New learning, new foods

I’m trying to follow Karen O’s advice about not feeling I have to change everything at once in my eating habits, but after reading the second chapter of Dr. Ann’s Eat Right for Life, a lot of my old favorite foods no longer seem so appealing. This chapter is about avoiding the bad carbs, and eating the good carbs. I’ve known since I was little that whole grains were healthier, but I always thought the problem with refined carbs was mostly a matter of what they lacked.

Back when I was little, that may have been the experts’ understanding also. According to Dr. Ann, it’s only in the past decade that scientists have learned the biochemistry involved in the digestion of carbohydrates. “Eating rapidly digested carbs results in sudden spikes of blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels that adversely effect human metabolism and ultimately lead to” more fat being stored, appetite being stimulated rather than satisfied, cardiovascular disease, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and increased risk of certain cancers.

 She goes into a lot more detail in the book, explaining just how the glucose and insulin levels jump up and down in response to consumption of what she calls the “Great White Hazards” – white flour, white sugar, white rice, and white potatoes. I can remember so many times when I’d be eating (a typical meal containing one or more of these) and feeling almost full, then I ate a little more and found I felt more hungry instead of satisfied. The more I ate, the hungrier I felt, which made no sense at all but was my consistent experience if I didn’t make myself stop before I got full. In light of this chapter, it suddenly makes more sense.

It’s easy enough to replace white bread with whole wheat (the book warns that it’s important that the label specify 100% whole wheat; if it just says whole wheat, that might mean it’s only mostly whole wheat – which could mean only 51%), and white rice with brown rice. I’m happy with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, but the rest of the family doesn’t care for them. And I’m not going to try to find whole grain versions of everything I’m used to buying, because a lot of those specialty items cost a lot more. So it’s time to find new foods that we like and – very importantly – that aren’t too hard for me to prepare.

Dr. Ann recommends quinoa, which is high in protein and other important nutrients. What I find particularly appealing about it is that it cooks in fifteen minutes, far faster than brown rice. I found a bag of it at WalMart this weekend (in the gluten-free section), and made my first batch last night. It has a mild taste, which means it can easily be mixed with other foods, but I enjoyed it just fine by itself. Here is one of Dr. Ann’s quinoa recipes, that looks like my husband at least would like it. I would also enjoy her Stuffed Bell Peppers recipe, but no one else here likes bell peppers, and it’s more work than I want to do just for myself.

I have been trying some other new foods lately, ones that I decide aren’t too much work even if it’s just for myself. I had never bought asparagus before, having disliked it as a child, and finding it just “so-so” when I’ve encountered it when eating away from home. But I’d read how nutritious it was, and heard how good people thought it was when grilled. Our grill heats very unevenly, so I dismissed the idea, until a co-worker mentioned using a George Foreman grill to cook it. Asparagus still won’t be a favorite of mine, but it was quick and easy and tasted reasonably good.

A few weeks ago I tried – rather hesitantly – a sample of Greek yogurt in the supermarket. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it really tasted rather good. When I saw some on sale a couple of weeks ago, I tried the raspberry flavor, planning to split the single-serve container between two lunches. I discovered that 1) it’s good enough I didn’t stop when I’d eaten half of it; and 2) it’s filling enough that I should have stopped at half.

Since then, I read that even plain Greek yogurt tastes good – unlike the store brand plain (non-Greek) yogurt I tried a while ago, which I ended up throwing out (something I almost never do with food) because no amount of syrup added to it could make it palatable. I also found a recipe for making my own Greek yogurt, without even needing a yogurt maker. So this time I bought a pint of plain Fage nonfat Greek yogurt, and tomorrow I plan to attempt to make my own yogurt. In the meantime, I’ve decided I definitely like it, with or without added fruit.

I also made some “kale chips” this weekend. I haven’t yet reached a verdict on them – they’re OK, but nothing I yearn for. (My husband and son also tried them, and didn’t say they were bad but didn’t ask for more.) Part of the problem is that the recipe I used said to add salt according to taste – but it’s hard to add “to taste” before cooking. I used too much, and as I don’t care much for salty food, I can only eat a small amount of the chips at a time. I’ll probably try another batch, but I want to check on how much of the nutrients might be lost in the baking process, as my motivation for making these is largely for the nutrition and not to have an alternative to potato chips (these are nothing like them).

Next on my shopping list: pine nuts. I’m sure I’ve eaten foods containing them before, but I’ve never bought them or cooked with them.

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