Everyone hopes for a long, fulfilling life with good health. We hope to feel well and look well. We want to see our children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren grow up to be healthy.
Taking control of what a family consumes and establishing healthy diets has life-long benefits. Eating healthy and eating well are not mutually exclusive, and the preparation of healthy meals does not have to be a chore. Healthy foods can be a wonderful part of a family’s life – delicious, easy to prepare, and good for you.
Below are some of nature’s healthiest foods with tasty recipes that you and your family are sure to enjoy.
By Barbara Bowen
Go with Color
There are hundreds of different kinds of fruits and vegetables, from common to exotic. Generally, the more colorful fruits and vegetables will have the maximum impact on good health and graceful aging. Blueberries, for example, have a powerful antioxidant effect and protect against memory loss and dementia.
“Fruits and vegetables fill you up, making less room for foods you shouldn’t eat, and they are Mother Nature’s pharmacy,” says Kim Lett, registered and licensed dietician and nutritionist in Chattanooga. “With vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants, they are one of the best ways to boost good health and long life.”
“If I had to pick, it would be berries, apples and melon,” Lett continues, “and green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and tomatoes.” Spinach salad with apples or strawberries and almonds gives you the triple-play of healthy eating with calcium for bone strength, fiber for heart health, and nuts with monounsaturated fats to lower bad cholesterol.
Almond Strawberry Salad
Courtesy of Taste of Home
3 cups fresh baby spinach
½ cup sliced fresh strawberries
¼ cup sliced honey-roasted almonds
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
In a large bowl combine spinach, strawberries and almonds. In a separate bowl, mix vinegar, honey and sugar. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.
Yields 4 servings. [3/4 cups equals 74 calories, 4 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 98 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein]
Vegetables for Life
Sometimes vegetables are a challenge for picky eaters. However, vegetables are an important source of energy for throughout the day, and they can curb the risk of chronic diseases long-term. Tuck an extra veggie into sandwiches, omelets, wraps or pizza to get the vegetable servings you need.
If you are not a big fan of plain tomatoes, think salsa. Low in fat and high in flavor, salsa is an easy way to obtain a serving of vegetables and is great for fish, baked potatoes and grilled chicken.
Don’t care for the taste of broccoli? Pamela Kelle, registered dietitian and nutrition therapist in Chattanooga, suggests, “Try steamed broccoli and sprinkle with shredded cheese. As you learn to like the taste of broccoli, you can cut back on the cheese topping.”
Cole slaw lovers are sure to love a citrus slaw recipe. It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Utilizing a combination of fruits and vegetables, this recipe is a healthy, tasty way to get a serving of fruits and vegetables that you’ll want to try again and again.
Courtesy of Nutrition World
¼ cup prepared nonfat herb vinaigrette
¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 cups shredded napa cabbage
2 oranges peeled and segmented
1 red apple, halved, cored and diced
1 cup pitted dried plums, quartered
½ cup sliced celery
¼ cup sliced green onions pepper (optional)
In a large bowl whisk together vinaigrette and orange juice. Add all other ingredients, tossing to coat. Season with pepper if desired.
Yields 6 servings. [Calories per serving 117, 0 g fat, 158 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 2 g protein]
Fish and nuts are your best source for the kind of fat that doesn’t add pounds but helps lower cholesterol, improves heart and brain function, and offers a defense against depression and age-related memory loss. Just two servings of fish each week is enough to make a difference in long-term health. Nuts make a great snack, and cooking with fish offers a variety of taste options. Salmon, lake trout and albacore tuna are just a few fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Don’t miss an opportunity to substitute fish for red meat for a heart healthy decision.
Bursting with flavor is grilled snapper, topped with a homemade salsa. Combining the benefits of fish and vegetables, this dish packs a flavor punch that is sure to be a favorite at your dinner table.
Grilled Snapper with Light and Hot Sauce
Courtesy of Nutrition World
1 pound red snapper fillet
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 large ripe plum tomato, diced
¼ cup finely diced red onion
1 tsp minced red chili pepper
½ cup lime juice
¼ cup rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 green onions, chopped
Combine all ingredients for salsa and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat broiler or grill. Rinse fish and pat dry. Brush fillet with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. Grill or broil 4-6 minutes per side until cooked through. Top with chilled salsa.
Yields 2 servings. [Calories per serving 356, 10 g fat (6 g mono fat), 70 mg cholesterol, 166 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 42 g protein]
Fiber helps prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Phytochemicals found in fiber-rich foods reduce the risk of fatty deposits in arteries so blood can carry oxygen to the brain, heart and lungs. Eating grains and oats is the most common way to add fiber to your diet. Whole grains like oats and barley can cut the risk of heart disease by almost half over a diet that favors meat and other fatty foods.
