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March 2004 Issue
HOW to Eat Right.
by Michael Fick
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Whew. Need a breath.

  • Gravy.
  • Toppings, such as chocolate or caramel.
  • Burritos, tacos, enchiladas, refritos (refried beans), etc.
  • Cake.
  • Pie.
  • Calzones, ravioli, etc.
  • Cheese.
  • Quantities of red meat (beef, pork … mammals in general).
  • Yogurt.

If that’s your grocery list, there’s a good side: it means there’s room for major, easy improvement in your diet. It’s easy to go cold turkey on the crap above the “whew”, and you won’t even miss most of it. Better yet, the list below the “whew” is easy to buy and prepare in very healthy, tasty ways. In fact, if we eat right most of the time, occasional moderate raids above the “whew” are fine.

To wean yourselves of the crap above the “whew” line, study the list and your grocery nutrition labels (see Feb 2001 H&F) to identify it, then consciously scorn it. Keep it out of your grocery basket, your car, your home, your fingers, your face, your school menus. Don’t pick it up at parties or the office. Learn what to eat instead of crap, such as olive oil instead of butter/margarine and whole wheat Fig Newtons (aka the Anti-Oreo) instead of most other cookies. (Betcha can eat just one!) Tell friends you plan to stop eating from the first list and encourage them to razz you if you backslide.

Below the “whew” lies room for a great deal of culinary pleasure and healthy eating, as long as we select and prepare it right. All this can be bought in low fat versions and prepared in ways to cut the damage even further while enhancing the flavor. (Watch out; low-fat often means high sugar, 90% fat-free = 10% fat, and the sat fat in even low-fat burgers is a far bigger threat than mad cow disease.) My wife’s enchiladas and fajitas and lasagna and stews and chili and casseroles are high in fiber and good fats and very low in bad fats, and taste better than most restaurant versions. Their only penalty is the calories in the second or third plateful, but at least those can be burned off in exercise. (The bad fats ubiquitous in the above lists harm us even if we burn their calories off.)

Her shopping and preparation methods are a blueprint for healthy, delicious, diet-free, satisfying eating. Read the labels on the ingredients you buy to keep sat fats down. Put plenty of the inherently healthy, low-fat foods such as vegetables, fruit, and whole grains in your market basket and make them the predominant food in your life. Replace sat-fat-laden ingredients with low-fat versions or cut them way back or leave them out altogether (very few recipes need butter/margarine), and use seasonings to replace any lost flavor. The results usually taste better than the old recipe and are far healthier.

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