It's a new year and we can now forge ahead into recovery mode after waddling through the traditional five-week food orgy from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, which mercilessly slaps an average of seven pounds onto most people's bodies. Good thing it's winter so we can camouflage in baggy dark clothes until spring, giving a grace period to transition back to commonsense eating and a return to the gym.
And of course, the calendar gives us another birthday, which means we're getting older, my darlings. I'm now a chartered member of the Lactose-Intolerant-Acid Reflux-Osteo-Arthritic-Jaw Clenching-Receding Gums Club, but fighting relentlessly to help my fellow members and myself maintain our youthful looks, health and energy levels. Over the years I've gleaned healthy food tips from my nutritional mentors, gurus, health-conscious friends and relatives. This is my H-List for healthy eating habits:
- Always keep the adage "everything in moderation" as standing advice.
- Drink eight glasses of spring water a day for hydration and irrigation.
- Echoes from childhood, my Mom's motto: "Eat like a king or queen for breakfast, a prince or princess for lunch and a pauper for dinner."
- Baking and broiling are best, barbecuing and deep-frying are no-no's, while occasionally sauteing and stir frying is quite alright.
- Limit or eliminate the two evil first cousins - refined sugars and simple carbohydrates.
Try brown sugar, blue agave syrup, honey (which is nature's immune-boosting sweetener), or a dose of fructose in fresh fruit that even diabetics are permitted. Limit high-fructose dried fruits and corn syrup. You don't need to give carbs the shaft either.
We now know there are good carbs and bad carbs, just like good fats and bad fats. White bread, pasta and rice should be replaced by fiber-rich complex carbohydrates like legumes, whole wheat pasta and breads, oats, couscous, rye flour, bran, bulgar, brown rice and barley. Organics are also preferable to avoid genetically engineered grains.
- "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" since it's loaded with pectin, a great detoxifier.
- For tummy woes, try ditching dairy for rice, soy or nut derivative products.
- Feeling creaky and stiff, avoid nightshades like eggplant, tomatoes and red peppers, which exacerbate arthritic joints.
- The world may be your oyster, but don't eat them, along with PCB-laden bottom feeders such as swordfish and tuna. Choose fish loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, especially wild-caught (not antibiotic laced farm-raised) salmon, sardines and herring.
- Here's the skinny on fats: Eat heart-healthy olive oil, grapeseed oil that can be used at high temperatures and safflower for baking. Eliminate trans fats and hydrogenated oils like cottonseed and palm. Margarine, which is one molecule away from plastic, does not belong inside the human body.
- Die-hard carnivores, choose New Zealand lamb. For fowl, eat skinless breast meat as it has less fat and cholesterol, while fatty duck and goose should only be eaten occasionally.
- Good news for chocoholics: organic dark chocolate with high cocoa content (65 or higher percent) is a heart-healthy antioxidant treat.
- Remember, as Hypocrites, the father of modern medicine, said: "Use your food as your medicine…"
Here's a short healthy eating quiz to keep you up to speed (answers listed below):
- Which nuts are the two healthiest?
a) Almonds and walnuts
b) Pistachio and Brazil nuts
c) Macadamia nuts and pecans
d) Cashews and filberts
- Free range means …
a) The animal is free from antibiotics and hormones
b) The animal is given yard time occasionally
c) The animal is organic
d) None of the above
- The lycopene-rich fruit or vegetable is ...
d) Leafy greens
- The brewed beverage that packs the highest antioxidant punch is …
a) Oolong tea
b) Black tea
c) Green tea
d) Organic coffee
My final contribution is a healthy dish made with good carb soba noodles, loads of veggies and toasted almonds. Happy new eating habits!
Stir-Fry Soba Noodles with Almonds and Black Bean Sauce
- 6 ounces of soba noodles
- 1-1/2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 4 ounces of asparagus or broccolini, bite-size pieces
- 4 ounces of bean sprouts
- 3 scallions, sliced
- 6 ounces of wild mushrooms, sliced
- 6 tablespoons of black bean sauce
- 8 tablespoons of warm water
- Cilantro sprigs and toasted, slivered almonds for garnish
Cook the noodles according to the package, strain and set aside. Heat the oil in a wok or heavy fry pan and saute the scallions, garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. Add the asparagus and mushrooms, and stir-fry until tender.
Mix the black bean sauce with the water. Add to the wok and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the soba noodles and bean sprouts and toss. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and almonds.
Answers to quiz: 1a, 2b, 3a, 4c