A look at methods for healthy eating.


A good friend suggested that I make this one of my topics, so I decided I’d give it a try.  I’ve started several times and I end up being unhappy with what I’ve written, so I’m going to try again with a fresh approach.

In my first effort, I suggested by way of the title that we should think of this subject as healthy dining.  My reasoning for that is simply that it can be an event in one’s household that has more to do with the entire experience rather than just consuming food.  Indeed, dinner is a great time for families to reconnect and spend quality time, sharing events of the day.  Most people eat three times a day, and in our current world, it’s unlikely that all three meals would include an entire household, so I refer to dinner as the time to gather one’s family together.

We need to remember that food is simply fuel.  When you fill up your automobile with gasoline, there’s an automatic shut-off when the tank is full.  Wouldn’t that be convenient in people?  We so often eat too much and are then terribly uncomfortable for the rest of the day.  We need to be in charge of when to stop, and that’s not always easy.  We load up our plate with whatever food is prepared, and then we feel obligated to “clean our plate.”  I suggest that we take less to begin with and then, if we are still hungry, ask for more.  Of course, part of this is the cook’s responsibility.  If too much food is prepared, it’s a clear indication that those who partake of the diners can eat as much as they like.  Simply put, portion control is one key to healthy eating.

We know that a big push has been made to eat five helpings of fruits and/or vegetables a day for better health.  I’ve never been one to weigh food on a tiny scale, but if we look at the size of a normal dinner plate, there’s a good hint as to how much it will take to fill our stomachs.  That plate need not be piled high, and the different varieties of food don’t have to completely fill the plate.  Remember those picnic plates with three segments in them.  There’s a good way to think about the ratio of proportions. 

We hear a great deal about whole foods.  My understanding is that we should try our best to eat foods that are near to the way they have grown.  Potatoes are starchy and turn to sugar after we eat them.  I’m not suggesting that we do away with such a staple, but rather that we avoid drenching them with cheese, gravy, or other embellishments that make them nearly unrecognizable.  It’s just common sense that fried foods are less nutritious than baked or steamed foods.  Almost everyone loves a good French fry, and that’s a perfectly fine side dish from time to time.  However, if the main course is fried chicken, maybe fried potatoes are not a great option.

I know what I’d be thinking if I were in your shoes, so I’ll share with you my general thoughts on eating.  My grandfather lived to be a cranky 97 years old.  My dear Grandma Nellie prepared friend chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans from the garden flavored with bacon and so on.  She wasn’t trying to kill Grandfather, and even if she were, it didn’t work very well because he outlived her. 

Before even tasting anything, Grandfather would douse his entire plate with salt.  He had high blood pressure, and Grandmother, on the advice of their family doctor, admonished him to leave the salt alone. After all, she flavored the food perfectly well.  Here’s another tip.  I’ve seen people who put hot sauce on everything.  I would suggest that you read the label.  I would also guess that those who eat this way have forgotten the subtle taste of fine food.  If you cover everything on your plate with catsup or hot sauce, everything will taste like catsup or hot sauce. 

I think most dinners should have a main dish and two side dishes.  We have become accustomed to announcing the meat as what we’re having for dinner.  The answer to “What’s for dinner,” is too often chicken, beef, pork, fish, lamb, etc.  Sometimes, we might be better off with etcetera.  There’s no law that says each meal must have a meat dish.  Also, fish is a great option for better health.  Many people only know to prepare fish by frying it.  The microwave can be a most effective method of fish preparation.  A bit of butter and lemon juice will do just fine.  Other seasonings can be added as well.

Here it may sound like I’m contradicting myself.  If you season foods well, they will taste better.  I’m talking about garlic, onions, basil, oregano and other seasonings that are much more subtle than hot sauce.  I guess you can tell I’m not a fan of hot sauce.  I just find that the flavors of real food have been covered up.  By all means, flavor the food if you want it to be tasty, but flavor it with natural herbs and spices.  It may take a while, but you’ll find it’s a great way to eat.

I never use “lite” or fat free products.  When I use butter, I use real butter, never oleo.  In moderation, there’s not a thing wrong with butter.  If you want to read about oleo, do a google search and you’ll find out the nutritional value of that concoction.

I start every dinner with a salad.  I’ve written before about the unlimited options for salads.  Iceberg lettuce has the least nutritional value, so reach for green or red leaf lettuce, romaine or endive, and you’ll get more flavor and more nutrition.  You can add raw veggies or fruit, nuts, cheese in moderation, and don’t forget the dressing.  Here you need to be sparing.  If you no longer taste the ingredients in your salad, you’ve gone too far.

Another tip is not to deprive yourself of something you really like.  Ice cream is a weakness of mine.  In moderation, I eat some almost every day.  Remember the paragraph on portions, though.  Healthy eating only requires thought.  Most prepared soups are high in sodium.  Consequently, casseroles that require a can of soup may be convenient, but I wouldn’t recommend that one prepare them too regularly.  Combining processed foods get you farther and farther from the whole foods which are best for you.   Generally speaking, processed foods have less nutrition and contain more ingredients, which are not all that good for you.

I’m not a fan of dieting.  If you limit your portions and eat sensibly, losing weight is easy enough.  Drinking plenty of water is also helpful for digestion, and that can also help control your weight.  Obviously, exercise is a part of weight control, but more to the point, a necessary factor for good health.  I’ll write more about that in another article.  Ample exercise, too, is doable.

I have concentrated mostly on the evening meal.  It’s fairly easy to eat a decent breakfast these days.  There are plenty of whole grain cereals on the market.  One can use milk or soy milk, whichever works best for you.  Most countries that have excellent diets include nuts and berries in their diet.   Whole grain breads are best for healthy eating.  Peanut butter is a good food with lots of protein.  That’s a good food to include in your lunch routine.  Many people eat a salad for lunch.

Most people like a good steak, but if you’re drawn to the 20 oz. special, that’s just more than anyone needs to maintain good healthy eating.  Knowledgeable dieticians recommend fish at least once a week.  Healthy eating is not rocket science. It’s common sense.  Good eating combined with exercise will help anyone toward a healthier existence.