A video on the Internet depicts why healthy eating can be a challenge.
The setting is a 1970s kitchen, complete with lime green cabinets. The wife has made her husband a beautiful breakfast of steak, eggs, toast, coffee, and juice. As he sits down to enjoy this all-American meal, a man from the future darts in and out with healthy food bulletins. Don’t eat the eggs; eat the eggs, but not the yolks; the entire egg is OK, but toss the red meat; no more toast; and so on.
When did eating become so complicated?
Today I will give you a few tips to calmly enjoy your food as we did in the day of lime green kitchens. Here are some simple ideas to get you started:
- Avoid trans fats. These are “bad” fats. The Food and Drug Administration ruled in 2015 that these artificial fats are not safe for consumption and gave restaurants and food companies three years to eradicate this health hazard. We’re not quite there, and trans fats are still in many fried, baked, and packaged foods. Scan the ingredient label of anything you buy. Trans fats are commonly listed as “partially hydrogenated” and “hydrogenated” oils. Legally, a food can claim zero trans fat and have up to 0.49 grams per serving. Even small amounts play a significant role in cardiovascular disease. Beware of biscuits, cookies, crackers, non-dairy coffee creamer, fried fast foods, microwave and theater popcorn, and margarine, to name a few. Minimizing trans and processed fats is a great way to love your heart. The good news: As you seek foods made with real fat (such as butter, olive oil) instead of lab fat, you will begin to taste the difference. The enjoyment and satisfaction level with real fat is much higher, so you are able to eat less and keep things heart healthy. Moderation is key.
- Consume less sugar. Most Americans eat too much sugar. It is highly addictive and tastes delicious. From a health perspective, it’s a slippery slope. Increased blood sugar levels lead to poor heart health. The American Heart Association recommends that men limit their intake of added sugar to 9 teaspoons (36 grams) and women limit their intake to 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day. For reference, a 12-ounce can of soda contains about 9 teaspoons. Added sugars include any type of sweetener, whether it’s honey, agave, maple syrup, cane sugar, etc., added by the food manufacturer or you. Artificial sweeteners are not the answer, as they are chemicals and raise health concerns of their own. The good news: Many fruits satisfy a sweet tooth and add fiber and nutrients as a bonus. Eating a sweet treat when the ingredients are real, along with a meal or snack that includes lean protein, vegetables, and real grains, is not as tough on the body as having a doughnut and coffee in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Minimize consumption of processed foods. These typically contain preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, excessive sodium, and other chemicals that aren’t boosting us toward stellar health. Deli meats, bacon, pre-packaged and frozen meals and any food that is not in its natural form could be included here. The good news: Many foods will boost heart health: fish (wild-caught) rich in omega-3 fats, such as Alaskan salmon, albacore tuna, Atlantic mackerel, sardines; one to two ounces of dark chocolate that has a cacao (or cocoa) content of at least 70 percent; a handful of raw nuts; avocados and avocado oil (good fats); a variety of fruits (especially berries) and vegetables in all colors; a glass of red wine (a highly recommended alcoholic beverage). Consider following Mediterranean diet guidelines, which are heavy on plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables), includes whole grains, legumes, extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil, fish, and poultry, and limits red meat and sugar.
- Tasty and healthy snacks. Homemade protein bars, hummus, and guacamole with raw vegetables; almond or other nut butters with apples or pears; fresh berries with a drizzle of flavored balsamic vinegar. As for the breakfast from the '70s? The entire egg is full of nutrients. Skip the juice and eat a piece of fruit—more fiber, more filling. I’d put a splash of real cream in the coffee. Red meat on occasion and true whole grain bread would not upset future man.
- In Conclusion. Make one change at a time: Eat more food that is simple and real and keep the balance. For those times when you are choosing a treat, Quick and Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites are a big hit with my family. These are gluten-free, dairy-free (if you use non-dairy chocolate chips) and vegan. You don’t even need a mixer. Deliciously simple.
Quick and Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites
2 cups blanched almond flour*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks** (melted)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 to 1/2 cup dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine almond flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl, using a pastry blender to break up any clumps of flour. Stir in melted Earth Balance, honey and vanilla with a large spoon until dough forms. Stir in the chocolate chips. If the dough seems dry and crumbly, add more honey or melted Earth Balance, a little at a time, until it is moist enough to stick together. (You may need an additional 1-2 tablespoons.) Drop by teaspoonful or small cookie scoop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the dough flat.
Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until slightly brown. Be careful not to overbake. Leave them alone to set and cool for about 15 minutes so they don’t crumble and break. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator or freezer.
*Benefits of using almond flour: lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein, fiber and healthy fat than some other flour options.
**Earth Balance is a blend of good oils. Butter may also be used.