Maybe it’s only because I’m a fan of the blogosphere, Pinterest and Instagram, places where photos of food are de rigueur, that I’ve noticed a shift in the American attitude toward food. It doesn’t seem to be about diets so much anymore, although there is the Paleo craze. Overall, the emphasis on losing weight seems to have been replaced by a trend toward a true lifestyle change.
A handful of well-known websites/blogs are leading the charge in espousing a soup to nuts approach. This isn’t about dieting ’til you reach your target weight. This is a forever proposition. I’ve been exploring these websites, and some of them had me freaking out. It seems like everything in my pantry has at least one ingredient that is linked to Something Really Bad. Maybe not nuclear apocalypse, but Something Really Bad, nonetheless.
I’m not clueless. It makes sense that if a packaged food has a sell by date that coincides with your tween getting his driver’s permit, it probably contains something that’s not good for you. Even so, I have been willfully blind about this, happily filling my grocery cart with these convenience products so that I don’t have to spend my life in the kitchen.
I’m all for a lifestyle approach, but I find some of the websites border on militant. They talk about making time to eat whole foods. And to some of these people, that means doing things like growing your own produce and baking your own bread. Here’s the thing. I simply don’t have time (or really the desire) to do these things. Most days, I pat myself on the back if I pack my kids lunch and get dinner on the table when I get home from work. I’m guessing that if my job was full-time healthy eating blogger, I would probably have enough time to bake my own bread. As it stands, the only way I could make time to create everything from scratch is to give up time with my family. I’m not willing to do that. I’d rather buy the Pepperidge Farm whole wheat bread and play Catchphrase with my boys than make a bread that doesn’t have any preservatives.
That being said, I really am happy to see this change. Americans seem to be more conscious of what they’re putting into their bodies and what they’re feeding their children. This is a good thing. Consumers have a lot of power, and over the last couple years, I’ve noticed that my neighborhood grocery store has expanded its healthy food offerings. There’s more organic produce to choose from and a wider selection of natural meat.
Hopefully, the trend takes a moderate course. We shouldn’t go from one extreme to another. We should go from one extreme to something sustainable. For me, that means trying to cut down on frozen pancakes and cold cuts, but not killing myself with guilt if I rely on these convenience foods every once in awhile. It also means making gradual changes in what we eat. This year I introduced quinoa and steel cut oats into my family’s diet, and I also do a vegetarian meal once a week. (I’m hoping to up that to twice a week this year).
I’m all about moderation. This might sound hippy dippy, but I believe that stress goes hand in hand with illness. And stress is not limited to the relationship, job or money variety. You can also stress yourself out about food. If you’re going to worry about what you eat to such a degree that you drive yourself to exhaustion trying to ensure you eat only “clean” foods, you might just make yourself sick. And isn’t that what you were trying to avoid in the first place?
A couple days ago, I was at the grocery store trying to figure out what I could make that 1) would be a nice change from all the heavy holiday food we’ve been eating the last couple weeks, 2) would be fairly healthy, 3) and would be the type of thing I don’t usually have time to make on a weeknight. (I’m on staycation). I pulled this oldie but goodie out of my recipe file:
1 1/2 lbs fresh salmon filet, skin removed
5 tablespoons mayonnaise or tartar sauce
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
half a lemon
a couple pinches of kosher salt and a couple grinds of fresh black pepper
Chop salmon into two inch chunks. Put in food processor bowl along with dill and mayonnaise/tartar sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Pulse 6-10 times (So that you can form it into patties. You don’t want it too smooth, leave some small chunks.) Form 4 patties. If you have a Foreman grill, spray it with Pam, then set the grill. (Use the time guidelines provided with the grill). You can also grill these on an actual grill, however one goes about doing that sort of thing. (Sorry, I am not a grillmeister). Or you can cook them on a rack set over a baking sheet in the oven. I served the patties over a chopped salad of spring greens, sweet peppers, red onion and celery. A note about the mayo – you can definitely use less mayo and the patties should still hold together. I just happen to be a Hellman’s mayo enthusiast :-)
Now this meal probably wouldn’t pass muster with some of these healthy eating mavens. The salmon was farmed, the dill and lemon were not organic, and the mayo . . . Well maybe the mayo was ok? I have to throw up my hands here. I can’t keep all the rules straight. Anyway, it’s fish eaten on a bed of vegetables. So I think that’s pretty good, or at least a big step in the right direction. If you’re interested in healthy eating recipes that don’t require you to buy your own farm, I recommend two websites that I discovered this year. Jeanette’s Healthy Living and The Lemon Bowl. I have tried and loved many of their recipes, as my Pinterest boards will attest. You’ll find many recipes that emphasize fresh produce and herbs, and smaller servings of meat. And the recipes are doable, even for the frazzled and time-deprived. What are your favorite moderately healthy homemade dinners?