Food Is Not Your Enemy

Chicken Wings Are Not Salad: How to Choose a Healthy Lunch From the Salad Bar
July 27, 2010, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Oils, Restaurants, Vegetables | Tags: ,

I’m going to eat healthy today, you think. I’m going to the salad bar place on the corner to get my lunch. No more junk.

New York is filled with salad bars, some better than others. But what they all seem to have in common, whether they occupy the local bodega or the center of your company’s cafeteria, is that they’re often stocked full of foods that are decidedly non-salad in nature.

I’ll never forget when corner-store salad bars first hit the city in a big way. An overweight friend of mine had suggested we grab a healthy dinner and try the new salad bar near her apartment. After oohing and aahing over all the choices on display, what she ended up with in her plastic container was fried chicken and potato salad. Healthy dinner? Not so much.

To ensure that when you walk away from your favorite salad bar you actually have a healthy meal in your hands, follow these “do’s and don’ts” when selecting your ingredients …


Do choose the darker greens. Unlike iceberg lettuce, which offers little in the way of nutrition, mesclun, romaine, and spinach are nutritional powerhouses, loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Do pile on the veggies. Top your salad with a ton of veggies–broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, avocado, red onions, mushrooms, and shredded carrots are all great choices.

Do include a protein. No matter how big your salad, if it has nothing more than lettuce and veggies in it you’ll be hungry soon after eating it. To make your healthy salad also a filling, satisfying meal, throw in any combination of salmon, shrimp, grilled chicken, beans, tofu, nuts, or seeds.

Do use the right dressings. The best way to go is olive oil and vinegar or olive oil and lemon juice. After that, vinaigrettes are okay.


Don’t select “salads” made with mayonnaise. Mayo is very calorie-dense, and the stuff coated in it is often starchy or refined foods (potatoes, white macaroni, etc.) that your waistline and blood sugar levels can do without.

Don’t load up on creamy dressings. Like mayo, creamy dressings like ranch, bleu cheese, and thousand island are very caloric. What looks like a healthy salad can suddenly become a calorie bomb if it’s coated in even just a few tablespoons of these dressings.

Don’t eat the crispy toppings. Crispy Asian noodles, croutons, and other fried bits of white flour will do nothing for you nutritionally and just add a lot of calories.

Don’t take chicken that’s fried or coated in a sloppy sauce. Barbecue and fried wings aren’t really why you headed to the salad bar, right? You wanted to eat healthy. If this is the stuff you meant to eat you would’ve gone to Popeye’s.


Delicious Green Smoothie
July 21, 2010, 12:40 pm
Filed under: Fruits, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

Here’s a recipe for a super healthy green smoothie–you won’t even taste the veggies in it. A great way to get your daily greens!

1 granny smith apple (cored but keep skin on), or other sweet fruit of your choice like banana, watermelon, etc. (or a combination of fruits)
1 stalk celery, chopped
Handful of chopped romaine lettuce
1/4  avocado
Handful of fresh parsley leaves
About 1 cup water

Puree in blender.

Body Acceptance, or Habit Acceptance?

The U.S. is a very contradictory culture when it comes to food and weight. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to eat at every turn, and given enormous, calorie-laden portions when we eat out in restaurants. On the other, the media consistently sends us messages that we’re too fat, either by lionizing very very thin women or by pushing fad diets on us on the cover of every magazine.

And then from another direction comes the directive to “love your body.” Those behind this well-meaning message encourage us to accept that we’ll never be the size of a runway model, that being that thin is unnatural, and that instead of dieting we should just be happy with what we’ve got.

While I support the idea that we should love ourselves and that we need to stop obsessing about fitting into a size that’s unrealistic for our body type, I do want to raise this question: Should we love our body as it is, unconditionally, if our weight is jeopardizing our health?

Is the excuse “I’m just a big girl/boy” valid if you’re 50 or more pounds overweight, diabetic, not exercising, and eating candy, ice cream, and fast food every day? If you think it is, I would argue that you’re not loving your body in this case–what you’re loving and defending are your habits. When people are truly overweight by medical measures or have type 2 diabetes, it’s rarely a mystery why. I’ve worked with several clients who are diabetic and their food tells the story: When they first come to see me more often than not they eat fast food several times a week if not every day, they eat sweets a few times a day, and they don’t exercise. If you really love your body, then why not think about changing your habits, and honoring your body by providing it with healthy food and movement that will help it flourish and feel good? And if, after altering your habits for the better, you feel the best you’ve ever felt but still can’t wear Victoria or David Beckham’s clothes, then you’ll know your body is in a good place and you should let it be where it is.

So yes, love your body. But show that love by honoring it, and treating it like it deserves to be healthy. Because it does.

Red Split Lentils with Cabbage
July 2, 2010, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Beans, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe; here’s one, for an Indian dish, that’s in very regular rotation in my house and which my kids particularly love. A couple of modifications: I use just 1/2 a jalapeno rather than the 1-2 that the recipe calls for so that the dish is relatively mild. And rather than fresh tomato, I use diced tomatoes from a box (Pomi brand is nice). I serve this over brown basmati rice.

Serves 4 to 6

200 g (7 oz.) red split lentils, picked over, washed and drained

1.2 liters (2 pints) water

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 oz. onions, peeled and cut into fine slices

225 g (8 oz.) cored and finely shredded cabbage

1 to 2 fresh, hot green chilies, finely sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 oz. tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger

Put the lentils and water into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that collects at the top. Add the turmeric and stir to mix. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours. Stir a few times during the last 30 minutes.

When the lentils cook, heat the oil in a 20 to 23 centimeter (8 to 9 inch) frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds. Now put in the garlic. As soon as the garlic pieces begin to brown, put in the onion, cabbage and green chilies. Stir and fry the cabbage mixture for about 10 minutes or until it begins to brown and turn slightly crisp. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat under the frying pan.

When the lentils have cooked for 1 1/4 hours, add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, the tomato and ginger to the pot. Stir to mix. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage mixture and any remaining oil in the frying pan. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.

Simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage is heated through.

Recipe from “Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking”