If you want to build healthful meals, you need the right ingredients.
A student invited me to look at her kitchen to see if I could make suggestions about how she could change her eating habits. I took a look around and saw it was full of food, but there was really nothing to eat.
Well, there were things to eat; however, there were very few items I would recommend to eat. Most of the foods were highly processed and many of them were high in sugar, fat and preservatives. And there wasn’t a bottle of olive oil in sight.
If you want to build healthful meals, you need the right ingredients. Start with oils. You do not need to use anything other than olive oil. Olive oil is the best for your health and it comes in a range of flavor intensities. I personally use extra virgin olive oil. If you need another oil for baking, choose canola. Get rid of polyunsaturates (safflower, peanut and corn oils) as well as saturated fats, chicken fat and trans fats (margarine, hydrogenated oils).
Next, attack refined sugar in your cupboard, beginning with soda. Soda is a mix of sugar, water and artificial flavor and contributes significantly to obesity in this country, in particular, the obesity of children. Juice is another high sugar drink! While it is true that sugar in juice is natural fructose, and most juices come with some vitamins and minerals, still, all that sugar adds up to a substantial number of calories and not all juices are created equal. Apple juice doesn’t have nearly as much to offer as citrus juices and some juices, such as cranberry, are often sweetened with sugar and corn syrup. When buying juices, you really need to read the labels closely. So much better to eat apples and oranges in their whole, fiber rich state. For drinking, water is always a great choice.
Back to the kitchen. Dump all refined sugar sweets (cookies, pastries, etc.), including things you don’t think of as sweets but are, such as high sugar cereals and jams. Replace them with similar foods that are sugar free or fruit sweetened. I also suggest that you get rid of white bread and other baked goods made with refined white flour and replace them with whole grain versions. This might mean switching from white wheat crackers to whole grain crackers or swapping white rice for brown rice.
Fatty processed meats, such as salami and bologna, as well as full fat dairy products, will not benefit your body. Low fat and skim milk, nonfat yogurt and low fat cottage cheese and hard cheeses are good examples of reduced fat foods that can be quite healthy for some people.
Always check ingredients. That is where you will really find the low-down on what you are getting. The first ingredient on the list is contained in the largest amount, and the list descends from there. If sugar (or corn syrup) is the first ingredient, it is not a product you want. If sugar is way down on the list and healthier ingredients, such as whole grain flour, are first, it’s a better choice.
Like any major lifestyle change, restocking your kitchen should be a gradual process. Throw out the unhealthy foods in your kitchen and replace them with healthier choices slowly.
Reprinted with permission from N’shei Chabad Newsletter (nsheichabadnewsletter.com), a magazine for Jewish women around the world that is published five times a year.