|Image credit: Craig Allen, Flickr|
I finally read Food Matters, by Mark Bittman. I have told you before that I will basically do anything Bittman says in the kitchen. I was a little worried that it would try to convince me to go vegan or something (I haven't watched Forks Over Knives for that very reason). I don't think I can give up bacon or Parmesan cheese, so I would probably keep eating meat and dairy and just feel guilty about it. I had a Catholic upbringing and I definitely don't need any more guilt in my life.
But I digress. Food Matters is about an approach to eating that's healthier for the diner and the planet- less meat and dairy, fewer refined grains, very few processed foods; lots more fruits and vegetables. Bittman has not given up eating animal products, but he has cut way back and filled the gap with tons of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. For the diner, animal products, refined grains, and processed foods can create a myriad of health problems. For the planet, livestock produces greenhouse gasses and mandates huge amounts of grain production for feed; the refining and processing of foods involves energy consumption to strip away the nutritious parts of food and add stuff that's not so great.
So I'm following Bittman's advice- increasing the amounts of plant-based foods in my diet and limiting the meat and dairy. I wasn't eating much processed food, except for some Lean Cuisines at lunch, so that wasn't a big change. I found that having a CSA bag full of fresh veggies every week encourages me to cook more often, which means lots of leftovers for lunches.
Food Matters is a really simple, common-sense guide, but the one area where I disagree with Bittman is regarding protein- he argues that we don't need to eat nearly as much protein as we think we do. He suggests eating larger quantities of fruits and vegetables to create satiety.
Maybe I have trained my body to think it needs more protein than it really does, or maybe my activity level is to blame, but I need some sort of protein at every meal and snack. I can eat a gigantic salad and feel full in the moment, but an hour later I'm hungry again. So for me, the challenge is finding a way to get enough protein from non-animal sources. Here are some of my go-to foods:
Creamy Hummus: I got this recipe from Stephanie, a classmate of mine from Nursing School and the healthiest eater I have met.
1 15oz can organic chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp sea salt
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp water
(optional- add a dash of: parsley, paprika, cumin, onion power, and/or hot sauce)
Put everything but the chickpeas in the blender and process until combined. Add the chickpeas, 1/3 at a a time, and blend thoroughly. When everything is added, let the blender run for about 5 minutes to really combine everything (prevents biting into a chunk of garlic).
I like this hummus best after it sits in the fridge for at least a few hours. I cut half of a whole wheat pita into wedges and toast them in the toaster oven, and serve the hummus with the pita chips and some delicious carrots from the CSA bag. It's my favorite post-workout snack, containing healthy fats, protein and fiber from the beans, and complex carbohydrates.
I discovered these No-Bake Energy Bites this week on Pinterest. I made them for breakfast (substituted raisins for the chocolate chips). The were a little too sweet for me, so next time I'm going to try 1/4 cup honey and a little extra peanut butter. But I love the combination of oats for complex carbohydrates; flax seed, and coconut for healthy fats; and peanut butter for healthy fat and protein. I bought whole flax seeds and ground them in my food processor. I think a coffee maker works too.
I also really like tofu, and to me the secret is getting it crisp. You buy firm tofu, drain it, set it on a paper-towel lined plate, and place another paper towel and an upside-down plate on top. Leave it for at least 30 minutes. Slice it thin (you can marinate or season it at this point if you want), heat some oil in a skillet over high heat, and place the tofu in. Leave it alone for about 3 minutes and then flip it over. Remove from the pan and stir fry some veggies with garlic, ginger, and/or soy sauce (or whatever you like). This week I made a stir fry with tofu, red pepper, carrots, garlic, and spinach (the pepper was from the grocery store but the rest was from my CSA bag). I served it over a little brown rice- a delicious dinner and a really great lunch the next day.
I am still eating meat and dairy, but I'm trying to use them more like a condiment than as the main part of the meal. I really like adding a little bacon to things because you get tons of flavor with just a few slices. I also like sausage in soup- it seems like the smoky sausage flavor really permeates everything else. Bittmans's Cassoulet recipe uses one pound of sausage for eight servings- lots of flavor, just a little meat. Likewise Parmesan and Asiago cheeses are great because it only takes a tablespoon or so to flavor an entire dish. I have been making mini pizzas on whole wheat pita, my new favorite bread- top with tomato sauce and veggies (whatever you have in the fridge), sprinkle on a little Parmesan, and put in the toaster over. It's a five minute lunch or dinner with almost no cleanup.
So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and try adding a few more plants to your plate at each meal!
By the way, if you want some motivation to eat more veggies, check out this video describing the cancer-fighting properties of various vegetables. Spoiler alert- garlic frightens vampires and cancer cells!