My life revolves around food; I love eating it, thinking about it, learning about it, and cooking it. Although food has always been a significant part of my life and I have always been actively interested in nutrition, it’s within the last 5 years that I really started to come into my own in terms of my food and nutrition philosophy. I’ve never had the opportunity to really verbalize this philosophy, and I thought the best place to start would be to outline the basics.
Balance & Moderation: the 70%-30% rule
While I do not equate healthy with low-fat, low-calorie, gluten-free, low-carb, sugar-free, etc., there is something to be said for watching portions, calories, sugars, and fats. But if I thought about that all the time, I wouldn’t get to enjoy indulging in many my favorite foods or exploring new dishes at new restaurants. That’s why I’m stricter with my diet on weekdays. This means that during the week, Monday morning through Friday afternoon, I am actively conscious about my portions and my calories. These are still meals and foods that I fully enjoy, just ones that include more fresh produce and lean protein, rather than excessive amounts of oil, bread, pasta, and sugar. This helps to cleanse, de-bloat, and recharge my body.
On the other hand, the weekend is my time to let loose and enjoy myself. That doesn’t mean chowing down on fast food. Weekend or not, I still only want to put pure and natural foods inside my body (for instance, trans-fats, hormones, and GMOs are always a no-no if I can help it). But on a weekend, I let the portion control go and sneak in a few naughty meals (local NYC bagels and cream cheese, quality gourmet pizza, and fresh lemonade are just a few of the usual suspects).
Although this is my typical routine (because I just love a good routine), it’s really just a guideline. If I have plans to eat at a great restaurant on a weeknight, and I want to order and eat to my heart’s content, that’s ok. I just make up for it later. I like to look at this as a 70%-30% thing. 70% of the time I’m watching my portions and staying away from added sugars and fats. The other 30% of the time, I’m allowing myself the guilty pleasure foods that I love and in slightly larger portions. Weekends just happen to be the time where I like to indulge, but that’s just me.
Also keep in mind that I’m not perfect. I love food so much that sometimes I can’t control myself. I am continually working on this idea of balance and moderation.
Choose Whole Foods: the 90% rule
For me, part of what makes food taste good, is knowing that it’s also good for me. That doesn’t necessarily mean low-fat, gluten-free, or low in calories, it means that the food I’m putting in my body is pure, natural and wholesome. That’s why I choose to eat “whole foods” (like fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils and nuts) or pre-made foods that consist of only whole ingredients. For instance, when buying dried pasta from the market, I look for pastas that are made of 100% durum wheat flour and nothing else. When I want a bag of chips, I go for a bag of potato chips where the only ingredients are potatoes, canola oil, and salt. When I buy peanut butter, I make certain that the only ingredient is peanuts, and maybe some salt. Essentially, if buying pre-made or pre-packaged foods, I read the labels. If I like what I see and I am comfortable putting all listed ingredients in my body, more often than not, it’s a good choice. The same goes for when eating out. I’m lucky in that New York City is filled to the brim with restaurants focused on quality and health, and those are typically the ones I choose to try.
Why is this rule 90% and not 100%? That’s because ingredient-quality is pretty much impossible to control 100% of the time. To remedy this, I do my best to adhere to my rules when I can, but I also accept that often times, while eating out or even shopping for ingredients, organic, non-GMO, sustainably produced foods are sometimes just not available or not marked as such. It’s all about moderation and always trying to make the best choice given the options.
OK, so there you have it. The basic foundation of my food philosophy. Because it’s Monday (the crucial cleanse day) and because I didn’t want to leave this post sans recipe, I thought the perfect one would be today’s lunch, a lettuce-less salad of balsamic roasted broccoli, beets, corn, pecans, and goat cheese. This dish is the perfect example of a healthy, light, and flavorful meal for the days when I’m more rigid with my diet.
The broccoli, beets, and corn are all from this past weekend’s visit to the Brooklyn Farmer’s Market. However, canned beets and corn also work well in this salad if you’re feeling lazy (which I often am). Once the veggies are ready, just toss with chopped pecans and top with creamy goat cheese. YUM. This is the perfect lunch for a detox day because it’s made up of whole ingredients (mostly veggies), portion and calorie controlled, and packed with flavor. Because broccoli is the star of the show, 3-4 heads of broccoli are needed for just 2 servings. But add 2 cups cooked quinoa, lentils, or brown rice, or a bed of fresh spinach, and you’ve got enough for four filling servings that are still low in calories and super healthy.
Balsamic Roasted Broccoli, Beet & Goat Cheese Salad Serves: 2 Calories Per Serving: 475 Ingredients 3-4 heads Broccoli, trimmed into bite-size florets* 2 ears Corn, shucked and trimmed (or one can corn kernels) 3 small-apple-size Beets, trimmed (or one can sliced beets) 3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar Olive Oil Salt Chopped raw Pecans (2 tablespoons per serving) Goat Cheese (1 ounce per serving)
For roasted beets and corn, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub each beet and ear of corn with 1/2 tsp oil. Wrap each trimmed beat and each ear of corn in aluminum foil. Roast corn for 35-40 minutes and beets for 50-60 minutes. Cut corn kernels off the cob. Quarter each beet and remove the skin if able. Cut each quarter in half. Set Aside.
For broccoli, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, toss broccoli, 1 tbs oil, vinegar, and 1/2 tsp salt. Spread evenly over baking sheets. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until broccoli is tender and starting to brown and crisp up. Lightly season with salt while still hot (optional).
To assemble, toss roasted broccoli, beets, corn kernels together. Top each serving with 2 tbs chopped pecans and 1 ounce goat cheese.
*I didn’t get an exact weight of the broccoli, but the amount I used took up two small-ish baking sheets after the florets were spread evenly with a little space between them.