Thoughts to eat healthier enter my head these days, whether that is because age gives one pause to consider the tenuous aspects of life or I have smartened up from knowing more. Perhaps a bit of both play into it.
For instance, I now think more in terms of how little time I have left to accomplish all of those things that my youth self thought she had plenty of time to complete. More important, however, I think about staying fit for my remaining years. That means paying attention to what science tells us about the food we put inside the body that must last us for the duration.
While I am not ready to give up meat, including red meat, I find no problem cutting back portion size and servings per week. I still love a good steak and think there is something healthy about finding joy in eating as long as one uses moderation. Therefore, I satisfy my steak hunger by indulging in a small steak, succulent marbling included, most Saturday nights. Add a baked potato with sour cream (light is fine), a salad and a glass of wine and I believe it is little enough joy to expect out of life.
I eat ground beef rarely, pun intended, because for me a little goes a long way. Still, I find a nice juicy hamburger, fresh off the grill and served on a toasted bun with catsup, pickle and onion an occasional necessity for tasting happiness.
Fried chicken is another sometimes treat that I do not want to completely give up and I fully believe most arteries can handle a couple pieces of crunchy fried chicken once or twice a year. Add mashed potatoes with milk gravy and call it heaven.
While the USDA gives pork and chicken a similar grade when it comes to vitamins, minerals and protein content, pork has higher fat content and is less heart friendly because it contains a higher percentage of bad fat compared to good fat. Okay, but who wants to live a lifetime never having chewed the meat off a slab of barbecued pork ribs? And, how bad can a slab or two over a year’s time be on the old ticker?
To make up for my meat sins, I prepare chicken and fish in healthy ways for most meals, adding the latter to my diet as much as possible. It helps that the seafood industry now offers a variety of fish in one-serving packages. You used to find only one- or two-pound chucks that you needed to thaw to separate and then try to figure out how one person or even a family of four could possibly eat it all before it spoiled. Thank you seafood industry.
There are a number of healthy food choices that take little away from food enjoyment in my opinion. For instance, I can tell little taste difference between light mayonnaise and regular mayonnaise, low-fat sour cream and regular sour cream or no- or low-fat yogurt and regular yogurt.
I do shy away from products that claim to be unnaturally non-fat, especially when I read what was put in as a substitute for the fat. I would rather make my own salad dressing using good oils and simply cut back on the amount, or look for natural alternatives, applesauce instead of oil in some baked goods.
I have always preferred the taste of whole-wheat bread to white bread and now that I have developed a taste for both, find I do not mind whole-wheat pasta and actually prefer brown rice to white rice even though brown rice takes longer to cook.
The trick for brown rice for the single cook is to cook a batch using the directions on the package or for whatever cooker you happen to own, and then freeze serving sizes that match your appetite. For example, one-half to three-quarter cup is plenty from me so I fill six-ounce containers for the freezer. Men or women with larger appetites may need a cup or even a cup and a half serving to satisfy his or her hunger. When you need rice to serve with a stir-fry, for fried rice, as a side dish or to use in a casserole, thaw the frozen container in the refrigerator or thaw in the microwave. If you plan to eat the rice as a side dish, microwave until hot, 1-2 minutes. Zap time depends on the size of your container and the wattage of your microwave. Just be careful not to over cook it.
The following recipe uses a serving of brown rice and offers a meatless meal.
Cheesy Rice and Spinach
½ Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ Cup finely chopped onion
1 Garlic clove, minced
2 ½ Cups fresh baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1 Large egg
1 Tablespoon nonfat milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Ounce extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½-1 Cup cooked brown rice
1. Place oil in 10” skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and sauté until translucent, 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute longer.
2. Add spinach to skillet and sauté until wilted, 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, whisk egg and milk together. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Stir cheese and rice into egg mixture.
5. Add cooled spinach and stir to combine.
6. Pour mixture into 15-ounce oval baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray.
7. Bake in 400° oven until mixture sets, 20-25 minutes. Serve hot along side a tossed salad.