Just . . . eat it!

What is 'healthy eating'?

Here we are, with New Year's resolutions pressuring us to be better and news items telling us we should eat better and Facebook warning us about dangerous foods to avoid. 

What's a person supposed to do, really? 

Is the Paleo diet the best? Should you not eat meat at all? If you go vegan, does everything have to be organic? What does organic mean? Maybe I should sit down with a caramel macchiato and a muffin and think about it all.

All kidding aside, the notion of eating healthy has become a nebulous concept to say the least. 

I will offer my personal and highly unqualified opinion for you: Simply put, balance is best, and variety is not only the spice of life but the secret to a longer life. 

Whether you are vegan, eat only skinless chicken breasts and steamed veggies or stop regularly at Timmie's and McDonald's, I think that an effort to change up what you consume helps your system operate at its best. 

I'll give you a few examples of how my theory works:

Food should be interesting. My chocolate Labrador Retriever is the only one I know who jumps up and down to eat the same thing every day. 

Even if you only eat chicken breasts, you can change up the seasoning or the sauce. Eat different fruit and vegetables, taking advantage of what is fresh and what is local. Even if you are an anti-foodie, I dare you not to notice the difference between a local peach or tomato and one that travelled across the world. 

One interesting way to increase the variety in your meals is to think of ethnic cuisines. Have rice or quinoa or polenta (made from cornmeal) instead of potatoes. Make an Asian sauce, or a Latino salsa, or use a Mediterranean spice rub for your meat or fish, or toss with your veggies.

Online apps and websites have unlimited recipe ideas and pictures, television has all kinds of food shows, and your friends probably have a few different recipes they would share.

I want to talk seasoning, but the one most people worry about is salt. In cooking, it enhances the flavour of food, so it's often an attractive ingredient. It is a necessary component for our systems, but we don’t need lots of it. 

The official statistics from Health Canada say adults should have 1 teaspoon of salt per day, no more. Apparently the average consumption is more like 1-1/2 teaspoons (48% more than the required amount), and, of course, most of that comes from processed foods. 

Now remember, that doesn't just mean junk food like potato chips, it means sauces, stocks, mixes, and canned products that contain sodium. For reference, sodium is not the same as salt - if you're checking sodium levels, your target total per day is 2300 mg.

If you're really worried about salt, start by looking at ways to make something rather than buying it from a can or bottle - this way, you can control the salt. If you don't have time to tackle that, at least check the labels of different brands for sodium levels. Even bread has salt as a necessary ingredient, but many commercial bread products have high sodium levels.

If you're adventurous, think of other ways to season your food. Powdered chilli will add a real boost of flavour, herbs such as rosemary, thyme or oregano add an earthy component, spices such as turmeric or curry blends add an exotic aromatic element . . . the list is long.

For more ideas, check out a great online spice & herb list from the folks at The Kitchen.

Everyone has veggies they don't like. Some people don't like any of them. Yet we need to get those nutrients. I think it's a shame to just have a smoothie, but hey, if that's what it takes, then go for it. If you're game to try for some variety, how about these ideas?

  • Roast cauliflower and/or broccoli instead of steaming. Even at room temperature, the flavours are sweeter, and the crunchy bits are tasty, too.
  • Stuff bell peppers with meat and rice, or rice and other veggies. They will take on the flavours of the filling, and they look cool. Make a deal that everyone has to try them - parents, kids, grandkids, everyone. The dog doesn't count, 'cause we know she'll eat anything. And hey, if whole peppers are too scary, then how about pureeing them in tomato sauce? You'll get the nutrients, but no texture.
  • Eat salad for dinner. This is any combination of greens and other stuff tossed together with some kind of dressing (could be olive oil & balsamic vinegar or some other HOMEMADE dressing. Don't cheat with store-bought). Tonight I'm doing spinach with roast winter squash, radishes, avocados, grape tomatoes, and roasted chickpeas.
  • Make a veggie dip. The deal could be that everyone tries one of each veggie on the platter with the dip. Or maybe it's a dip made of veggies, like hummus (from chickpeas and maybe peppers or other stuff) or baba ghannuj (from eggplant - don't knock it, it's pretty tasty).

Did you think I meant ‘the pulse of your eating regime’? Nope, I mean all those beans and things. 

“What?” you say? 

Well, it's the International Year of the Pulse, as decreed by the United Nations. A pulse is an edible seed from a plant of the legume family, such as peas, beans or lentils. They are rich in protein, fibre, iron, and potassium, and are gluten-free. Before you go ‘ick!’ I'm going to remind you that most of us gobble up hummus without thinking twice, and you might have discovered pakoras (south Indian fried dumplings made from chickpea flour - yummy with mango chutney). So, don't knock it ’til you try it. 

As an easy resource for this segment of foods, I'm going to send you to the Pulse Pledge website. To promote the United Nations initiative, there is a whole program, with a contest and a newsletter and lots of recipes. Check it out, and I bet you will be pleasantly surprised. 

That's a lot to digest this week - hope I didn't scare you off. I just think that we can all use a helping hand when it comes to living the good life. 

Sometimes it's hard to come up with our own ideas. If you have some you'd like to share, please comment here or on the Happy Gourmande Facebook page.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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