Fresh, natural, vibrant food is my passion. I love to prepare fresh foods for my family and friends; half the joy is the prep and the other is watching others enjoy. (We won't talk about the clean up.) But perhaps the single-most amazing thing about being a kitchen magician is sharing: opening minds, introducing new flavors and preparations, lending a few tips or alternatives, helping to overcome kitchen fears, transitioning people from a pre-packaged diet to an all natural, whole-foods diet....I could go on. I love it all. A big part of my joy comes from knowing every time I help someone, they improve their well being...and sometimes the well being of an entire family. Turan Tekin at Bridge Interactive gave me the push to drop some of my food knowledge here on the Onblog. It's something I never thought about but at his encouragement, I decided to give it a go. After all, we all must eat! I'm going to this off simple - with a few tips. Please try one or a few...and drop by the OnBlog to let me know how it's going.
As I mentioned in the intro, a big passion for me is cooking with whole foods; I also eat a mostly plant-based diet and try to stay away from sugar and gluten as much as possible. First things first - what does "whole foods mostly plant based diet" mean? It means foods in the whole form, unaltered: fresh fruits, veges, grains, nuts, etc. It also means protein choices typically do not come from animals for the most part; they come from whole grains, nuts, vegetables and a small amount of minimally processed soy products. I occasionally have fish and eggs but for the most part, I am animal product free (this includes dairy products). I notice when I do this, my body runs much cleaner, I have more energy and my skin glows. (I'm not saying this is for everyone, but there are tangible benefits from eating a more natural, whole-food centered diet...and that's what I'd like to share.)
When I say this to people, they think flavorless, dull and lacking variety (vege burgers and tofu dogs). It's quite the opposite; I'd venture to say I eat three times the variety of food than most of my peers with a number of textures and bright colors. Also, I don't have much time on my hands and I travel a lot so all of my tips and recipes (to follow this blog) are very time conscious and travel friendly. My commitment to eating this way ensures that my five-year-old son is set up to win with his health; providing a great foundation AND creating an expectation for his palate. So, if you are interested in integrating more natural, whole foods into your diet (and in return, minimizing your processed food intake) ...here are eight basic, foundational things for a start... 1. Adjust your mindset and set yourself up to succeed...and grow:
- Making an unwarranted hardcore diet shift usually means it won't stick...which ultimately means you quit. Instead of turning your entire diet upside down, make a commitment to eat BETTER, focus on about 5-7 changes a week...and stick to them.
- THINK about your choices before you make them. Respect and be mindful to your commitment.
- Re-think splurge. That's all...just re-think it.
2. Create new habits:
- Try cutting out fast food completely. It's really not a treat, no matter what you tell yourself. Also, you CAN prep something nutritious and delicious in 5 minutes...and I will share a few of my favorites (with tips and tricks)
- Eat breakfast every day...even if it's a fresh fruit, a healthy smoothie (recipe in my next blog), or a microwaved bowl of whole grain cereal with cinnamon and a splash of real maple syrup
- Everything you ingest should add value. Example: sugary drinks...no nutritional value whatsoever.
3. Create new disciplines:
- Try doing 80% of your grocery shopping in the outer "square" of the store...with a heavy focus on the produce section. Buy local and organic whenever possible; farmer's markets are a great way to save money. (Fresh produce accounts for about 80% of my overall grocery bill. How about yours?)
- Replace 2 out of 4 white starches you eat with whole grains (whole grains differ from whole wheat...look for whole grains...more on that later). Trade regular pasta for spelt or oat bran pasta. Trade white or wheat bread for a wheat free whole grain bread like Alvarado Farms, Food for Life or Udi's. Trade white rice for whole grain mixes, quinoa, bulgur, barley, amaranth. Trade regular oatmeal for whole grain hot cereal
- Ask for your foods to be prepared with no butter and very little oil everywhere you go
4. Try your hand!
- Make your own salad dressing with balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and a touch of honey if you like sweet flavor. Once you get comfortable, experiment - dijon mustard, different herbs, infused oils, fresh squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice, a dollop of yogurt...
- Buy some small jars or use snack-size ziploc bags and make your own dry spice combos to season meats, sweet potatoes, vegetables
- Infuse healthy oil (grapeseed, olive, etc.) with garlic cloves, lemon peel, ginger and lemongrass etc.
- Instead of steaming veges, roast them in the oven with just a splash of olive or coconut oil and your favorite seasonings...brings out a much richer/deeper flavor and takes just slightly longer than steaming...with no cleanup (on tinfoil!!)
5. Try new things that are healthier:
- Ditch butter for Earth Balance...for everything
- Trade romaine and iceberg lettuce for leafy greens
- Bake (ask for baked) instead of deep fry
6. Double down (do it at home/ask for it when you are out):
- Double the vegetables and halve the meat on all sandwiches
- Double the vegetables on your plate and eat half the protein and starch
- Double your intake of raw fruit and vegetable
- Double the eggwhites for each whole egg in omelets and scrambles
7. ALWAYS Read labels:
- Meal and snack bars can be deceiving. Some meal and snack "bars" have a horrendous list of ingredients. First, try to eat a bar that has a fruit base (dates, figs, etc) instead of a floury base.PURE Bars and L'ara Bars are great options.
- Not all chips are made equal...i love crunch with lunch and that means more than raw vegetables!! Vege chips, freshly popped popcorn...yum.
- Stay away from foods with labels that contain an inordinate number of ingredients...shopping on the outside aisles of the store will help
- Soup...loaded with sodium. Some seemingly healthy soups pack more than 1000mg of sodium per serving. No good!
8. Think ahead:
- Make a large pot of whole grain rice and refrigerate for use during the week: stir fried rice, rice and bean whole grain tacos, stuffed roasted peppers with whole grain rice, etc.
- Make soup...in a big batch and freeze it small/2 serving Ziploc bags (yes, recipes to follow)
- If you are slicing and dicing veges for a dish, slice and dice twice or three times the amount and store in labeled disposable containers....it will make the rest of the week's meal prep that much easier
Until next time...kitchen goodies from Kim!
Image Credit: Sharon Mollerus on Flickr.com