The Basics of Healthy Eating

When you sit down to a healthy, home cooked meal it feels good. Not just the pride involved with doing something good for your body but also knowing each ingredient used ie – no additives and preservatives, perhaps no GMO foods and maybe cooking with mainly organic choices. Left-overs to bring for lunch the next day or to provide a quick dinner for a day or two to come are also beneficial. So for today’s blog, I thought that I would take a step back from the details of the foods that should be consumed to more of a guideline of what your plate should look like when you sit down.

Going through naturopathic medical school, there was an excellent nutritionist/ND who taught nutrition for several terms. She introduced me to the 25-25-50 rule and I have used it just about with every patient to explain how to eat healthy. When looking down at your plate, you should see 25% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 50% vegetables with a metaphorical drizzle of healthy oils on top.

Carbohydrates 25%. This represents complex carbohydrates, which are important for energy and metabolism as well as containing many important micronutrients like B vitamins and minerals. The portion size is around ½ cup of grains such as brown rice, quinoa and whole grain pasta. This category also includes starchy vegetables for example corn, potatoes, yams, squash, beets and other roots. Try rotating through different carbohydrates to get a wide variety of nutrients within a week. One of my favourite sides is mashed roasted sweet potato with rosemary, garlic and olive oil.

Protein 25%. A portion of meat or fish is around the size of your palm, corresponding to about 3 ounces. Tofu and beans/legumes are other good sources of protein when mixed with a grain to provide a complete protein meal containing all of the essential amino acids. Choosing good quality meat is important - look for organic or non-medicated, grass-fed or wild. Non-vegetarians should have a few vegetarian meals per week, perhaps 2 or more with fish, another 2 with poultry and a meal per week of red meat. Try buffalo or bison as an option as it is usually free-range, grass fed and hormone-free.

Vegetables 50%. This is where most often patients are telling me that they need to increase the amount consumed. Remember that the 50% vegetables do not include starchy vegetables so we are looking at mainly greens. Salads, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard as well as brussel sprouts, peas, green beans, broccoli, zucchini and so on. Since raw vegetables can be more difficult to digest for some, lightly steaming them is the preferred method. See below for a delicious recipe for homemade gomae.

Healthy Oil drizzle. By cooking with healthy oils or using nuts, seeds or avocado in your meal, this component is covered. Olive oil, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil are all very nutritious and can handle higher temperatures without oxidizing. Other oils such as sesame and specialty types are best used after cooking as an added flavour or dressing. A serving of nuts or seeds is a small handful and about 1/4 – 1/3 of an avocado contains all of the good fats that you need. The gomae recipe below covers both the vegetable component and healthy oils.

Dinning atmosphere. Another faculty member told us that she lights a candle at each meal to promote a restful and relaxing setting for meals. Every bite is chewed slowly and the meal itself takes a good 30 minutes to eat. While this might be unrealistic for most of us with busy lives and families, the concept is important. In order to properly digest, we need our bodies to return to parasympathetic mode, or “rest and digest”. This is the best way to absorb all of those nutrients that you have spent time and effort preparing into a great meal. So, try not to eat at your desk or have dinner standing up in the kitchen. Take the time to settle, sit and enjoy!

Homemade Gomae:
This yummy dish is packed full of nutrients, you will never make enough to satisfy everyone. My kids will eat a half bunch of spinach each and still ask for more!

1-2 bunches of spinach, washed and trimmed

5 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1.5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
honey or unrefined sugar to taste

Steam spinach until wilted, remove from heat. Gently squeeze to remove some of the extra water.

To prepare the sauce, using a coffee grinder or other electric blender, grind the sesame seeds until a thick paste forms. Remove from grinder and place in a small bowl. Add the sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil when I can find it), tamari and honey and mix with a fork until combined. Taste and add more sweetener if desired. Add sauce to spinach and refrigerate as often gomae is served cold. Enjoy!

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