We can’t deny that salt and fat add taste to foods and cutting down on these substances is not easy. However, more and more people are trying to shed old unhealthful habits and learn new ones which are so much better for our well-being.
To start, it may be a good idea to learn more about the Mediterranean Diet (see my blog). In this article I have included a few suggestions and healthy recipes that contribute to good health.
The use of herbs enhances the flavor of your foods, so you won’t want or need as much of the detrimental additives. Nutritionists are advocating eating more plant foods such as fruits, grains, and vegetables; herbs are part of this plant-based diet that is believed to be so vital in protecting our bodies from disease and aging.
in my opinion, the main foods on which to cut down as much as possible are sodium and saturated fats. (sugar is another story.) The labeling on foods you buy have nutrition facts and give you the amount and percentages of these ingredients. I like to use percentages, as I believe it’s easier to remember that way.
A quick guide to these additions is: for sodium, (salt is 40% sodium), try to keep it as low as possible if you have not been advised medically otherwise. Sodium content below 5% is good, below 10% is ok, and occasionally, below 20%. Cheese, a very good source of dairy (see my blog on Osteoporosis) is hard to find with a low-fat content. It seems that most cheeses contain 30 to 35% saturated fat. I do find some delicious goudas at 25 or 26%, so I try to eat those on occasion. Be sure you check the label, because the gouda at 30% or more tastes the same to me as the one with less sodium.
As far as butter goes, Promise Active with 3% saturated fat is the lowest spread in saturated fat that I can find. It works well and tastes like butter to me. I use it in my home-made bread and for other baking as well. You can buy low (usually 1-2%) or non-fat in almost every dairy product. The best fats to use for cooking are olive or canola oil, which are composed of “good fats.”
Tomatoes, the ubiquitous fruit which is used as a vegetable, are high in antioxidants and low in fat. They are especially healthy when cooked, such as in pasta sauces, soups, ketchup and pizza, as cooking brings out more of their antioxidant effect.
The following recipes are normally high in sodium, but much less in fat content and sodium with these directions. The first is an excellent recipe for cream of tomato soup, normally high in sodium, but minimal in this recipe.
CREAM OF TOMATO SOUP
Finely chop 1 small onion and 1 small carrot. Cook in 2 Tbsp. margarine, butter or olive oil until onion is soft. Add 1 large can (1#12oz) Italian-style tomatoes with the liquid, (or fresh tomatoes!) & 1/2 tsp. each thyme leaves & dry basil (I added some fresh of each too). Sprinkle with pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, & simmer 20 min.
In a blender or food processor, puree soup ‘till smooth; strain into a pan. Whisk in 1 cup fat-free half and half. Garnish with parsley (chopped or whole leaf-I use Italian parsley or fresh basil.)
Many years ago, there was a chain of restaurants called Made-Rite, but now there are very few. They featured a quick-meal with that name. I always thought it was a good tasting, fast sandwich, so I lowered the fat content and make it quite often. It’s a take-off on a regular hamburger. It will make enough to freeze, and the filling freezes well.
Brown 1 pound of ground chicken or turkey, (original called for beef), add no-salt seasoning, garlic powder or fresh garlic, finely chopped onion, and any other seasoning you wish (original called for soy sauce). Add some broth and simmer a while. While cooking, mash into small pieces with a whisk or potato masher (buying fine sieve ground chicken helps). If the chicken doesn’t seem dark enough, add some Kitchen Bouquet and it’ll look like beef. Fill buns and add finely chopped onions (optional.) Wrap in waxed paper. Add a green salad and enjoy a quick, delicious meal.
For the salad, I use romaine with any vegetables you like (any greens except head lettuce have a lot of antioxidants). I prefer crisp romaine with some or all of these choices: sliced red peppers, red onions, cucumbers, avocado, carrots, and red cabbage thinly sliced. For salad dressing, I use fresh lemon juice or white vinegar, and olive oil. Some people like 2 to 1 parts olive oil to lemon juice, and some like equal amounts. Add some granulated garlic to taste. Toss.
This is a vegetarian soup, but you could add chicken bones or beef bouillon. I think it tastes good even without any meat or poultry.
Start with a base of sautéed tomatoes (fresh or canned) and onions in olive oil. Add vegetable stock (check the sodium percent). I like to add low salt chicken broth. Now add any vegies like carrots, more onions, celery and chopped green beans. You could add baby lima beans or barley, even lentils. Also, frozen mixed vegetables or peas. Sometimes I add some fresh ginger, to help replace the salt. It is surprisingly good.
Eating right isn’t the whole answer to good health, but it is a very important one.