There are many more varieties of yummy seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from this month and the warmer weather always makes me want to eat less and make healthier choices.
December is also Good Nutrition Month and a great chance for us to focus on healthy eating before we hit the silly season and all the Christmas parties, celebrations and gatherings start.
We all know, only too well, the foods we should be avoiding; foods full of refined sugar, unhealthy fats or with too many complex carbohydrates like pasta, rice and potatoes, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite healthy alternatives.
One of the catch phrases that has become very popular in nutritional health is defined by Healthline as ‘clean eating’.
The idea of ‘clean eating’ is simple; to consume real, fresh, wholefood that is either raw or nominally processed to provide us with all the optimum nutritive benefits.
Eating food that is as close to its natural state as possible, obtained from ethical and sustainable sources; is the cornerstone to ‘clean eating’.
Instead of eating pre-packaged processed crackers or corn chips, often high in fats and sugars and in some cases filled with artificial ingredients; in their place I chop up my preferred raw vegetables to enjoy with my home-made guacamole or hummus.
It’s easy to put together a colourful plate of delicious slices of sweet carrots, baby cucumbers, radishes, capsicum, cauliflower and broccoli florets and my all-time favourite sugar snap peas. They all contain very little calories but are deliciously tasty and crunchy and require lots of chewing, which helps to slow down my eating and makes me feel fuller quicker.
Instead of eating the enormous amount of empty calories in the corn chips and crackers, I now load up on raw or semi-raw veggies filled with good fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Healthline.com identifies many studies undertaken that link a high intake of seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables to reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease and other serious illnesses.
One of the most versatile vegetables I really enjoy eating is the humble cauliflower.
Aside from my Mum’s scrumptious cauliflower recipe that involved breadcrumbs fried in lots of butter, I wasn’t a big fan of the veggie growing up because whenever it was served, often with a baked dinner or corned beef, it was usually boiled until it ended up tasteless, over-cooked, waterlogged and translucent and smelt out the whole kitchen.
Cauliflower bake is another popular way of consuming the vegetable but the recipe generally requires lots of cheese and cream to be added, which doesn’t put it in the healthy category.
Here are some more modern and healthier ways I eat cauliflower and there are lots more healthy recipes and ideas you can source online.
Cauliflower can be the perfect substitute for starchy foods like potatoes and rice.
It’s simple, you just need to mince the cauliflower up into small pieces the size of grains of rice and this can be done a few ways;
- Buy it pre-prepared in the supermarket. This is very convenient and will save you lots of time but it is expensive.
- Pulse small batches of cauliflower for a few seconds in a food processor and keep checking as you go.
- Pulse in a blender the same way but don’t overload the bowl.
- Use the side with the biggest holes on a cheese grater and be careful to wrap your fingers round the cauliflower so you don’t scrape your knuckles in the process.
- Use a meat tenderiser and place cauliflower pieces in a sealed bag and bash them from the flat stem up to the florets until you get the desired texture.
You can then; eat it raw – I add some salt and pepper, a small amount of Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise to bind it together and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds for crunch.
Or you can roast your cauliflower rice or use it to make fried rice or it’s great as a pizza base.
Cauliflower can also be steamed and blended like mashed potato.
Baked Whole Cauliflower
This is a simple but delicious way of preparing and eating cauliflower.
Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and either place it whole or cut into florets into a steamer or saucepan, cover and steam for 20 minutes or until tender.
Pat dry cauliflower and give it a light spray of olive oil all over then season with salt, pepper.
Place cauliflower on a baking tray into a pre-heated oven on 190 degrees for around 15 to 20 minutes or until it browns up and caramelises.
It’s delicious, especially if when I drizzle some tahini over it while the cauliflower is still warm.
You can also add your favourite herbs and OneGreenPlanet.org lists the ones that go best with cauliflower as basil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, tarragon, and thyme.
Susie’s Spring Suggestions;
S – Seasonal fruit and vegetables. Eat more fresh raw veggies with all your meals, they also make great healthy snack alternatives and require little preparation.
P – Protein – Adding protein to every meal is important to help build and repair bones, muscles, skin and blood. The fat in protein also helps reduce your appetite. If you just eat carbs then you’ll be hungry again before you know it.
R – Read the Label Don’t be fooled by package foods labelled as being ‘healthy’. Read the label to see the amounts of added sugar, unhealthy fats, salt, preservatives and chemicals that may have been added to the product.
I – Increase water consumption. The warmer weather can often be dehydrating so can drinking too much caffeine.
Aim to drink 8 glasses of water a day. I find if I have a big glass of water before each meal I tend to eat less. Try to avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, which are constantly linked to diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. I avoid fruit juices too as once the fibre is removed; it presents the same as sugary soft drinks because of its high sugar content. I eat the whole piece of fruit instead.
N – Nuts. Nuts are a great source of calcium and antioxidants, and according to Healthline, may lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Nuts are a better snack alternative to eating potato chips and refined carb-loaded grain crackers. However, be aware that many nuts come already salted and roasted in vegetable oil and they should be avoided. Try eating raw nuts or roasting them yourself in your oven on a low temperature. Nuts are very high in fat, albeit good fat, so we still need to limit the portions to one small handful.
G – Green vegetables According to LeanHealthyandWise.com – green vegetables are essential components to a well-balanced diet and the best vegetables for fast and sustained weight loss. Leafy green vegetables like lettuce, kale, cabbage and spinach supply us with many vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and phytochemicals. The antioxidants in dark green leafy vegetables can inhibit certain types of cancers by removing free radicals from the body.
Preliminary research conducted on green vegetables, especially leafy green veggies like spinach and kale shows that they can stop growth of certain types of cancers such as breast, skin, lung and stomach.
Dr Goddard-Borger from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute explains;
‘Every time we eat leafy green vegetables we consume significant amounts of SQ sugars, which are used as an energy source by good gut bacteria… Bacteria in the gut, such as crucial protective strains of E. coli, use SQ as a source of energy. E. coli provides a protective barrier that prevents growth and colonisation by bad bacteria, because the good bugs are taking up all the habitable real estate.’ – source LeanHealthyandWise.com
Spring in Your Step
Another great way to take advantage of the warmer weather in November is to get out in it.
If you’ve been laying low through this Covid madness and you’re now out of shape, or you’ve never exercised before, then be sure to start slowly with a gentle walk and build up from there. Let your GP know what you have in mind. Push yourself to do more as you increase your fitness. Regular exercise will not only help shift those extra kilos, it will help to lift your spirits too.
Stay safe and strong and enjoy this last month of spring.