Cookbook Week: Eating Healthy

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Like many people, I’m at risk for Diabetes and other nutrition-related diseases. Changing my habits hasn’t necessarily been easy, but I’m working every day to be healthier. I’m eating less processed foods, and trying to cook more for myself (one thing that’s been a revolutionary help has been getting rid of my microwave). And once a week, I try to make either a gluten-free recipe or a vegetarian one.

One recipe a week may not sound like a lot, but considering I live alone and always get tons of leftovers even when I halve recipes, it stretches pretty far.

11505008When it comes to eating gluten-free, my advice (worth nothing, probably. but given to you for free), is to avoid the gluten-free products you find on the shelves. It’s just as processed or more as the crap you were eating before, and a substitution will ALWAYS taste like a substitution. When I first started out with recipes, I tried to make a lot of gluten-free “breads,” and the like, and they tasted like sawdust. You spend a ton more money on products that taste worse, and that is just depressing.

So, I look for recipes that make well-rounded meals without needing anything with wheat or gluten included. I read a bunch of books on the advice of my doctor, and the best so far for me has been William Davis’s Wheat Belly. I don’t agree with everything he says or think it holds true in my case, but then again I do not actually have gluten intolerence issues, and some of the recipes are amazing. My favorites are the Mexican Tortilla Soup, Three-Cheese Eggplant Bake, and the Parmesan Breaded Pork Chops with Balsamic-Roasted Vegetables. I’d like to try out the accompanying full-length cookbook one of these days. Not everything is good–the aforementioned gluten-free “bread” was gag-inducing–but there are some interesting flavors and new dishes.

As for eating vegetarian, this is a huge challenge for me. I grew up eating meat-veggie-starch at almost every dinner, and it’s still hard for me to see vegetables as the basis for a meal. Plus, I have this weird thing where I can’t stand raw foods, so eating salads is really a challenge for me. One thing I’m trying to do is pick one completely new ingredient that I’ve never tried before every time I go to the grocery store, and then find a recipe to go around it. It doesn’t always work well (rhubarb and I are not friends), but in just the past year I’ve added all kinds of ingredients I’d never even tried before to my regular repertoire.

There are a ton of great vegetarian cookbooks out there. One of my favorites is–you may have guessed it–Betty Crocker’s Vegetarian Cooking. 13838305This was another purchase I made during Nook’s big cookbook sale. It’s really accessible and easy to follow, and the recipes are delicious. The Quinoa and Corn Salad (it was a lettuce-less salad. I basically had to try it.) was fresh and filling, and adaptable too. I had a ton of leftovers, and so I used them as a base for stuffed peppers (adding a bit of tomato sauce and some herbs), which were fantastic.

The book also has good sections on how to stock a vegetarian pantry and what to use as vegetarian and vegan substitutions.

When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, its the big, dramatic changes that get all the attention. But for some people, like me, its the little changes that add up. And if you are hesitant about new foods or cooking styles that you’ve never tried before, cookbooks can really help with the transition. You just have to have a little willingness to try new things.

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