How can you turn this down?
Health, in my view, is really about enjoyment and quality of life. It’s not all celery sticks and cardio – far from it. Dark chocolate and red wine shouldn’t be consumed with the reckless abandon I sincerely hope you reserve for vegetables, but they are reasonably healthy indulgences. Here’s how to indulge a little more (am I looking out for you or what?).
My editor, Sara, shares this tip: wash and chop up 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes. (Don’t bother with that canned stuff if you want the healthiest possible sauce. This is easy.) Add in half your normal amount of water or broth (you’ll see why in a second). Next add several fresh garlic cloves and any other spices or herbs you fancy in your tomato sauce. The antioxidant boost: after the tomatoes have simmered and stewed for a while, pour in 1 cup of red wine. Between the cooked tomatoes, garlic and wine, you’ll have a sauce so good, you’ll want to drink it and forget about whatever you were going to pour it on (better not be pasta).
Buy the darkest, most bitter, pure chocolate you can find. Even mass chocolate manufacturers like Hershey’s are pushing darker and darker chocolates. You can find upwards of 70% these days without breaking a sweat. Melt a bar in a saucepan with a big dash of cayenne pepper, a generous pinch of oregano or marjoram, a touch of olive oil, and a decent sprinkle of sea salt. You now have a very interesting and incredible reduction to drizzle over your pork chops. Just trust me.
A necessary word of caution: I am not recommending a future career as a lush here. But you might enjoy splitting up that nightly glass of red into two small glasses (emphasis on small) and having a splash of wine at lunch. Many cultures around the world enjoy a little swill at noon. Obviously, this won’t work for everyone depending on schedules and workplace expectations. And, if alcohol is something that you tend to indulge too much in, then skip this tip (matter of fact, skip this post).
Chocolate for breakfast? Sure. This tip is for the morning vice crowd. If you want whiter teeth and you never seem to eat anything for breakfast, tackle both issues by eating a piece of dark chocolate instead of coffee. You’ll get some fat and caffeine to nourish your brain, quell your starving stomach and stimulate your nerves. I think some sliced tomatoes or scrambled eggs are both obviously better ideas for your mornings, but if you’re a coffee junkie and you have trouble ingesting a morning dose of calories, hey, I say work with the problem instead of fighting it. Dark chocolate still has some sugar, so if you’re trying to lose weight or if you need to watch your blood sugar, stick to the scrambled eggs.
Just kidding! Don’t do that.
Do you need to cut out refined carbohydrates like pasta, candy, pastries and soda? Everyone does. Eliminating refined carbohydrate intake is a critical first step in losing weight, ridding yourself of mood swings, and simply improving your overall health. But be sure you create a system to reward yourself a little for each step you take to better health. For example, you might eliminate your three biggest vices (let’s say they’re pasta, potatoes, and soda). For each day you avoid these three vices, you get three small squares of dark chocolate. Eat them at night for a serotonin boost that will improve your sleep and make you feel happy. Three squares typically contain around 10 grams of sugar. While not ideal, that’s a lot better than several hundred grams from a serving of refined carbs at each meal.
Skip the sugary, trans-fat-clogged, chemical-laden store salad dressings and whip up an antioxidant- and immune-boosting dressing at home. Mix equal parts red wine with a tasty vinegar. Next, blend equal parts of this mixture and olive oil. This is an easy, healthy dressing that will liven up your greens (which I hope you’re eating every day).
Note: wine doesn’t last more than a few days at most, so don’t make big batches of the stuff. Just enough for a few meals.
This is not really something to eat daily, but if you’re a candy lover and you’re in need of a healthier substitute, have a square of dark chocolate with some fresh-roasted, organic, sugar-free almond butter. After a few weeks of this, if you try out the ole Cups, you’ll be put off by the chemical taste. Guaranteed candy cure. (You MDA frequent fliers know I’m really not a substitute kind of guy – to be healthy, you gotta eat healthy, end of story. I happen to think salads and grilled lean meats taste amazing and I think living on indulgent junk food is anything but living. However, some treats really are pretty decent for you – almond butter is full of Omega-3’s and fiber, and a little dark chocolate is fine.)
Think about switching your soda to wine. Again, huge disclaimer: this is not a recommendation to become Peter O’Toole. This is strictly for soda addicts. The purpose is to get you to realize what you’re actually doing to your body. For most folks – I’m not talking about alcoholics – soda is far worse for the body than wine (and unlike wine, has zero marginally redeeming health benefits). Downing multiple sodas may be socially acceptable, but it’s addictive and enormously destructive to health. The problem is that it intoxicates your body in an entirely different – and perhaps more insidious – way than alcohol. Soda does terrible damage, but you don’t “feel” the damage immediately. The closest thing is a sugar crash, in which case, most people just have another soda to stave it off. The problem with soda is that the internal destruction isn’t really noticeable until you’re overweight, diabetic, depressed and wondering why you have a mood crash every day at 3 p.m. If you drink a glass of wine, however, you feel it. You don’t need a second (I hope). So just imagine what all those sodas were actually doing to your body.
Gee, that’s just super, Mark, but I drink soda at work. No problem: to get off the lunchtime soda habit, have a glass of water and a piece of fruit. You’re just dehydrated.
The idea for this headline came from Lyndon. Thanks!
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