Monday, May 7, 2012

The truth about salad

Remember Popeye? Getting strong eating his spinach? Or Bugs Bunny and his carrots? Where have all the veggie-loving cartoons gone?

The thing is, the FDA has, for years, been duping the American people into thinking that grains should make up the bulk of our diets, and gives milk and dairy a more prominent role than necessary, too:
Food Pyramid
Fact is, for optimal overall health benefits and athletic performance, veggies are number one! Here is the food guideline you should really be following (from Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet,

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid

Ever heard of "too much of a good thing?" Not so with veggies. You can eat as many as you want, all day long, every day, and you're doing something amazing for your body and your health. It's unlimited!

So here's a few truths about veggies:

1) Eat at least one large salad a day; two if possible.

2) Veggies can be boring, so keep it interesting by eating a wide variety of veggies and spruce them up a bit with light dressings on the side, or 2 T. of hummus.

3) Be brave; try something new. Since joining my CSA, I've tried veggies I've never even heard of, like kohlrabi, and others I would have ignored in the store, like parsnips and radishes.

4) It's harder to eat salads when it's cold outside; harder on your digestive system too. In the winter months, steam, stir fry or sautee veggies; a little olive oil and garlic goes a long way. Toss with toasted slivered almonds.

5) Salads and veggies take time to prepare. You'll be more likely to eat them if all the cutting, peeling and chopping are done in advance so you can "grab-n-go." When you make salad for dinner, make several extras to keep in the refrigerator and eat throughout the week. Cut carrots, celery and cucumber for quick snacks.

6) Salad makes the digestive system work--"cleans the pipes," so to speak, and keeps everything healthy . . . that said, avoid salads within four hours of a workout. Don't say I didn't warn you.

7) Don't forget the protein. Add lean meats, fish, beans, eggs, tofu, nuts or cheese to salads for a protein boost.

8) Bet you didn't know this one, but salad can be embarrassing. This, I learned, after packing a small salad in my daughter's lunch one day. She came home from school and complained, "Mom, salad is embarrassing." Hey, what are moms for?

9) Salad, it's what's for . . . breakfast? Some fitness article I read touted the benefits of eating salad for breakfast, the author as enthusiastic as a kid at Christmas about the "unlimited" portions of veggies he could eat at breakfast each day. Sorry, I love veggies, but I can't rally myself to support this one anymore than I can get on-board with the Japanese's penchant for eating fish for breakfast, despite sushi being one of my favorite foods. Salad has its place. A large one for lunch and another one with dinner works for me, but if you can manage salad for breakfast, more power to you!

10) Just do it. For some, it may be an acquired taste, but the more you eat veggies, the more you will get used to them and maybe even come to love them, or at least like them a little. Or tolerate them. Buy local when you can, for better-tasting produce and for the betterment of the environment, and organic when possible. Fill your plate half way with produce, a quarter with protein and a quarter with grains. My dinner last night: Grilled wild Alaskan salmon, asparagus with mimosa topping, roasted beets with olive oil, garlic and goat cheese, and about 2 T of long grain & wild rice. A side salad would have made the perfect appetizer, if only I'd prepared one in advance!

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