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Enjoying A Bland Diet
Bland. Diet. Bland Diet. The very phrase conjures images of self-flagellation and being rationed stale Bunny Bread and Coke Zero. How can anyone enjoy a bland meal, a meal not drenched in grease and loaded with corn syrup? Well, I guess if you are on a "diet" (that form of self torture that is somehow supposed to make you healthy) you can deal with it, but only through sheer will.
Of course I am exaggerating. My point is that anyone that need or wants a bland diet (by which I mean food both not spicy or difficult to digest) can still enjoy eating and have tasty meals. All that is required is a change in attitude and habits. Here are my five suggestions for those on a bland diet:
Bland Diet Tip 1
Reject the sin and repentance model of eating.
The American diet often gets locked into two phases. You eat lots of foods full of salt, sugar, and fat, too much than is good for you (sin). Then you try to make up for it by eating diet foods without any flavor whatsoever. Eating becomes an extreme hassle and even the most disciplined go straight back to eating poorly after the diet is over. This model must be rejected to enjoy a bland diet. So what is the alternative? Enjoy what your are eating. This is key for the bland diet. Rather than comparing your every meal to a double cheeseburger (and I happen to enjoy these fast food creations just as much as anyone else) enjoy it for what it is, even if it's cold mashed potatoes. All food has taste. Learning to enjoy more subtle tastes will greatly help sticking to a bland diet.
Bland Diet Tip 2
Don't drink soda.
As far as the bland diet is concerned, soda is pretty much the enemy. It is so loaded with sugar that it drowns your palate's ability to enjoy more reserved "bland" sweetness. The bland diet doesn't necessarily cut down on all sugary drinks. I still drink grape juice and Sunny D. But soda really is too much sugar for a bland diet. The more soda you drink on a bland diet, the harder it is to stick to principle one. Fast food is pretty much the same. For a bland diet I recommend fast food only if time is such an obstacle that there's no other choice.
Bland Diet Tip 3
3) Water down prepared foods
This suggestion is much like its predecessor. To stick to a bland diet you have to keep from overloading your meals with flavor. Much like sunglasses protect one's eyes from scorching sunlight, watering down what you eat helps you stick to a bland diet by keeping your sense of taste from being overloaded. As we are sticking to a bland diet not based on the sin and repentance model, this watering down can be modest. I add about 12 oz. of water to a gallon jug of Hawaiian Punch and use a 64 oz. jug for my grape juice even though the can calls for 48. I almost always halve the contents of any sauce packet.
Bland Diet Tip 4
Learn to cook.
Trying to live off a bland diet without knowing how to cook is a messy affair. Prepackaged food is loaded with salt (as a preservative) and many dinners follow the sin and repentance model. Even if they don't, your dinner is still at the mercy of the prepackaged food producer. You might be able to cut back on the spice packet but not much else. Learning how to cook and refining your recipes gives an enormous degree of flexibility as you refine your recipe. You can learn exactly how much salt, sugar, and fat a recipe needs in order to taste good and then not add any more--the very essence of living and enjoying a bland diet.
Bland Diet Tip 5
Internet Resources. Allrecipes.com is an enormous online recipe site. Though not specifically geared for a bland diet, there is so much there that bland diet recipes can be found. Just skip the recipes with canned
cream soup, 8 oz. cream cheese, tomatoes etc. The site is great because
many recipes include instructions for their own sauces, which gives
plenty of room for controlling products you have a difficult time
consuming. My stomach hates cream of mushroom soup (a common ingredient
for cream), but it is perfectly alright with a flour and milk based white sauce.
Plus, if you're like me (I never completely follow recipe directions)
allrecipes.com members usually post critiques and variations.
Now some food selections for a bland diet I've found after a great deal of experimenting::
1) Zucchini. Anything cooked with Zucchini is going to a get a mild but pleasurable sweet taste to it, the kind of sweetness that has to be enjoyed on its own terms (just like most food on a bland diet). Actually eating the zucchini afterwards is debatable. My best simple meal is 1 thinly sized zucchini, 1 can of kernel corn, 1 cup of rice and 3 cups water. Bring the mix to a boil and then let it simmer for thirty minutes. Check frequently until you get a feel for how powerful your stove top is. Add some meat and a moderate amount of soy sauce..
2) Butter Beans. For those of you that have the ability to eat beans, I would highly recommend that you do. It's basic economics. 1 pound of beans is 60 to 70 cents. Meat that both tastes good and requires little preparation (boneless) really can't be found for much less than $1.99 a pound. For environmentally conscious eaters, it takes approximately 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat (depending on the animal). In crafting a recipe list for a bland diet, I have scoured the various types of beans and butter beans are the only bean my stomach can handle. Butter beans are a bit like lima beans only bigger and yellow. They're quite starchy. These work well in my shepherd's pie.
3) Thoroughly sauted onion. Onions have a pretty sharp taste but this can be cooked out, until they have their own sort of sweetness to them (which is typically more pronounced than other bland diet ingredients). You'll need to cook them in oil. Finely chop an onion and place it in in a frying pan with one tablespoon of oil (corn oil works fine). Sauté it until it yellows and begins turning brown. Then it's mild as can be.
A short note on the above ingredients: they are all intended to increase the volume of a meal. Since prepared food so rarely caters to a bland diet, your meals need to be big. The three ingredients I've been discussing here I use to add volume, with the aim of producing as much food as I need for the whole day. Just make sure your ingredients don't clash or lessen with your original meal.
4) Asparagus. I find this vegetable quite difficult to resist just take 12-15 spears and sauté them in a tablespoon of butter. The bottom or stalk of the asparagus is rough or woody. You can eat it if you desire, but taking an inch of the bottom of each spear or (my favorite) holding the spear in your hand and then biting it (spear end first) once you reach about an inch from the bottom or stem side (probably too messy for polite company). This is the tastiest stuff in my bland diet.
5) Soy Sauce. Or perhaps better described as soy+salt. I don't advocate adding salt to any recipe (especially if it contains baking soda or baking powder) unless none of the ingredients have been preserved by salt. Soy Sauce is great though because, with its distinctive color, it is easy to know exactly how much salt you are adding and where it is going, giving you the control you'd like in a bland diet. This is really not the case with regular salt. Plus the soy goes well with the rice, a staple of my diet.