Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Twenty Steps to a Healthier Kitchen

Now that Mike and I are in our 30s (just barely), we're getting more health-conscious. In our 20s, being healthy for us meant doing (or trying to start doing!) some kind of physical activity to keep us fit. But now that we're in our 30s, being healthy isn't confined only to the activities that we do, but also, what we eat.

The great thing about cooking our own meals is that we have greater control over what goes into our body. I've become more conscious about this over the last few months and have kept health, instead of just price, as one of my main criteria when choosing food while supermarketing.

We're far from being poster-children for health, of course. But we're trying, little by little, to be healthier. Allow me to share with you a list of some of the steps we've been taking, or have been trying to take, in the Palacios kitchen:

  1. Never buy carbonated softdrinks (sodas) in the grocery unless you're hosting a party. Replace softdrinks with healthier alternatives like fruit juice (our favorite of late is calamansi concentrate), or the best alternative of all: water.

  2. Shell out the extra money to buy the leanest (or at least the leaner) meat at the butcher's. It may seem like it's hurting your pocket now, but remember that health is a more important form of wealth.

  3. Always have fresh fruits in the house, and keep them within easy reach. When your stomach is craving for a midday snack, reach for a banana instead of a bag of potato chips.

  4. Speaking of potato chips: when you're in the supermarket, skip the "junk food" aisle altogether. The only time you should buy potato chips is if you're going on an out-of-town trip.

  5. If your family has a history of hypertension (which is true for both Mike's and my families), then you should be watching your salt intake. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor your food. Stock up on a variety of dried herbs and learn which goes with which food so you can easily add them to the dishes you're cooking.

  6. Speaking of salt: keep the salt shaker away from the dining table.

  7. Filipino weight-watchers: go easy on the rice. Control your rice portions by serving rice in individual rice bowls at the dining table.

  8. Milk isn't just for kids. Have a glass of milk (low-fat or skim, now that you're an adult) every evening, before going to bed. It's good for digestion, too.

  9. Carrots are wonderful! Super-rich in vitamins, barely any calories, and fantastic for main courses, soup, snacks, salad, or even dessert. Plus they keep very well so you can store them in your refrigerator longer than you can greens. Buy carrots every time you go to the supermarket and look for different ways to slip them into your meals.

  10. Buy salad greens every time you go to the supermarket, and always have some salad dressing (whether home-made or store-bought) handy at home, so that you'll be ready to eat a salad in no time. A note when buying lettuce: choose deep green (or red, as the case may be) lettuce like Romaine. Stay away from iceberg lettuce! Not only does iceberg have no nutritional value; it's actually bad for you! (Update: See comments section for more on this.)

  11. Olive oil and butter have about the same calorie count, but olive oil is healthier. It's also a lot more expensive, however. When making a recipe that calls for a lot of butter, consider replacing a third or even half of the butter with olive oil.

  12. And instead of using butter, use low-fat margarine instead.

  13. Buy whole wheat instead of white bread.

  14. Trim the excess fat of pork, beef, and lamb before cooking. And whenever you can, take the skin off the chicken. Chicken skin is almost pure fat.

  15. Speaking of chicken, don't pour the drippings back onto chicken when serving it ... (although I can't resist when it's a roast, because a roast chicken without drippings just isn't the same)!

  16. Consider using honey instead, when a recipe calls for sugar.

  17. Cut down on pan-fried and deep-fried food. Instead, bake, poach, steam ... and when you need to fry, stir-fry (i.e., chop your food into small pieces and fry it in a wok using a very small amount of oil).

  18. When you go to the butcher, have your meat bagged in exactly the amount you will need for cooking one dish. (For example, Mike and I always ask that our ground beef be bagged in bags of 200 to 250 grams each: one bag is thus exactly enough for one meal for the two of us.) That way, you never cook or eat more than you should.

  19. Limit the treats. Mike and I only allow ourselves to buy one kind of dessert when we go to the supermarket: dark chocolate.

  20. For the sake of your health and your wallet, always have a grocery list when you go to the supermarket, and follow it as much as possible. This way, you don't end up buying impulse purchases.

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rolly said...

this is very informative. and to think they're easy to do. Glad that you're starting this at the right time.

Ahoy! said...

yikes... why are iceberg lettuce bad for you? We've been buying some lately :-S

rowie said...

Thanks, Tito Rolly!

Joy: According to a doctor-friend of mine, iceberg lettuce has practically zero nutritional value; it's mostly water. He also said that the sum total of eating iceberg lettuce is actual more harmful than helpful, although I don't remember the exact reason he gave. According to this article, though, iceberg lettuce can be bad for diabetics and for people with digestion problems, the latter because it's apt to cling to the walls of your digestive tract for long periods of time without being digested.

rowie said...

... That having been said, after doing a perusal of websites, it appears that while a lot of them agree that iceberg lettuce has almost zero nutritional value, a lot of them append this with, "It's not bad for you, but it isn't good for you either."

Well, I suppose the bottom line is that if we think we're getting our "vegetable quotient" by eating iceberg lettuce, we're mistaken. :-/

hungerpangs. said...

hey row!

wanted to leave a comment about substituting butter with non-fat margarine... it's actually a misconception that margarine is better on the stomach and therefore better for overall health. margarine is more complex than butter and is therefore more difficult to digest, even if butter technically has more fat.

anyhow, there are already non-fat, 0 salt butter brands...

plus, it doesn't hurt that butter tastes infinitely better than margarine. :)

rowie said...

Hey Gen, thanks! Interesting stuff. It appears that it's a complex issue: this site says that margarine is better, and this site says that it depends on which kind of margarine, because some brands of margarine are worse than butter (this article specifies which U.S. margarine brands are best). Hahaha, how confusing! :-T