When my kids were little, I steamed and pureed fresh vegetables and snuck them into their favorite crappy foods, like mac n’ cheese, or spaghettios. I know, it’s hard to believe that a person like me, raised by fierce cooks, allowed canned spaghetti into her pantry, but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do now and then, and back then, I had to do it. (Before Nona came to babysit, I always remembered to push them to the back of the shelf and hide them behind a box of decoy Grape Nuts that was actually filled with gummy bears.)
Now, as a grown-up in most senses of the word, I still hide healthy food, but it’s inside other healthy food, and it’s mainly for my benefit, not my kids. Now that I’m reaching the twenty-five-twice mark (it’s my age and I’ll describe it in my terms) I’ve become fond of eating real, healthy food, 90% of the time. What I do the other 10% of the time is mine, and I own it. But if I can make good choices most of the time, I’m good. I feel better when I eat well and exercise regularly, and I like fitting into my jeans. I also want to stick around long enough to witness my children pull their hair out over their own children, much the same way my parents sit back and enjoy watching me do the same with my kids.
Still with me? If so, let’s consider my favorite uber-healthy food that I sneak in all over the place: flaxseed meal (ground up flaxseeds, which are about the size of a sesame seed). Flaxseeds are considered a high-fiber, high-protein superfood. In just one ounce (3 tbsps.), you get 6g of protein and 8g of fiber. Full of Omega-3 essential fatty acids (“good” fats that do great things, like boost brain function and fight fatigue), flaxseeds are low in carbohydrates, and they make you feel full longer so you hopefully won’t snack on gummy bears all afternoon and plummet into a sugar-induced abyss around 5 p.m. Flaxseeds are also great for your gut and digestion. Flaxseed meal has an extremely mild, nutty flavor and it’s powdery, non-grainy texture allows it to really disappear into food. I shoot for three tablespoons a day and here’s how I get there:
Smoothies: I sprinkle a tablespoon into my morning smoothie, which typically consists of frozen broccoli, frozen organic blueberries, frozen strawberries, coconut milk or water, a scoop of organic almond butter, and cinnamon. I use all non-sweetened fruit; I’m not really a sugar person, so my smoothies are really not sweet, especially when I leave out the strawberries. If you need a little sweet, throw in some frozen pineapple chunks. (You can get just about any frozen fruit without added sugar these days at most grocery stores and big warehouse stores.)
Oatmeal: I make up a bowl of Bob’s Red Mill quick-oats (a negligible nutritional difference between quick-cook and long-cook, at least in this brand) with a handful of blueberries, a couple tablespoons of flaxseed meal, a small handful of walnuts (another excellent source of really good stuff – look it up) and a teaspoon of honey. By the way, I don’t cook the oatmeal in water; I cook it in organic coconut milk, yet another source of amazing goodness. It’s good for the heart, and a great source of lauric acid, a protective fatty acid that is linked to healthy levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower levels of the bad kind (LDL). It’s also high in multi-chain triglycerides (MCT). If you’re into losing weight and building muscle, look that up. You’re welcome.
Lunch and dinner
Soups/sauces: Today, I made polenta for lunch, but you can easily throw flaxseed meal into just about any soup or sauce. I like Bob’s Red Mill (not instant) cornmeal. It took 45 minutes, but I started at 11, before I got really hungry (which typically results in me stuffing a piece of Swiss cheese in my face while I prepare whatever it is I’m going to eat). I cooked it in organic vegetable broth instead of water, which makes it heartier. I added four or five tablespoons of flaxseed meal when it finished cooking. Then, I ate a big bowl of it (at least a cup and a half) topped with my homemade marinara sauce, which also had a little flaxseed meal mixed into it. I topped that with a little fresh grated parmesan (off a blok; I’m not a fan of paying for cellulose, which is in all pre-packaged grated parmesan cheeses, for “anti-caking” properties, but also because it is a supposedly harmless filler that takes up space and results in a higher profit margin. Personally, I’d rather pay more for the real thing, which is much tastier, so you use a lot less). Lastly, I sprinkled a handful of pine nuts on top, giving my polenta lunch a protein boost.
Once I began eliminating packaged, processed food from my diet, I started finding ways to boost the healthy food I was eating with even healthier food. It’s the old sneak attack, but even better. If you want to really set yourself up for success in the kitchen, eliminate all the crap; don’t pretend that you’ll resist it, just get rid of it. Then, put the things you know you want to be part of your daily diet right on the counter. My flaxseed meal is in an airtight jar on my counter with a cute little wooden teaspoon sitting on top. Make it easy, otherwise, if you’re like me, you’ll either forget or blow it off. Keep your cupboards stocked with what you need. Meal plan. Make a list. Shop weekly. Sneak it in.
Grape Nuts – Wikipedia Creative Commons
All other photos by Amador Food & Review – All Rights Reserved