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.

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