Resolve to eat healthy in new year
Did you make a new year’s resolution this year? According to CNN, more than 100 million Americans make themselves promises on Jan. 1, but less than half keep them more than a few weeks. As you may guess, many of these goals involve dieting and weight loss, especially after the recent food-centric holiday season.
From low-carb to low-fat, macrobiotic to vegetarian - the variety of popular diet plans continues to grow. We’ve all met people who ardently endorse an eating plan, insisting their approach is the right way to weight loss and ideal health. There are many ways to improve your health through food choices, but the only way you can trim your waistline is to eat fewer calories than you burn.
VARIETIES OF VEGETARIANS
To estimate how many calories you need, a reliable rule of thumb is to multiply your desired weight by 10. If you want to weigh 150 lbs., eat 1,500 calories a day. If you exercise, you can add a few more calories to your daily intake, but not more than what you’ve burned.
The path to optimum health includes regular exercise and a diet of wholesome food in moderation. I like Michael Pollan’s advice: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Implicit in his message to “eat food” is avoiding processed foods. The better alternative to a handful of potato chips is not low-fat or baked chips; it’s an apple.
Portion control is basic common-sense advice, but not always easy to manage when one slice of multigrain bread can run as high as 150 calories. Regardless of the plant-based ingredients in whole-wheat pasta or sandwich wraps, they’re still high in calories if you don’t limit your serving size. We’ve heard the argument that human beings are omnivores, designed to consume both meat and vegetables. What we may overlook is that our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t eat meat three times a day, let alone the amount of meat most restaurants pile onto a single dinner plate. With all due respect to vegetarians who have chosen to avoid meat, a compromise approach is that of the flexitarian. While they eat a diet of mostly plants and avoid processed foods, they’ll still enjoy hormone-free, grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon from time to time. Their strategy is to concentrate on fruits and vegetables, with an occasional meal of local, organic meat, fish or poultry.
If the bulk of your diet doesn’t include meat, how do you ensure you’re getting enough protein? The answer is to make smart choices. You’ll find substantial amounts of protein in many grains, beans and dairy products (see sidebar for a few examples). One of the excellent sources of protein is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), a seed that has been around since the Incas cultivated the plant more than 5,000 years ago.
The cream-colored quinoa seed can be found in your local grocery store; gourmet and specialty markets often carry the red and black varieties. You cook quinoa the same way you cook rice: simmered in water or broth. It takes about 15 minutes for the seeds to absorb the liquid and open into tiny curls. Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture and a slightly nutty flavor that makes it suitable for endless recipe variations.
Another protein powerhouse is tofu, made from soybeans. Unless your recipe calls for pureeing the tofu, the blocks sold in tubs need to be further drained before you cook with them, especially for a stir-fry like the one in the photo. Because tofu absorbs the flavors of other ingredients, it can stand in for eggs in a breakfast scramble or substitute for ground meat in chili.
Since there are so many wonderful grains to choose from, I’ll continue next week with bulgur and buckwheat and a good-for-you dessert.
Sesame Tofu Stir Fry
8 oz firm tofu
1 T sesame oil
1 T canola oil
1/2 C sliced mushrooms
1/2 C snow peas
1/3 C broccoli florets
2 T sliced ginger
1 minced garlic clove
1 T soy sauce
1 t sesame seeds
Wrap the tofu in paper towel and place it on a plate beneath a heavy skillet for 15 minutes to drain out excess liquid. Cut the tofu into cubes. Heat both oils in a skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook until lightly browned on all sides; remove tofu to a plate. Add mushrooms, snow peas, broccoli, ginger and garlic to the same skillet; cook over medium for about 3 minutes. Add 1 T water along with soy sauce to deglaze the pan. Return tofu to pan and cook until heated through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
1 C quinoa
1 C water
1/2 C dried fruit*
1 C apple juice
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 t almond extract
Rinse quinoa in a strainer; drain. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa, cover and simmer on very low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in dried fruit (chopped into small pieces, if necessary), apple juice, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Stir in almond extract and serve warm. *Note: select from dried apricots, dried apples, raisins or dried berries.