Hi, Apples! Sara here. Mark asked me to write this week’s Smart Fuel column as he is buried in the latest batch of science and medical journals. So, I am here to tell you about the wonderful uses of the mandolin slicer in your steadfast pursuit of healthy meals. Right about now you may be thinking, “Mandolin slicer? That’s not Smart Fuel!” but stick with me. (I follow directions very well, as you can clearly see. This is a habit I have taken great pains to cultivate since childhood. It takes real tenacity to flunk first grade, but I am here to tell you, it can be done.) Thank goodness the Big Apple (Sisson) actually encourages breaking all the rules, or I’d never be able to tell you about the joys of a mandolin slicer!
I personally love cooking and look forward to it (my mother tells me to give it a few years). However, I know that when it comes to meals, convenience and speed are not only preferable for a lot of us, these things are downright necessary. There’s a reason restaurants, fast food joints and the frozen food aisles flourish – we’re busy! So, these meals aren’t doing us any healthy favors, but who has time to wash, peel, pit and slice a bunch of vegetables for some casserole that will take longer to bake than the maturation time of your average Barolo?
Enter the mandolin slicer.
Mark is always extolling the virtues of making vegetables the basis of your diet, and it really is easier than you might think: bagged lettuce, frozen veggies, ready-to-go stir fry mixes. But no family (or boyfriend), no matter how tolerant, is going to put up with three days straight of broccoli florets for dinner when Domino’s is just a phone call away. This is why I love the mandolin slicer. It solves all the usual problems getting in the way of your health and your lean physique: time constraints, boredom, and empty carbs.
Problem 1: Time
The mandolin slicer makes awfully short work of everything from yams to cucumbers to organic chicken sausages. Beets, parsnips, carrots, brussels sprouts and cabbages don’t stand a chance around this simple, old utensil we all have lurking in a drawer somewhere (usually the same one that houses the gravy syringe…ew…and the egg slicer). Here’s what to do: buy a big batch of fresh veggies of all types, wash them up, and slice away. Toss them individually or in various combinations into 1 or 2 quart plastic storage containers and put them in the fridge. You’ve just prepped a week’s worth of tasty meals in about 45 minutes. You can aim for 30, but your pinky fingertip’s curvature may never look the same. Just a warning.
Problem 2: Boredom
Frozen veggies can get a little boring, simply because there’s often not much to choose from (broccoli, spinach, peas, carrots, corn…broccoli, spinach, peas, carrots, corn…sigh). There are often stir-fry blends to be found, and there’s always the old carrot-cauli-broc threesome, but I’ve noticed that oils, sugars and artificial flavorings are frequently added in by the food manufacturers. Keep the mandolin slicer in plain view, and shake up your recipe routines. You can say goodbye to those limp carrots, celery and cucumbers taking up residence in the back of the fridge, because you’ll actually be inspired to use them now.
Problem 3: Empty Carbs
Mandolinated (that’s not really working, is it?) yams make a flavorful, sweet, low-glycemic alternative to potatoes au gratin. What I love about the M-slicer is that it allows you to use vegetables in place of potatoes, bread and other starches. Granted, you won’t be using cucumber slices in place of tortilla chips anytime soon, but yams are satisfying and substantial in all sorts of baked dishes. And long, thin strips of carrots and parsnips work great in place of pasta. I’m not about to eat carrot alfredo, either, but if you can reduce the pasta by half and work in said carrot strips, you’ve got a healthy and reasonably low-carb meal on your hands. Unfortunately, the mandolin slicer is simply no match for pizza, but it can go a long way towards working more vegetables into your diet.
Just watch your pinky.
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:
Dieting doesn’t work, “they” tell us. But wait, the Mediterranean diet prevents health problems in the tiny tots! What gives? We’re here to help you sort through the confusion:
Want to Gain Weight? Go on a Diet
You’ve probably heard that many people gain back any weight lost during dieting. It makes sense: just about any diet will help you drop some poundage, but as soon as you go back to your normal ways, the ‘libs come back like the feisty clingers that they are.
It gets worse (don’t worry, then it gets better):
Scientists have determined that not only do some dieters gain back weight some of the time, dieting is just about the only surefire way on earth to gain weight. That’s no joke or exaggeration. When the researchers examined over 30 different significant diet studies, the only similarity they could find – the only conclusion that could be reached – was that dieting is the absolute best predictor of excess weight gain.
If you want to gain weight, it’s really easy. Simply go on a diet.
Okay, here’s the good part. If you want to lose weight, don’t diet! You have science on your side, friends! How can this be, you ask? Unfortunately, “diets really do make you fat almost 100% of the time” does not have an inverse relationship to “eat whatever you want and never diet and you’ll be thin”. Whether you diet or whether you decide that a life of Dunkin Donuts and McRib sandwiches is for you, both extremes will get you plenty of junk in more places than the proverbial trunk.
The key is neither dieting or saying “to heck with it, bring on the fettucine!” To maintain a healthy weight, you have to live like a healthy, lean person would. And how is that?
