Friday, March 2, 2012

National Nutrition Month

Ravings: It’s National Nutrition Month! The theme over at is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” So for today’s blog, I thought I’d talk about what that means to me. I grew up with the family that stressed eating what was on your plate, which was often centered around protein and starch, with a vegetable as a garnish. The old meat and potatoes family. I was fortunate, however, in that my parents embraced a kind of hippy lifestyle, so my early years included very few processed foods, and my vegetables were almost always fresh or canned from our garden. We also grew up in the country where it was pretty standard to buy bulk meats that had been locally farm raised. My parents were progressive without even realizing it. At the time that was the more economical way to feed your family. As my sister and I got older, our diets became more and more mainstream, until you are living on your own and buying into all the convenience foods that were being mass marketed. In my early college years I did become a vegetarian and ate that way for several years, until I caved to the pressure of a boyfriend’s mother who always made me feel guilty. However, even in those years, my diet had a significant amount of refined carbs.

Enter my husband, who as a practically lifelong bachelor, had a diet of fast food, takeout pizza, and cereal. We combined our two lifestyles and became the typical American family. We ate takeout a couple times a week and planned our meals around the protein, mostly consisting of red meat or some chicken. We both gained weight. I think we both just ate more. It wasn’t that we ate all “crap food,” we just ate more food because I was cooking regular meals.

And then on a road trip with my mom, I read Fast Food Nation, and it changed my life. I couldn’t get enough information fast enough. I then watched Food, Inc and read every article I could find. I shared this information with Jason and forced him to watch Food, Inc, and we made the decision to give up fast food. It was really difficult for Jason at first, and it took him the longest. He would crave it, and occasionally I would cave. It only took about three times and he stopped craving it. He said it didn’t taste as good as he thought it would and just ended up making him feel lethargic and “yucky.” I then started to buy some organic produce and we purchased some locally raised chickens and a half side of pastured beef. We just kept feeling better, and I kept doing more and more research. We are now almost all organic. Some things I don’t buy organic because you do have to consider the cost/benefit of each product. We buy locally raised grass fed beef in bulk, free range chicken and eggs, and the occasional pastured pork. We have cut out as much processed food as possible. Jason still likes to snack, but I make sure it has no hydrogenated oil and as few ingredients as I can find, preferably pronounceable ingredients.

Jason’s son moved in with us when he turned 18, and he’s a vegetarian, so we also have to make that shift, which has been really good for my meal planning process. Now instead of selecting a meat product and planning my meal around that, I try to make meat the side dish. I’m also trying to incorporate more fish and ramping up the whole grains. It takes time and preparation, and I will admit costs a bit more, but I believe that we are worth it. And because we feel so much better, our health care costs will be less.

I would love to hear other’s stories about how they have changed their diet and gotten their plate in shape.

Cravings: In a nod to my desire to limit gluten, I decided to make a noodle free eggplant lasagna. It was super yummy and totally filling, which is always one of my husband’s greatest fears in eating a meatless meal.

Eggplant Lasagna

26 oz chopped tomatoes
2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced longways
several sweet peppers, sliced longways
1 tub ricotta cheese
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 large tomato, chopped
1-2 Tbsp fresh basil
1-2 Tbsp fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Put about a 1/2 cup of the chopped tomatoes on the bottom of a baking dish. Add some basil and oregano. Then layer the veggies and cheese, adding the tomatoes and spices as you go. I used the eggplant like noodles. I finished by topping the lasagna with the fresh tomato, the spices, some mozarella and the parmesan. Bake it for 30-40 minutes at 350.

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