum: Who says healthy food can’t be yummy food? Part 1

Variety is the spice of life. But planning and routine are your best friends when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.

I love variety in cooking, and I am passionate about enjoying a wide range of healthy foods. After all, the more interesting, colorful, and tasty you can make your meals, the more satisfied you will be with an adequate portion, and you’ll avoid overeating.

Still, for me, I’ve found that the best approach to healthy eating is to save variety for dinner, and to stick to one or two standard meals for breakfast and lunch. This takes the thinking out of meal preparation, and oftentimes during our busy days, that’s a nice feature. I’ll eat one or two things until I grow tired of them, and then I’ll come up with a new idea. (This also saves a ton of money at the store, because you can buy in bulk, rather than getting lots of different ingredients for 5 or 6 different meals.)

I’ve been eating two of my favorites for a while, and I thought I’d share with you. These are my takes on oatmeal and a salad packed with all kinds of protein.


Oh, you don’t think oatmeal and salad can be interesting AND healthy? Well, you’d be wrong. Well…maybe you aren’t completely wrong. Because there are LOTS of examples of these meals out there that don’t inspire rhapsody…I had a salad at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago that almost made me cry with boredom: romaine, some julienned peppers, orange wedges, some seared tuna (not terribly flavorful and the texture seemed like it may have been frozen) and a bland vinaigrette. There was nothing fabulous about it…no attention to flavor…no unifying ingredient that made all of these random foods mesh into one terrific eating experience. Okay…so maybe my standards are a little too high…but this mess tempted me to overeat about 5 minutes after I had finished. And I was full! But I was bored.

The key to making healthy food interesting is – you guessed it! – interesting ingredients! Do you love blueberries? Then put them in your plain yogurt, along with a little granola and a teensy bit of honey. Can’t get enough avocados? Try it on your hamburger, and you will NOT miss the mayo.

Here’s my take on oatmeal. I’ll post my salad in a day or two. Enjoy them just like I do, or use them as inspiration to try something new. Who says oatmeal has to come from a packet, and good salads can only be found at Panera?

Brooke’s Really Good and Deceptively Healthy Oatmeal.
My brother, Lee, thought this was just about the best oatmeal he’d ever tasted. Oatmeal is a terrific source of soluble fiber, which can aide in lowering cholesterol. Walnuts are a terrific source of protein and heart-healthy fats. Cinnamon regulates blood sugar. The Smart Balance spread lends some luxury to the dish, and adds a bit more healthy fat, which balances the dish and, along with the whole grain of the oatmeal, slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Cherries and sugar are just yummy, and adding the crunchy sugar on top is way more satisfying than adding lots of white or brown sugar and stirring it in. If you’re keeping track, the dish comes in at right about 350-400 calories.

1 cup water
½ cup old fashioned oats (substitute pin oats if you’d like and adjust the cooking time)
2 tablespoons dried cherries, roughly chopped (they’re pretty big, and this spreads them throughout the cereal without using too many)
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
½ cinnamon
2 teaspoons turbinado sugar (Look for Sugar in the Raw)
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon Smart Balance spread
Skim milk to taste (I use between ¼ and ½ cup)

Combine water and cherries in a small saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil. Add oats; reduce heat to medium low and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 2-5 minutes. Place in bowl and top with the remaining ingredients, nestling the spread in the middle to melt it. Serves one happy person.

Look for the salad next time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wellness: The Great H2O Challenge

Don't believe Martha Stewart or Dr. Agatston when they say you don't need 8 glasses of water a day. Because you do. It aides in digestion and helps to rid your body of waste. It keeps your skin from drying out. Also, did you know that thirst often mimics the feeling of hunger? So when you're reaching for that snack, a bottle of water may be what your body really needs.

If you are anything like me, then you struggle to get it all in. Either you're drinking something else (party day on the boat, and rum punch seems like a good idea), your day gets away from you (crazy morning, you look at your watch, you've had nothing to drink since your coffee at 7:30am), or you're out and about, and the prospect of going to the bathroom 4 times an hour to get rid of all that water just doesn't appeal. I know and I totally get it. But for me, getting all that water is an absolute necessity.

Just over a year ago, while getting ready for a busy day, I had some of the most debilitating pain I've ever experienced. I had a kidney stone. And you know that old story about them being like childbirth? Totally true. (Except in this case, no cute anesthitest was standing by with a smile, offering to shoot pain medication into my spine.) I had several more attacks, spanning about six months, before I passed the wretched thing (I assume I passed it; it hasn't bothered me for sometime.)

If you have one of these, you will never, I repeat, NEVER neglect water consumption again.

Did you know that kidney stones are on the rise in children? And I'm not talking about that horrible instance of the melamine-in-the-baby-formula-in-China mess; I'm talking about right here, right now, in America. Pediatricians link the sharp rise of kidney stones in children to - you guessed - lack of water consumption, and way too much processed and fast food, which are both notoriously high in salt.

So why am I lecturing you on something that, if you have any sense, you already know? To make my blog longer, of course.

But seriously, I struggle with getting enough water, and I struggle with keeping track to make sure I get enough water. I had been trying to figure out how to remedy this, and I had decided to go buy 4 16 oz cute water bottles, fill them every morning, and when they were gone, I was done. Kind of like Deal a Meal. But then I saw a GREAT suggestion on Fine Living last nite (I sooo wish I could take credit.) Wear bangles, either 4 for 16 ounce servings, or 8 for 8 ounce servings. For every serving of water, move a bangle from one wrist to the other.

Not a bangle-wearer? Me neither. Doesn't really go with my Mommy Chic look I'm sporting most days. I use brown hair elastics. I don't know if they still exist, but those jelly bracelets that we use to wear would work, too (yes, I know they have "meaning" for teenagers. But I don't figure there's a lot of teenage readership in my audience...and if there is, hey, time to change the meaning.) Or, those "cause" bracelets would work...think Livestrong yellow. I'm sure you can find them in other colors.

So give it a try. And try to get that water in...and don't fool yourself if your drink of choice has caffeine, sugar, or alcohol. All of these substances are diuretics and DON'T COUNT.

Happy Drinking!