I’ve set some high standards naming this post “happiness”, when it’s actually not what I’m feeling right now. Fully engrossed in my Nutrition grad studies this week has me very, very sad about the obesity in our country. Right now, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is around 77 years old. For children born in 2010, that lifespan is estimated to be ten to fifteen years less. As obesity affects more and more and more children, those children are suffering from diabetes II, heart problems, and cancers at significantly higher rates and early ages.
The happy note: this is preventable. So what does this mean for our kitchens?
I’m motivated more than ever to reiterate that cooking and eating healthy is not only possible, but affordable in terms of our money and our time. My little household is on an awfully tight budget these days, and spending my evenings studying for exams doesn’t allow me the relaxing hours of cooking I crave. But here’s the thing: I absolutely refuse to buy into the “convenience” of convenience foods. No matter the time crunch, our health just isn’t worth the sacrifice in my book. Our health is the bottom line.
But Lindsey, I’ve seen pictures of your pizza and tarts!! How is pizza health food?
Such a legitimate point. Making food at home from real ingredients (the whole potato vs. the paper packet of dehydrated potato flakes + 22 indistinguishable items) allows me to control the amount of salt and fat and portion sizes in our meals. Yes, I’m going to sprinkle some salt on my vegetable/sauce/pasta dish, etc. But that 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt is 280mg of sodium. Incredibly less than the thousand of sodium milligrams in frozen pizza or pre-seasoned foods. We enjoy butter and cheese at home, in moderation, but I cook with fats (mostly olive oil) in small amounts. Dousing butter and cheese on top of already prepared foods adds such unnecessary saturated fat, and is a dangerous habit. 1 tbs. olive oil, p.s., has 2 grams of saturated fat vs. 1 tsb. of butter with 7 grams of fat. As I discuss below, it’s not always the amount of fat, but what kind of fat the ingredient contains.
Lindsey’s Super-Engergizing Made-in-Minutes Lunch
I substitute-taught for high school this morning, and that means I was up at 5:30am. No sympathy from the rest of the working world, I’m sure, but it was so darn dark. Since most of the morning is spent waking myself up in the shower, desperately trying to figure out what to wear, and taking time for a nourishing breakfast, I’ve got little time to pack a sustaining lunch. (Oh you’re right, making something the night before makes a lot of sense, but what I had in mind would be soggy by morning, and I’m too picky for soggy).
Hmm, leftover fettucine in the fridge with sautéed broccoli. Why not just bring that? Well, thanks to my ever-expanding Nutrition education, I know that my refined (i.e. white) pasta is going to break down quickly into glucose, giving me a little sugar rush for lunchtime but yawning through 5th and 7th period! Since complex carbohydrates contain fiber, they have so many ways to break down slowly in my body, releasing energy for me throughout the day. And when the morning starts that early, lunch comes at 11am, and I’ve got the rest of the day to stay awake.
So what to make for lunch? I always, always, always have whole-wheat pita in the freezer, and this morning was no exception. While I defrosted it in the toaster oven, I made a quick, healthy cheese spread and to accompany avocado.
In my favorite little mini food prep processor, I combined one container of crumbled goat cheese (though feta would be fantastic here) with three large roasted red peppers straight from the jar of, you guessed it: Trader’s Joe’s Roasted Red Peppers. This took about 10 seconds to combine, and could also be done in a blender I imagine. Put the rest in a little jar in the fridge; a great dip or spread for future lunches.
I spooned my pepper-cheese spread (would be great with garlic or onion, but HELLO, not when you’re talking to people all day!) into one side of my pita, and mashed avocado on the other side. Smoosh together and DONE. I reeeeeally didn’t think I’d have time to make a good lunch, but this less-than-five-minute-prep turned out stupendous. And I was awake for the entirety of The Crucible, Act IV! There are endless variations to this idea, but in case you hadn’t thought outside of turkey and cheese on (insert your refined grain here) for a while, I was inspired to share this.
One generous-sized, affordable-gourmet sandwich… Avacado: 74 cents, Large Whole-Wheat Pita: 35 cents, 1 Jarred Roasted Red Bell-Pepper: 43 cents, 4 oz. crumbled goat cheese $2.99… $4.51.
A nutritional note about avocados. Yes avocados have fat, but in comparing sandwich ingredients… say 6 slices of avocado with one slice of cheese:
SATURATED FAT: avocado 2 grams vs. cheese 4 grams
UNSATURATED FAT*: avocado 8 grams vs. cheese 4 grams
TOTAL FAT: avocado 10 grams vs. cheese 8 grams
These differences may seem minor in grams, but the greater nutritional value is in the avocado. And in our bodies, this all makes a major difference. (See nutritional note below).
An amazingly quick lunch, far more nutritious than the diet sodas and bags of chips in the staff lounge. I don’t say this to say my lunch was superior (though perhaps in flavor). I’m saying that it’s easy to believe there’s no time for a healthy lunch. But there is. And, honestly, I say if you’re going for healthy, you’re really going to need to make it yourself to control the sodium and fat content.
This is why I started A Pear to Remember. I started this blog because I believe we can improve the quality of our lives by nourishing our bodies with delicious, home-prepared food. I am not clinical nutritionist, and I am not here to offer health advice. I am, however, excited to share academic, scientific information to build our understanding of informed nutritious choices. The nutritional facts today are directly from the 8th Edition of Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition by Rolfes, Pinna, and Whitney.
I love to eat, to cook, and to enjoy scrumptious food. Food that helps my heart? That just makes me happy.
And when Andrew says, “Good dinner, honey.”
*a note about unsaturated fats–avocados are rich in monounsaturdated fats. “unsaturated” refers to the position of hydrogen bonds in fatty acids, which I won’t bore you with. the body is more easily able to break down unsaturated fats because of this structure. the many benefits of mono and polyunsaturated fats (vs. saturated) include preventing heart disease and lowering cholesterol. saturated fats are so saturated with hydrogen atoms, the body cannot break them down as easily.
trans fats do not occur in nature (meaning they can only be created in a lab), so the body also has a very difficult time breaking these down properly… picture little lego blocks floating through our blood. uck. trans fats remain in chunks in our system because the body does not recognize them.
we’ll get into hydrogenation and trans fats some more another time… feel free to write with questions. I’m happy to provide resources for further information on fats.