Main Nutritious Intent Website

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fall Comfort Foods

When September rolled around I started thinking about this topic and asked the question on social media – “what is your favorite comfort food?”  I received many responses and here were the common ones that kept popping up: Soup (chili, butternut squash, and chicken noodle), one-dish meals and casseroles (mac-n-cheese, chicken pot pie), and all things pumpkin (particularly cookies). 

Here are some ways to enjoy those favorite comfort foods while keeping the nutrition high.  Let’s start with dessert:

It’s not often that you can get a decent amount of vitamin A in your chocolate chip cookie.  But that is what happens when you make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  I personally love the spice cake mix, can of pumpkin and dark chocolate chip recipe. 

These are an excellent way to work veggies into your meal routine.  Add in an extra can of beans to your chili, add some sautéed onion and carrot to your butternut squash soup recipe, and an easy swap of whole-grain noodles, and some extra carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms and spinach or kale to your chicken noodle soup will definitely keep you healthier this fall.

One-dish meals:
After a long day at work, nothing welcomes you out of the cold than one of your favorite casseroles.  And there’s nothing like one dish to clean up once dinner is over.  So lets talk cheese.  Warm, creamy, cheesy is a common denominator in many of our comfort foods.  Here are some tips to keep that mac-n-cheese bursting with nutrition.  Using a whole-grain macaroni will keep the fiber high, and then adding in some veggies will help round out the nutrition of the meal.  Broccoli is a natural choice when we’re talking cheese sauce, but you could try onions, mushrooms or even cubed butternut squash depending on your tastes.  Always try to use a sharper cheese – that way you can use less cheese, but get more flavor.  Remember, we’re trying to keep half of our meal produce, so load up on the veggies.  If you’re a purist, that’s fine, just be sure to serve a salad and a side veggie as well to keep your meal balanced.  With chicken pot pie, load up that filling with veggies galore.  And let’s face it, it’s not the filling that gets us into calorie overload, it’s the crust.  The simplest solution is to make a one-crust pot pie.  You still have the brown, crusty, yumminess but with out the extra calories from the soggy bottom crust. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Longest Relationship in This Life: Food

Shortly after we come screaming into this life and usually shortly before we leave it, there is food.

When you really think about it, your relationship with food is generally the longest relationship you'll ever have.  What are you doing to keep that relationship healthy in a world where eating has become a battleground, a daunting chore, or ignored all together (mindless eating on the couch or in the car)? How you view food, eating and cooking not only affects your own personal health and relationship with food, but your family members and others around you as well.  Now, before you start to get huffy and stop reading, don't worry.  This is not a soapbox for me to preach fear and guilt.  In fact, it is the complete opposite.  In the world of marketing - especially when it comes to nutrition - fear and guilt sell.  But that isn't what food should be about.

Eating is: 

  • Joy
  • Anticipation
  • Social
  • Nourishing
  • Comforting
  • Cultural
  • Identity
  • Renewing
  • Pleasurable

Food and eating is not:

  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Medicine
  • Confusing
  • Difficult
  • A chore
  • Frustrating
So how is your relationship with food?  Is it healthy?  Has it been damaged? Is it improving or going down the disposal with last night's tasteless leftovers?  

There are all sorts of quizzes you can take to help assess the state of your food-relationship and here is a link to one of my preferred quizzes: Renfrew Center Quiz  In the meantime, here are a few questions to start you thinking in the right direction.  
  1. Do you feel anxious or worried about food or eating, especially in a social situation?
  2. Do you find yourself labeling foods as good or bad, or yourself as good or bad depending on what foods you've eaten?
  3. Do you find yourself frequently in an extreme state of hunger or fullness?
  4. Do you forbid yourself certain foods with no medical cause (allergy, etc)?
  5. Do you feel unable to know how to eat healthy?
Anytime you consider making a change to your eating routine or following a specific diet, watch for certain "red flags".  Answering "no" to any of these questions is a definite warning sign.
  • Does this eating plan allow me to enjoy all food groups?
  • Would you feel comfortable if your 5 or 6 year-old son/daughter/niece/etc. were to follow this eating plan?
  • Is this plan something that I can maintain happily for the rest of my life?
In a nutshell (yes, I love food-related euphemisms) - cook, eat with family and friends, savor your food, listen to your body, and strive for moderation and balance.  There is no magic bullet, nor is there any one villain to blame for our woes.  I think that if we spent as much time in the kitchen cooking as we do worrying and reading about the latest health craze, we'd all be in much better shape. Real food feeds the body as well as the soul, so keep it real and find enjoyment in your life-long relationship with food. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Beyond Meatless Monday: The Part-Time Vegetarian

Meatless Monday has an alliterative ring to it, but what are the health benefits behind it?  Swapping out meat in your diet with vegetable sources of protein will:
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Decrease risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Improve your digestive health
  • Positively impact the environment (fewer resources used in producing plants vs. animals)

You may wonder if it’s possible to get enough protein during the day if you go meatless.  The answer is a definite yes.  On average Americans consume 1 ½ times the recommended amount of protein, plus most food groups contain varying amounts of protein, so adopting a “part-time vegetarian” lifestyle won’t be a problem when it comes to your overall nutrition.  

Here are some easy swaps that will allow you to go meatless without losing your favorite recipes:
  • Beans - for meats in casseroles, soups, tacos, enchiladas and even pita sandwiches.   
    Try adding chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cucumbers, tomatoes, and greek yogurt with a little dill and garlic to a whole wheat pita.

  • Mushrooms – with a great umami or savory, meat-like flavor, this is an ideal meat substitute.  Try grilling a portabella cap instead of a hamburger patty at your next BBQ, or sauté mushrooms in your favorite stir fry or pasta dish to take the place of chicken or beef.  Plus mushrooms are the only source of Vitamin D in the produce aisle. 
    Use sliced portabella mushrooms just as you would use sliced beef or chicken in a stir fry.

  • Veg-out – in your next sandwich or Panini, load it up with caramelized onions, and a variety of grilled vegetables and with the explosion of flavor, you’ll never miss the meat.  Take advantage of the money savings of going meatless by having a baked potato bar once a week, and loading up your chicken soup with veggies and pearl barley instead of chicken.  

Whether you choose to make taco Tuesday meatless, incorporate a hearty main dish panzanella salad or a soup loaded with veggies and beans not only do you boost your nutrition, but you save money and possibly the planet as well.