March is National Nutrition Month.
Isn’t it nice to have a whole month to reflect on healthy eating? The thing is, there are so many differing ideas on what constitutes a good diet that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I know, I read and write about food, and sometimes it feels like I’m in the middle of a food fight.
Ironically, we have this wonderful thing called eating, which should be a source of great pleasure, entertainment, and sustenance. But we can’t seem to agree on what to eat.
We have the paleos and the vegans, and everybody in between, weighing in on what to eat. Talk food anywhere and someone will interject, with great passion, “I heard flax makes men have prostate problems,” or ” Grains are bad for you.”
As a culinary teacher, I teach classes on vegetarian, vegan, whole grains and gluten free cooking across the country, meeting people who are hungry for good food, and for information about good food. I’ve been a private chef for about 20 years, too, specializing in cooking whatever the client believes is the best diet for her.
It’s taught me not to judge. Really. I love to eat, I understand that some people just love to eat differently than I do.
The one universal truth to all of these ways of looking at food? KEEP IT REAL.
By that I mean kick refined foods. Avoid processed stuff. Eat whole grains and beans and vegetables, and avoid danishes that come wrapped in thick plastic that keep un-refrigerated for a year. I also urge everyone to avoid industrial meat and dairy that are fed and injected with unnatural substances. Our hungers are no reason to treat animals like cogs in a machine. On the vegan side, it saddens me to see people eating so much fake butter and fake cheese.
Of course, if you have ever read my blog, I would rather that you went meatless, and kept all dairy and eggs as very occasional foods, too. But I get it that the majority of the population is not going to go that way.
We all live in the same brave new world, where un-real food looks disarmingly delicious, tempting us from the grocery store shelves. Often it’s dressed up in sheep’s clothing, deliberately promising things it doesn’t deliver, like whole grains, when it’s really mostly white flour.
But overall, it’s really simple and straightforward to make Real Food choices. Stand facing the buffet and ask, which of these options is the most whole? Is it something I could make from real ingredients in my kitchen, or did it require an industrial process to create it? Is it white and refined?
Of course, you can decide how and when to go ahead and eat the cookie. I’d rather it were a whole grain, raw sugar cookie, but if the occasional white flour goodie passes your lips, that is between you and it.
So there you go, nutrition month. If I can make any impact on anyone, I hope I can get them to eat more veggies, more whole grains, more incredibly beneficial beans and lentils. Whatever more is to you, is up to you.
Composed Salad with Creamy Cashew Lemon Dressing
1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt, cracked black pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup black beans, drained, 1/4 small red onion, a splash of red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, tossed with 1/4 cup basil or parsley, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon olive oil
1 head romaine
2 medium carrots, julienned
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large golden apple, sliced
1/2 cup broccoli sprouts
sprinkle of chipotle powder
1. Make the dressing, drain the soaked cashews and put them in a serious blender with the garlic and salt and process. Scrape down and add the lemon juice and vegetable stock and puree. Add the agave and drizzle in the oil with the machine running.
2. Mix the beans, vinegar and red onion, quinoa and basil, and prep the veggies. On four large plates, spread the romaine, then arrange the veggies and toppings. Drizzle with dressing, then sprinkle with chipotle for a spicy garnish.