Hello Readers! Okay, I will be honest with you: I am not the healthiest person in the world. I don’t buy organic. I do love baked goods. I eat sweets and drink soda. And I am not the best at maintaining a workout schedule.
But I do balance my bad habits with good ones. I substitute healthier options often. I avoid processed foods whenever possible. And I maintain a healthy balance of proteins, produce, and carbs based on the Choose My Plate standards found at ChooseMyPlate.gov
If you haven’t heard, the Choose My Plate initiative stresses the importance of produce–primarily vegetables–and whole grain over processed foods and enriched flour. The initiative stresses that half of your plate should feature vegetables, while the other half is split evenly among protein and carbs. And for as long as I can remember, I have followed this guideline in my own diet for the most part. In fact, I was quite surprised to find this new standard among our food guide instead of the Food Pyramid from my childhood. But times are changing.
Growing up, I remember always having a protein, a carb, a vegetable, and salad on the table. I don’t know why my family always had salad on the table, but it was always added to our plates, and we typically had equal amounts of everything on our plate. This meant that half of our plates would be vegetables–one quarter was salad, and one quarter was the vegetable option of the night.
I get that many of us have a hard time fitting fresh produce into our diets, and I can tell you that I am not always a fan myself. But, I definitely think it’s something we should try to teach our children. In our home, dinner always features a vegetable in some form. Last night, it was featured heavily in our Cobb Salad. The night before, we had steamed green beans. The night before that, we had pork fajitas with double the onion and bell pepper. Tonight, I am making Jambalaya with a salad on the side–and if you’ve ever made Jambalaya then you know it features celery, bell pepper, garlic (the “Trinity” of cajun cooking), and tomatoes.
And with this, I’m making a healthier substitution of brown rice rather than white. I supposed I could make it even healthier by using quinoa or wheat couscous, but we happen to like brown rice in our Jambalaya. I often try to find healthier substitutions when it comes to carbs for my cooking and baking. Instead of white rice I use brown rice or quinoa. Instead of white bread and buns, I use whole grain (and the first ingredient is whole wheat flour). Instead of all-purpose flour I use whole wheat flour. I make black-bean brownies over regular brownies. I substitute banana for egg in recipes. I make baked zucchini sticks over fries. And I cook with healthier meat options over fatty ones. I often look for ways to make my recipes healthy without sacrificing flavor.
There are many different websites out there that contain a vast amount of information on healthy substitutions. I highly recommend checking out the ChooseMyPlate website because it contains so much information on food totals, what equals a serving size of various foods, how to get the most food on your budget, and a host of other fascinating articles and posts that aim to educate about the importance of healthy options over unhealthy ones.
I also recommend AllRecipes.com. This site, of course, is dedicated to recipes and contains more information about various recipes. There is always something new featured in their collection, and the recipes all come from users rather than from a certain personality or celebrity. It brings the cooking back to your kitchen and aims to provide recipes for practically anything to its users.
Above all, I recommend finding a balance in your own diet–or your own eating habits–between flavor and healthy options. If we always eat the healthiest option out there and always sacrifice flavor, then we lose the purpose of cooking and of good food. So, dear readers, what substitutions do you make in order to find that balance in your cooking, or what tips can you offer with regard to filling your plate with veggies?