Mention “eating healthy,” and be prepared for a flood of opinions about what this means.
Your vegan friend shuns all meats and animal-based products, citing the numerous virtues of a plant-based diet, while your Paleo co-worker, starts her day with a thick pork chop, but steers clear of all beans, cereals and milk. Then there is the woman in the grocery store, filling her cart with turkey bacon, fat free salad dressing and cartons of egg substitute in response to her doctor’s advice to “cut down on fat.” The DASH diet, originally developed to treat high blood pressure, offers still another version of the healthy eating tale.
Fortunately, there is no single “correct” way to eat, which leaves us free to choose balanced meals that we actually enjoy! There are, however, at least two parallels shared by legitimately healthful eating styles:
Including generous servings of veggies--preferably fresh or frozen.
Limiting or avoiding heavily processed items, such as those with lengthy ingredient lists, many of which are unrecognizable.
The tasty, plant-based Mediterranean diet, with its higher fat content (courtesy of extra virgin olive oil and nuts), abundance of fish, veggies, beans, whole grains and seasonal fruit, provides an excellent example of so called healthful eating. The glaring omission from this well-studied eating style? All things heavily processed. So while a breakfast of whole oats, nuts and fruit would be consistent with the Mediterranean diet, this would NOT be the case for “whole grain” fruity flavored cereals and toaster pastries (items commonly served with school breakfast).
Create your own healthy eating style, based on individual preferences, cooking skills, and of course, budget. Here are a few basic guidelines to consider:
Include a significant protein source. This could range from black beans to salmon patties to roasted chicken or even quiche.
Pair the protein with large servings of non-starchy vegetables. Add chopped, sautéed kale to your soups. Consider substituting cooked cabbage for the lasagna noodles next time you make this favorite dish. Include a great salad, drizzled with olive oil and a splash of vinegar.
Try a high quality starch or grain item. Some good options might be quinoa, brown rice, roasted red or sweet potato, or even an ear of fresh corn. If the goal is to lower carbs, simply double up on the non-starchy veggies while omitting the carbohydrate-based item. Cauliflower “rice” is a delicious option for those who are trying to cut down on starchy sides (see recipe below).
Although seasonal or frozen fruit is the perfect sweet ending to your meal, it’s fine to sometimes have a controlled portion of an actual dessert instead. Just steer clear of any sweet treats which contain partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup.
Food is to be enjoyed, so resist having too many rigid food rules which can destroy the simple pleasure of eating!