Sunday, September 28, 2014

Need a Break from Lettuce?

For the novice stepping into a healthier eating pattern, eagerly embracing green salads as a main player can eventually get old.

Smoothies incorporating all that wonderful green stuff can be a great, easy choice for variety, but it's important to remember that the leafy greens don't always have to be present.

I was excited to sample the Greek salad over at Pantuso's Restiorante, a local spot, last week. It was a luscious combination of chunks of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions, sprinkled with feta cheese with kalamatra olives. Probably some sea salt was added to draw out the juices. It was absolutely scrumptious.

That combo could easily be made ahead and stored in the fridge to either eat by itself, orbe added to some cold penne pasta and some spinach leaves for an evening entrée.

It's my belief that the healthiest offerings are a matter of simply combining good foods. No need to master sauces; just come to know and love fresh herbs.

Despite rising food prices, with a little planning, healthy eating is more affordable than you may think!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Grains, Beans & Veggies

If you want to stretch your food dollar, stay away from packaged stuff!

If you have a market where you can get whole foods, you're fortunate. If not, it's still economical even if you have to buy brand bags of beans and grain.

Cooking up a batch of quinoa, barley or wheatberries is a good start for healthy meals for the week, to which you can add a medley of roasted or sautéed vegetables like onions, carrots and zucchini, for example, and maybe a few black beans or kidney beans, topped with some chopped cilantro or basil.

Cumin and turmeric can really bump up the nutrition quotient!

For a side dish, tear up some romaine lettuce and sprinkle on some home-made vinegar & oil dressing with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and you're set.

Instead of a grain, you can use pasta, along with some diced tomatoes for a variation on the first dish.

Preparing food that way costs very little per serving if you're "mixing and matching." The key is to make sure your vegetables out-number the other foods on your plate.

Grains and pastas are generally higher in carbs, and the key is to strike a balance by incorporating vegetables, which contribute lots of fiber.

Add a bag of apples to your pantry, and you've got a good start to saving money while you eat well!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Food Can Be a Big Player in Surviving Cancer

Last weekend I had the opportunity to talk to a group of 15 cancer survivors at day-long retreat at the mountain home of a local oncologist.

He requested presentations on food and exercise as key factors in improving survival rates, even higher than chemo or radiation. While the traditional treatments are useful in eradicating cancer cells after diagnosis, they really aren't so successful at keeping cancer in remission ~ not like diet and exercise.

Rather than provide a long lists of foods and recipes to this group, I mainly focused on drinking lots of pure water throughout the day, and eating an apple ~ every day.

The apple has a long list of nutrients going for it, with lots of benefits for the body ~ not the least of which are improved regularity, reduced food cravings, lower cholesterol, healthier bones, to name a few.

So if that's the case for apples, why not for every other fruit or vegetable?  After all, collectively they represent more than 25,000 important nutrients that play an important role in reducing inflammation in the body.

That's really the bottom line, you know.

Inflammation comes from an acidic internal environment, as opposed to an alkaline system.

It's the common denominator for most all of those pricey conditions that deplete our health and our wallets!

Cancer cells don't do well in an alkaline setting, but they love the acidic chemistry!

So if we're eating lots of processed foods laden with sugar, fat and salt, we're feeding an acidic climate. On the other hand, if we're eating lots of high-fiber, whole foods, that internal climate can quickly become more alkaline ~ less inflamed.

Stress can kick it up,too. That's why exercise plays such an important role in making us healthier.

Eating whole foods and drinking good water sets the stage for a healthier body and a more positive outlook. It doesn't have to be a struggle. Start incorporating more of those wonderful fruit and vegetables into your diet and see for yourself!

Stretching Your Food Dollar

When we're treating ourselves, we like Mexican food. But a trip to the restaurant could easily cost $50 if you're ordering beverages, too.

Last night my granddaughters visited overnight, so here's how we planned a meal for four. I purchased a large bag of torn romaine lettuce at the grocery store, and then ordered two carry-out orders of blue corn enchilada dishes (each with two enchiladas) from our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Each order came with rice and beans. 

No sides or drink orders.

I brought them home, split them among the four of us, added a simple vinegar and olive oil dressing for the salad, and served water to drink.

Evenings, the cost is $10 for each order ; but during the day it's $7.50.

So about $20 for the four of us; but had we made it lunch, it would have been about $5 less; or less than $4 per person!

Tonight will be on the cheap with some sautéed mushrooms and onions, along with some spinach greens mixed with cooked fetticini noodles and fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Salad greens with oil and vinegar dressing on the side.

(To make it more nutritious, I make sure the vegetables portions are more generous than the pasta.)

Pretty fast to prepare and also inexpensive, but it tastes so good!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Eating Simply is "Money in the Bank"

There's a challenge out now to food bloggers from Jennifer Silverberg (website is Eat Yourself Well) to see who can contribute the best tips for feeding a family of four on $100 a week.

"Impossible!" many would say. After all, the cost of food is going up and money is tight for much of middle-class America.

Part of the problem is our palate's cravings for sugar, fat and salt. We can spend plenty of time and money putting together meals that pivot on that, and get little nutrition for the effort.

I give the example of dinner for myself last night. I had about 3/4 cup serving of left over eggplant parmesan in the fridge, but I also had plenty of romaine lettuce in there, too. I decided to mix the greens with enough vinegar & oil to barely coat the leaves, along with a dash of salt and pepper.

The eggplant occupied a very small part of my plate, so I loaded the rest of my plate with the lettuce salad. (It was about a half a head, which would equate to about 85 cents in cost. The eggplant serving was less than many folks scrape off their plates and toss!)

Interestingly, I feel totally satisfied afterwards, and savoring the greens just felt "good."

Thus inspired, I went to the store and picked up some kale, some blueberries, spinach and a few apples.

The apples are a great mid-morning snack, or you can chop them and add them to yogurt smoothies, oatmeal or salads, to name a few options. The spinach can be added to hot pasta noodles with a few sautéed onions, a little parmesan cheese and some olive oil; or added to a salad or a smoothie, or sautéed with some onion and garlic as a side dish and then doused with a splash of vinegar. Same with kale.

Blueberries are for my waffles, but they are a great high-fiber snack anytime.

Even for four people, mixing it up that way can stretch your food dollar while you deliver good nutrition to your very cells!

I love the saying: "Less is more".  If we just think ahead, we waste less so we spend less.

What's not to like about that?