Best Ways to Get Your Five a Day
Is 'five a day' boring?
Does fast food taste better?
Healthy eating can be boring, and time consuming. Where’s the proof that all that abstinence is worthwhile? Pizzas, pies, fish-suppers, kebabs, and curries from the take-away are quick and easy, and they taste better - especially after a beer or two; or do they?
Gratification - now!
If we go out-on-the-town with the lads, (or lassies) the effect of the alcohol is almost immediate: we drink, and get merry. Why can’t we abstain and get healthy with the same up-front gratification? We have to wait months or years, to see if we’ll suit, our new slim and healthy look. Meanwhile we have to prepare daily, and then nibble fastidiously on rabbit’s food. No wonder dieting doesn’t last, for some of us. If we’re going to give up these pleasures, we want to see, and taste the benefits - now.
A ritual of lettuce washing and broccoli boiling.
When we come home after a day of traffic mayhem, the irritating idiosyncrasies of our colleagues, clients, customers, and bullying bosses - is a plate of lettuce any kind of reward? If an Englishman’s home is his castle, is it any place for him to pursue the ritual of lettuce washing, broccoli boiling and the preparation of salt free, fat free, taste free… whatever?
Sometimes all we really want to do is collapse into a sort of psychological foetal position and be good to ourselves; like no one else will.
After all the sacrifice, there’s no guarantee that a bus won’t knock us over the following morning (or that, on such a diet, we mightn’t wish for it to happen). And, if we succeed with our healthy eating, do we really live longer, or does life just feel - so - o - much - longer?
A few healthy-eating tricks
Whatever you think about all that, if you’d like to change your eating habits, here are a few little tricks that might help. It won’t be quicker than slapping a few oven chips (French fries) and fish fingers onto a tray and into the oven. It won’t taste the same either. (It might taste better.) However, your health will definitely benefit.
Try to find some extra time in the morning to do the basic preparation for your evening meal. You’ll be more objective about the entire thing. You’re not tired, you’re not hungry, and it’s just like preparing food for someone else. That someone else is you - but you in a different frame of mind. When you get home you are tired and hungry, and your guardian angel has fixed your evening meal for you, already. Now you have to eat it! You must! You can’t let your guardian angel down - can you?
Tired and hungry - excuse
That’s the tired-and-hungry excuse sorted. Now, we can deal with the blandness of healthy food, and the hankering for a nice greasy pie.
A greasy pie will do you no harm, occasionally. However, you can put plenty of healthy flavourings, spices, and oils into your vegetables. Try to remember that when you stop using salt, you’ll soon stop missing it. Health shops, and the larger supermarkets, stock seasonings like Garam Masala, Tikka Powder, Tandoori Masala, Cajun Spice, Fajita Seasoning, and Five Spice. Keep a bag of each going so you can have a different flavour daily. Don’t overdo it. Some of these spice mixes are a bit too hot for children, and remember to check the label for salt content.
Lemon juice or salt ‘n’ vinegar?
You can cut out vinegary sauces and ketchups in your diet by using lemon juice. It’s also a good substitute for salt. Add it after the cooking process so that you don’t kill the vitamin C. Tomato puree is great for adding flavour, and you’ll get a good daily dose of vitamin A from tomato puree. Cooking helps with the body’s absorption of vitamin A, whereas heat destroys vitamin C.
Mustard, eggs, and omega oils
Don’t forget mustard. Jars of ready mixed mustard are processed and not so natural as mustard powder, but a little vinegar and salt won’t hurt.
Eggs are good - and no longer held responsible for high cholesterol levels. Pack as much green vegetables as you can into an omelette. If you must cook your vegetables, lightly sweat them in a little olive oil, then add some mustard or your favourite spice mix to enhance the flavour. You can make a simple and quick frittata in the microwave. Beat the eggs and milk in with flavourings like mustard or spice mixes and pour it all over the raw vegetables. The eggs will cook more quickly than the vegetables (if you don’t chop the vegetables too finely) and that’ll preserve the vitamins.
You can get cold-pressed omega oils quite cheaply now (for brain, nervous system, and joints). Mixed with lemon juice and mustard, and thickened with soy flour, it makes a nice cheesy kind of spread. If you want to sweeten it a bit for the children, mix in some banana. Tesco (UK) has a good-value bottle of ‘Good Oil’ for about a fiver (£5).The old adage ‘good food won’t keep’ applies here. Always try to add it uncooked, at the last minute. It’ll add lustre to your vegetable dishes (and you).
It’s best to prepare food just before eating, but it’s not always practical - especially if you’re preparing it in the morning. Add the green vegetables, omega oils, and vitamin Cs just before serving, and uncooked for best nutrition. If you do the basic preparation in the morning, don’t forget to refrigerate.
The French use the fancy word ‘mirepoix’ to describe a base for a lot of their soups, sauces, and casseroles. It’s traditionally a ‘trilogy’ of diced carrots, onions, and celery - lightly sweated. However, you can add what you like. A little fresh, finely chopped root ginger gives it a bit of a kick. Spice-mix and plenty of tomato puree is a good combination to add to a mirepoix. Another good combination is mustard, lemon juice and mashed banana. The lemon juice will preserve the banana’s light colour for longer if you mix them together. Add your fresh green vegetables to that combination and you’ll never hanker for greasy pies and pizzas again.
If you don’t have the time to make a mirepoix, you can slap together some quick, healthy sauces. A couple of tablespoons of tomato puree added to any of your favourite seasonings will mask the blandness of raw broccoli, Brussels, or cabbage. If you want to sweeten it - add a mashed banana, or use a blender to puree any other fruits you have available. Tomato puree blended with lightly cooked Brussels sprouts, fresh basil, and some fruit and spices, makes a good pizza topping. However, go easy with the cheese. If you need a lighter coloured sauce, use your mustard, lemon juice, and banana combination with some chopped root ginger and a lighter seasoning like Tikka. Add some omega oil for lustre.
Things to remember
Try to have as much of your meal planned and prepared in advance; try not to be tired and hungry at the same time; never shop when you’re tired and hungry. Keeping these points in mind should help to put junk foods behind you (rather than on your behind).