20 March 2012

Diet-Wise, Part Two

Helpful meal hints for independent free spirits ungoverned by conformist meal times (following from Stayin' Alive, carelessly not designated as Part One). You know who you are. You live solo, drink a lot of coffee to wake up, can’t be bothered to cook (much), and aspire to live to 100 years of age. Creative joy is within your grasp through judicious, nutritious meal planning. So is economy and efficiency. The great secret, dear reader, is mixing and matching healthy food choices to please your own palate.

Fair warning: I respectfully submit that the government guidelines I consulted have some serious shortcomings. For example, their categories fail to recognize common foods such as coffee, sugar, salt, chocolate, and dim sum. Some of these omissions may or may not be addressed below.  

Grains Daily Units: 6-7
That’s a lot of units. What they really mean to say is fibre as in granola. Apparently white bread, English muffins, and ciabatta buns are not considered real grain. We will make an exception for Ace Bakery crisps. Pita pockets and tortilla wraps in healthy, gritty varieties are worth their weight in gold, e.g. place at least one choice from every other food unit on the wrap with mayo, roll it up, and eat. Mayo is your oils/fats unit. If you like it less crunchy and your cheese melted, microwave for 30 seconds. Pasta should fit in here, especially because tomatoes in the sauce give you a leg up on the veggies. And don’t forget the brown rice or wild rice, which beg for tasty extras to alleviate the endless chewing. For a lighter meal, the intrinsic value of popcorn is too often ignored. Pure fibre. The butter on it is, naturally, a dairy unit.

Dairy Daily Units: 2
If you drink milk, do it. If you can’t bear straight milk, adding it to many cups of coffee counts as a unit. Yoghurt is recommended but it has to be the right kind with lots of the probiotic stuff. Mixing it with fruit kills two units in one virtuous dish. Cheese, ahhhh, cheese—should be no  problem with the quota there, in single doses or added to anything. Cheese Whiz is the emergency standby; you know, smear it into the ditches of the celery stalks (veg). The bureaucrats seem to have totally lost EGGS somewhere so let’s call them dairy (we’re a little short here) and have, say, at least one a week. Or put them in the protein division if tainted meat is being recalled. Eggs go well with everything, hot or cold, but generally require boiling or frying first unless you are an anabolic hierophant.

Vegetables Daily Units: 3-4
Easy. Just pick a favourite like asparagus or arugula or avocado✱ and eat it like every day till you hate it. Or get those bags of torn-up salad from the store (said to be sprayed with preservatives but think positive: small doses will inoculate us, just like smallpox). With practice, the happy salad maker combines all the food groups, adding bacon bits (protein/fat), nuts (protein/fat), cheese (dairy), fruit (fruit), spicy masala sticklets (grain), or nuts and seeds (adaptable to more than one category). Garlic is an extremely under-appreciated vegetable to be enjoyed frequently. Wrap it in foil and roast your own; this involves turning on the oven. Makes all the difference to those fibre-rich crackers that taste like old hay left in the pony stall. We will have pickles in this category because the powers-that-be totally overlooked them.
Is avocado a fruit or what? Like tomato, it’s so versatile let’s clone it as both veg and fruit.

Fruit Daily Units: 3-4
An apple a day is still the proven standby in this division. Oranges are good, but please understand only the true ‘mandarins’ come from Morocco. Field berries, if you accept picking the debris out of your teeth, benefit from combining with yoghurt. That also works with the objectionable texture of banana which has something you need a couple of times a week. Highly recommended is green mango salad from Thai purveyors (don’t you have one on every city block, too?) or hey, learn to make your own. Most important of all, substitute red wine for any fruit unit. It’s salvation for heart disease protection and raises our friend, the good cholesterol. Besides, it vastly increases a warm, conscientious attitude toward nutrition goals.

Protein Daily Units: 2
This is basically your meat and fish category. Other seafood animals can belong. Tofu is also protein according to Authorities even though it’s pallid and looks disgusting. You won’t even notice if you throw it cubed into your salad. It doesn’t seem fair that lentils are in here because I know for a fact legume means vegetable in French. Another food-rules bureaucratic oversight. My advice is to have humus with your potato chips (vegetable). Peanut butter does double duty as a protein, or is it really a vegetable because it grows in the ground? Best idea: broil or barbecue a luscious steak once a week. Oh, and considering the cost of quality meat these days, remember the less pricey egg substitution thingy.

Oils & Fats Daily Units: 2-3 tablespoons
I’m sure we didn’t have this category when I was growing up. Some people would count the fat on the steak or pork chop but your daily salad dressing about takes care of this. Then again, mayo is simply too useful to be relegated to one category alone. Browsing the salad dressing section of the supermarket is a culinary education in itself about combining flavours. French fries (veg) have a foot in this camp, while nuts and seeds (protein) could be discretionary.

A laminated full-colour QuickSheet (Stuffing Your Face at a Glance) will soon be available upon request. Patent pending.

People, if all this gets too complicated, there is an alternate solution. The joy continues. You can turn your life around with the sublimely encouraging words of Alex Levine, whoever he is:
"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat."

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