01 Dec Honey, What’s for Dinner?
Much of my practice centers around clinical nutrition- I help my patients to change their diets and use nutritional supplements to affect physiological (and sometimes emotional) changes. I am a huge proponent of healthy eating. New research into the area of “epigenetics” tells us that what we eat, what we breathe, our stress levels, how we move, what we drink, our environmental exposures can determine the extent to which our genes are activated and how loudly they speak. There are many factors in life which we cannot control. One aspect of life which we can exert some control over is our diets and now we have scientific proof that changing the diet can affect so many elements of health… right down to genetic expression!
That being said, a healthy diet should be more than just nutritious. It should also be delicious and relatively easy to prepare (unless you have the luxury of the time and energy to make gourmet foods for your family). I have taken to making a menu of what we are going to eat for dinners during the week (lunches are generally left overs) so that I can make sure the pantry is well-stocked and get my nanny to prep some of the ingredients beforehand. This little system has helped dinner hour tremendously! I no longer find that I am staring at the pantry thinking “what are we having for dinner”. I am also seldom without the ingredients I need to prepare the evening’s meal. In addition, some of the work (like cutting up the very hard butternut squash) has been done for me which further simplifies the task.
I am often asked by my patients: “what are you having for dinner”. In fact, this week, I received an email asking for a sample menu for the week. So, in this edition of my newsletter, I’ll share some of the foods that we typically eat during the week.
A few notes on how I decide what we’ll be eating. Here are my guiding principles:
•Variety- I try not to feed the family the same foods too often.
•Mostly plants- I try to keep to a mostly vegetarian diet during the week. We do eat poultry on weekends. If your family members are big meat eaters, I’d suggest trying to make dishes in which animal products are an accessory- not the main attraction.
•Veggies and more veggies: when I prepare meat or fish as a main dish, I add at least 2 veggies as side dishes.
•Whole Foods- I try to make the majority of the meal whole foods based. That means we often eat grains in their whole form (as opposed to pasta and breads- even whole grain pasta and breads). I try to use as few packaged ingredients as possible.
•Food should be flavorfull- I use tons of fresh and dried herbs and spices to add flavor and antioxidants.
So, here are some of our favorites:
1) Fish loaf: made like meatloaf only using canned wild salmon with bones and skin. I add in tons of sautéed vegetables (celery, onions, carrots are favorites) and some dill.
2) Ratatouille: made with loads of vegetables. I often add beans as a source of protein.
3) Stir fry: we often use tofu (marinated in a mix of peanut butter, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce- yum) or tempeh for added protein. This is an easy dish to make using frozen veggies when I’m in a pinch. On other occasions, I serve the tofu as a starter in miso soup (so quick and easy to prepare and a favorite with my kids).
4) Spaghetti squash with sauce made of fresh tomatoes, sautéed onions and garlic, fresh basil and olive oil. I often add pine nuts and some parmesan cheese.
5) Bean chili: I sauté onions, garlic, carrots, celery, chopped peppers, and tomatoes with cumin, chili powder, cilantro and then add beans (I use dry beans but you can use canned beans in a pinch). If your family are meat eaters, try this with some ground extra lean beef or turkey added (as opposed to having the meat be central).
6) Baked wild salmon: fresh lemon juice, some dill and maybe a splash of white wine. So easy and so good.
7) Eggs for dinner: I use omega eggs and either make omelets loaded with sauteed veggies (onions, spinach, tomatoes, exotic mushrooms like shiitake and oyster) or as a frittata in the oven.
8) Falafel night: chickpea patties with loads of veggies, hummus, and tahini
9) Mexican night: my version of Tex-Mex food and very quick and easy to prepare. Brown rice, black beans, and high quality salsa in a pot. Serve of whole wheat wraps/ tortillas along with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and more salsa.
10) Risotto: sautéed onions and spinach. Add cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric. Stir in and sauté the rice. While the rice cooks (add one cup of liquid at a time as with typical risotto recipes), bake cubed butternut squash until tender. Add red lentils to the pot in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Also add the butternut squash and some raisins if you like. I sometimes serve this with chopped almonds.
11) Soups: thick and hearty with tons of vegetables and either lentils or beans for added protein. Served with some sprouted grain bread (alternatively, I use barley/ rice/ or wheat berries in the soup), this can be a meal in its entirety.
12) Pasta: on occasion, cooked al dente for a lower glycemic index. Soba noodles made of buckwheat offer a nice alternative which is gluten free. I serve with a sauce made of sautéed vegetables and some beans for protein. One example would be sautéed onions, garlic, greens (spinach, bok choy, and arugula are favorites), tomatoes, exotic mushrooms, with basil and a splash of white wine.
13) Salad Nicoise: a huge base of veggies with half a hard boiled egg, some salmon or sardines, fine cheese, nuts and seeds and a dressing made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and loads of herbs and spices.
Side dishes include the following:
1) Grains: brown/ wild rice, quinoa (a favorite), millet, wheat berries, barley, buckwheat.
2) Starchy vegetables: roasted beets, carrots, parsnip, sweet potatoes, squash.
3) Cruciferous vegetables: I try to eat a serving many days of the week. Other than broccoli, cauliflower, kale (but my kids don’t love it), Brussels sprouts (but, I will freely admit, I don’t love them), what this often means is cabbage. My kids love chopped purple cabbage stewed with some apple cider vinegar, chopped apples, and raisins. Often I simply make a simple coleslaw. Again, my kids love the slaw with craisins/ raisins, nuts or seeds (for crunch and healthy fats) and a dressing of olive oil, vinegar, and a splash of agave.
5) Chopped veggies: in a pinch, I take out cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks, and some pepper slices and we eat them with hummus.
These are some of our family favorites. I do enjoy cooking but, beyond that, I consider it my duty to feed my family nutritious and delicious foods! I hope I’ve inspired you to do the same! If you have some good recipe suggestions, please feel free to email them to me. For now, Bon Apatite!
Please Note: This information is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a licensed health care practitioner is recommended for anyone suffering from a health ailment. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact Dr. Leat Kuzniar, ND at 201-757-5558 or, through email at dr*******@ve*****.net.