Archive for February, 2008


When it comes to taste, not all foods are created equal

February 28, 2008

Healthy- and delicious- recipes aren’t always easy to come by. Take, for example, the Eggplant Bruschetta that I attempted to make the other night for dinner. It was basically a recipe for baked eggplant, and then mixed in a bowl with the usual toppings for bruschetta (tomatoes and onions etc).

Maybe I’m just not a huge fan of eggplant. Or maybe bruschetta should be primarily used as a topping on bread (although it also tastes great mixed in with a bit of tuna and then used as a sauce for spaghetti- mmm). Whatever the case, the onion overpowered the rest of the dish and the eggplant itself was simply bland and boring. My mother ate some out of politeness and I tried it too, but most of it went to waste.

I don’t see that experiment as a failure. Every recipe that goes wrong or doesn’t quite work out is a learning experience and there is always some kind of benefit to be gained. Besides, how are you ever going to determine the good healthy recipes from the bad if you don’t give them a try? Searching for healthier recipes and then putting them to practice can be great fun. Sometimes they won’t work out, but other times, you’ll hit the jackpot. In one cookbook, I managed to find an apple-banana bread recipe and altered it slightly to make it even more healthy (I switched homemade applesauce for the oil, exchanged half of the white flour for whole wheat flour, and used less sugar than the recipe called for- the applesauce is sweet enough to replace quite a bit of the granulated sugar). When I make that recipe, the banana bread gets eaten within a couple days; everyone who has tried it absolutely adores it.

Some healthier versions of food are a matter of acquiring a taste for them. I have found, however, that whole wheat spaghetti tastes pretty much identical to regular spaghetti, and mixing frozen berries into a plain, fat-free yogurt tastes much better (and far more real!) than the sugary, calorie-laden fruity yogurts you find lining the grocery store shelves. It’s easy enough to incorporate healthier variations into your lifestyle; replacing half of the white flour for whole wheat flour doesn’t noticeably change the taste or texture in baking a lot of the time (although it does give cookies a more nutty, crumbly aspect… and sometimes that can be desirable).

My point is that although a lot of people shy away from foods marketed as healthy because healthy is automatically associated with tastelessness, a lot of those healthy foods are actually really delicious. All-natural peanut butter tastes just as good as the hydrogenated stuff that the majority of people buy, and using lower sodium products often makes the food taste better. Too much salt will otherwise overpower the other flavours. So go to the grocery store with an open mind and experiment! Be adventurous and try out some whole wheat, all-natural foods for a change. Get on the net and look for some healthy recipes (you can find hundreds of them). And if there’s some kind of vegetable that you detest, then don’t bother working with it- find another one that you do enjoy and work with that (clearly, I should be experimenting with cauliflower or mushrooms instead of eggplant!). I’d still recommend trying the ones that you don’t like every few months or so, because our tastes do change and expand. It wasn’t until these past few months that I started eating salmon, and now it is a favourite of mine. I’m still working on spinach but I’ve come to quite enjoy raw spinach, whereas you’d never catch me eating it a year ago!

Be prepared to have a couple let-downs, but remember that with each recipe that doesn’t work out, you can figure out a way to make the next one that much better. Besides, there’s tons of non-healthy recipes that turn out to be pretty awful too. And in the process of making some new healthy foods, you’ll discover some real treasures for yourself that you’ll want to make over and over again.


The bad rep that food is receiving

February 25, 2008

As someone passionate about health and everything related to health topics, I find myself reading as much about health as I can get my hands on. Magazines, books, websites, you name it. I even enjoy reading food labels and scanning ingredient lists of different items at the grocery store (seriously, if you let me loose in the grocery store with no time limit, I could spend hours comparing foods and reading the labels and choosing between them).

In reading all of this nutrition information, it has become more and more apparent that our relationship with food is often an incredibly negative and UNhealthy relationship. So many magazines discuss which foods are “bad” and which foods are “good”; they suggest ways to burn calories and fight fat. Newspaper columns report research on the obesity epidemic in North America and discussion forums on websites regularly consist of women wanting to know the best diets and exercise regimes.

When did food become the enemy? When did we lose sight of the fact that we NEED food to survive and to be healthy? The old claims of “carbs are bad” and “fat is bad”, “eggs raise cholesterol” and “limit dairy because you’ll bloat” are all so ridiculous and limiting. We are restricting ourselves, and torturing ourselves, by paying attention to these claims which really do not make any sense. Humans require 45-65% of their daily food intake to be in the form of carbohydrates. Fats are essential to keep our bodies working, too. Eggs make for a great source of protein, and dairy products are an excellent way to reach our calcium requirements. Food is not the enemy at all. Food gives us fuel and helps us to maintain a healthy body.

So what’s the problem? The food that we eat today is often on-the-go meals; we consume excessive amounts of processed and fast foods and not enough of the healthy, natural, nutrient-rich stuff that our diets ought to be filled with. Yes, exercise is incredibly important for our bodies to keep healthy, but if we’re thinking about it in terms of exercising to burn off breakfast, that might lead towards negative thinking. That breakfast is keeping our brains sharp and our minds alert. Think of healthy food as a necessary part of life for us to function rather than food as something to be guilty about, and think of exercise as a way to keep our bodies strong.

I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule (or 90/10 rule): eat healthy, nutritious food 80% of the time and indulge the other 20% of the time. If you live your life that way, and try to cut back on processed and fast food, your body will thank you and it will show. So embrace food and enjoy what you eat in moderation! Remember that food is NOT the enemy; don’t wage war on your body! Instead work with it, and incorporate a healthy diet and exercise regime into your lifestyle. Fad diets aren’t concerned with your health- the people promoting fad diets are looking to get rich and that’s it. Let’s treat our bodies with the care that they deserve… and feed them well!