“There are two reasons why whole grains are so good for you: Soluable fiber and insoluable fiber,” explains Kelle. “The soluable fiber acts like glue that binds to fats and helps eliminate them from the body through the intestines. The insoluable fiber acts as a scrub for the inside of the blood vessels to help clear out debris.”
Soluable fiber found in oats, beans, apples, carrots and oranges helps lower cholesterol, and insoluble fiber promotes regularity. The best sources of insoluble fiber include whole grains like wheat bran and brown rice as well as fruits and vegetables such as figs, raspberries, blackberries, broccoli, artichokes and green peas.
High-fiber cereal sprinkled on salads, on top of casseroles, or swirled in low-fat yogurt will help reduce the potential for type 2 diabetes. Try putting walnuts in oatmeal, along with dried cranberries or raisins, for a fruit-nut-fiber combination that tastes great.
Although grains and fiber are the most well-known sources of fiber, another food rich in fiber is eggplant, which is hearty and filling while low in fat and light in calories. Although less common for everyday dinner, eggplant has an array of vitamins and minerals, and a good deal of soluble fiber for lowering cholesterol.
Try adding this purple plant to your diet for a boost in fiber and flavor. The dish featured below is creamy and rich with a little kick. If it is too hot, stir in a little yogurt to temper the spices. Serve with steamed rice.
Courtesy of Foodfit.com
2 to 3 eggplants, weighing about one pound each
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup grated ginger root
2 teaspoons each ground coriander and cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne or more to taste
lemon juice to taste
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Heat oven to 450 degrees and bake eggplants with forked holes for 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel the eggplant and discard any seeds. Chop the pulp or pulse quickly in a food processor. Then, in a medium pan over moderate heat, warm the olive oil and cook the onions until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and spices and cook for five minutes. Add the eggplant, heat through, and then season with salt and pepper and lemon juice for taste. Add yogurt if desired. Serve over rice.
Yields 6 servings. [Calories per serving 160, 10 g fat (I g saturated fat), 9 mg sodium, 18 g carbohydrates, 6 g dietary fiber, 3 g protein]
To avoid bone loss and disability as a senior, focus on foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. Milk and yogurt are the best sources of calcium, along with spinach, salmon and fortified orange juice. For a luscious and satisfying sweet tooth pleaser with less fat and calories than most traditional desserts, top angel food cake with low-fat chocolate pudding or fat-free whipped topping.
Try mixing fresh berries with low fat vanilla yogurt and high-fiber granola for a nutrition-packed breakfast or a snack. Pairing yogurt with breakfast is an easy way to eat good dairy, but yogurt can also be a delicious and healthy dessert choice.
This frozen yogurt recipe is a zero-fat treat that only takes about 10 minutes to prepare, and you can substitute any fruit that you prefer.
Peach Frozen Yogurt
Courtesy of EatingWell
3 ½ cups coarsely chopped frozen peaches (about 16 ounces)
½ cup sugar, preferably superfine (to avoid a grainy texture)
½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine frozen peaches and sugar in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Combine yogurt and lemon juice in a measuring cup; with the machine on, gradually pour the mixture through the feed tube. Process until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides once or twice. Serve immediately.
Yields 4 servings. [Calories per serving 159, 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono), 24 mg sodium, 40 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 3 g protein, 25 g sugars, 241 mg potassium]
Keep blood pressure low with less salt and, at the same time, you will be protecting brain cells from memory loss and dementia. Low sodium intake per serving is considered less than 150 mg, and moderate sodium intake is considered between 150 – 250 mg per serving.
Be creative and season your food with spices, herbs, lemons, oranges, wine and hot sauces instead of salt.“Plain popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese is a tasty low salt snack, and parmesan is the lowest-calorie cheese choice,” advises Kelle. “For something sweet, try baked sweet potato chips dusted with cinnamon.”
Cheese straws are a great snack for anytime. This recipe is easy on the sodium (only 52mg) and takes about 30 minutes including preparation time.
Courtesy of Taste of Home
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons cold butter
1/3 cup fat-free milk
2 teaspoons paprika
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir in cheese. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add milk, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-in. square. Cut in half lengthwise; cut each half widthwise into ½-in. strips. Sprinkle with paprika. Place 1 in. apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Yields 4 dozen [1 cheese straw equals 19 calories, 1 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 2 mg cholesterol, 52 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein]
Here is to a Long, Healthy Life!
Keep the heart, lungs, brain and bones in good condition by choosing fruits and vegetables, nuts and fish, whole grains, and low-fat, low-salt foods. Not only will these foods benefit you personally, they will benefit the overall health of your family for years to come. Eat healthy, eat delicious, and live long!
Barbara Bowen is a Chattanooga resident with a mass communications degree from Middle Tennessee State University. She serves on the PTSA board for Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences and is a member of the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute. Barbara and her husband have four children and four grandchildren.