1 – Whole, unprocessed, recognizable foods
(bad: french fries; not good: crackers; whole and unprocessed: brown rice)
2 – Fresh, mostly green things
(bad: ready-made meals, burritos, pizzas; not good: ready-made vegetarian lasagna; a fresh, mostly green thing: salad or steamed veggie plate)
3 – Not much
(bad: a huge burger with a soda and fries; not good: a low-fat pasta dish with a breadstick and sugar-free ice cream; not much: a small plate comprised of mostly vegetables with a little fresh lean protein and a bit of good fat)
You can see how the bad things are clearly bad. And the “not good” things are things we often think of as at least partly healthy (this is the category into which many of us fall, and why we often feel so frustrated). But to be healthy, you must do more than add in a few good things – you must live, eat, and breathe 90% good things. Are you up for it?
Mediterranean Diet: Why It Works
Hey! Didn’t we just say diets don’t work?
Well, the Mediterranean diet is not really a diet, per se. It’s a healthy lifestyle. This “diet” focuses on fresh, whole, natural foods. There’s almost no processed, pre-made or sugary foodstuffs whatsoever. The bulk of the calories come from fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, some whole grains, olive oil, and a little fish or meat.
The cool thing about this diet is that in addition to helping prevent heart disease, cancer and obesity, children following this “diet” have reduced rates of allergies and asthma. You can do your own variation because it’s more about the general fresh and produce-based idea. If you aren’t crazy about olive oil, use avocado or walnut oil. If you don’t like fish, use chicken. If you aren’t into nuts, eat avocados. Experiment and have fun! Eat tasty things.
What tasty things help keep you healthy? Give us a shout in the forum!
Web it out:
I’m feeling a little lost, Apples. My readers know that for over 20 years now, I’ve enjoyed a massive veggie-packed salad for lunch. At this point, the daily Sisson salad is just part of my identity.
So imagine the sense of betrayal – nay, dear readers, bereavement – when I learned that it. has. all. been. for. naught.
The reason I am never eating another salad is because Flat Earth Baked Veggie Crisps are the healthiest thing to come along since, well, plants. These “veggie” and “berry” crisps are just like eating real vegetables!
The brand marketing concept is so extended, it feels like homework: people used to think the earth was flat, just like people used to think that chips couldn’t be healthy. Get it? To help the message hit home, Flat Earth’s logo is a flying pig. Because people used to think chips couldn’t be healthy, because pigs would have to fly first, and…my head hurts. Read the fine print: “Beliefs can change!” says Flat Earth. I find this particularly amusing. A belief certainly can change, if you throw enough money and marketing at it. But beliefs aren’t facts – yet again and again, we act as if they are. Marketers know this.
Pigs don’t fly. Almost the real thing is nothing much at all. My politically incorrect opinion is that there is nothing admirable at all about the desire to create a “healthy” chip. In fact, I think it’s a big, fat ethical cop-out.
I know what some will say: at least it’s better than a regular old potato chip. We all need a few healthy indulgences. Their hearts were in the right place (psst…no they weren’t. Flat Earth is owned by Frito-Lay). Baloney. This is marketing, not health.
I’m so disgusted with this trend of making bad foods kinda-sorta healthy, as if mediocrity is an admirable quality. Compromise might feel nice, but how’s that health philosophy workin’ for us? Uncle Sam says “just try to make half your grains whole”. Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence in humans’ capacity for excellence, guys.
Flat Earth’s Baked Veggie Crisps may not be as ridiculous as 7Up Plus (known formerly as corn syrup and chemicals) or vitamin-enriched children’s “milk ‘n cereal” bars (known formerly as candy and sugary goo). But Flat Earth is not a “one serving exchange” of “real!” fruits or vegetables. A chip is not a vegetable, period. You can add in all the dehydrated stale carrots and tomatoes and berries that you want, but until I see Veggie Crisps growing on trees, I’m afraid I have to agree with their slogan: “Impossibly good”. It is impossible – hey, at least they’re honest!
A self-described starving student recently wrote to me asking if it’s more important to focus on organic produce or organic meat & dairy at the grocery store. I get asked this question fairly often, so let’s talk about it.
Organic food costs can easily rival student loan payments – so, if you’re young or simply on a tight budget and you have to make a choice, what do you buy? Does organic food of any kind even make a difference (aside from the dent in your bank account)? The answer, my would-be organicans, is yes.
Organic produce is grown without the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals and is environmentally-sustainable. Organic meat and dairy is raised and produced according to similar regulations. The animals can’t be mistreated (a matter of course for regular meat) and they must be fed the food that nature intended. Hormones, antibiotics and fillers are big no-no’s. Organic products of any kind, as a rule, are ostensibly good for the environment. Though there is a fair amount of weaseling and hype in the organic industry (as with any industry) that’s a topic for another time.
Don’t listen to the naysayers. Eating organic food is a healthy habit. Local and organic is even better. But, if you’re on a budget thanks to Sallie Mae, I recommend focusing on organic animal products and buying the cheaper conventional chemical-bathed produce. Just invest two bucks in a really aggressive scrub brush.
A lot of people get excited about organic produce and forget all about the animal products. But what’s the use in eating a bowl of organic salad greens topped with grilled meat that is loaded up with hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals and was fed on greens loaded with hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals? When you eat conventional animal products, not only are you ingesting your very own pharmacological experiment, but you’re supporting (and eating) the non-organic feed that fattened up that hoofed friend.
Like I always say, you can wash the chemicals off a cucumber. I’m not sure how to do that with milk (although this little one has it all figured out).
Apples: If you have to make budget-friendly choices at the market, what do you choose? What are your tips for eating organic without breaking the bank? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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