Tag Archives: Healthy Food habits

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan’s

Found this very interesting book on the library shelf last week while browsing titled “Food rules: An Eater’s Manual”. One of the most interesting and simple books on food I have read so far, and I have read quite a few.

I am one of those “fortunate” people  with whom food has always had an extra special relationship, it has been my friend in many a down ward spiral and has pepped me up a gazillion times, and then when am back to normal, I feel like it is my enemy and that I am always fighting a losing battle against it! Well with this ongoing love- hate relationship between us I am kind of drawn to any book, video et al with anything remotely tied to food. Yeah yeah, after trying umpteen diets and fads I know one needs to be aware of what one eats, why one eats, Should eat at regular intervals, eat healthy etc…  if it were only that easy.. There are just so many contradicting pointers out there it is like a maze, figuring out what to eat and what not.

So sack to the topic at hand, the book – So I pick it up, a simple cover with a long table of contents. The Part I title itself triggered my interest – What Should I eat? that is followed by the 2 other sections What kind of food should I eat? and How should I eat it?

The author has pretty much put together simple facts about food and us into a book. I like the introduction where he basically says all we need to do is “Eat food, not too much, Mostly plants“, he calls them the 7 words which form the essence of all that we need to know about food.

Michael Pollan says that it does not require a nutritionist to tell us what we should eat or should not, what we need to do is follow some simple basic principles, which were the ones our ancestors followed.

He has many more rules in the Book, I am picking a few as examples –

  • Don’t eat anything your Great – Grandmother would not recognize as food. (See for me that would mean letting go of most of the junk food that I am used to having)
  • Avoid foods that contain more than 5 ingredients (You can choose the number of ingredients, just stick to it and see what you will buy! More ingredients mostly means more processing involved)
  • Don’t eat breakfast cereals  which change the color of your milk.
  • Avoid foods which contain ingredients which are not used in a normal pantry. (Xanthan Gum, Ethoxylated diglycerides etc… to name a couple) I like this one which is similar better – if a third grader can’t pronounce an ingredient don’t buy it, simple! 🙂
  • You want to eat junk food? Eat all you want as long as you cook it.
  • If it’s called the same name in all languages it is not food (the author means the brand named products like Big Mac,Cheetos, Pringles and their ilk)
  • Eating what stands on one leg is better than eating what stands on two legs which is better than eating what stands on four legs. {Chinese Proverb} (Plants – one leg,fowl -2 legs,  animals- 4) It does leave out the healthy fish wonder why?
  • Avoid foods with high-fructose corn syrup (there are ads on tv which say the body uses sugar and high fructose corn syrup the same way, but that is not the issue, high fructose corn syrup signifies that the product is highly processed)
  • Avoid foods which pretend to be something else (eg. I can’t believe its not butter – means it is not butter and it is not natural)
  • Only eat food that will eventually rot, as real food is alive and it has to die.
  • Eat more leaves and treat meat as a special occasion food or flavoring.
  • The whiter the bread the sooner you will be dead!
  • If it came from a Plant eat it, if it was made in a Plant, Don’t.
  • Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dinner like a Pauper (well it is kind of the other way around for many of us).


There is a lot more to read in the book, pick it up it has some common sense suggestions. The book is very well written and simple enough to understand and follow. It is a useful book for anyone who cares about health and food, I am sure you will find helpful tips for a healthier lifestyle for you and your family. Like the author says it is not about “nutritionism” it is simply about Food.

A Video of Prof Michael Pollan talking about – Food Rules. I found it very informative and interesting.

Check it out on Amazon

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

10 Healthiest Cuisines From Around The World

What makes traveling around the countries or meeting people from across culture more interesting? If you ask me one of the main things of common interest is “Food”. We all have to eat to survive and good food is an upper like any other good thing! It is that interest which makes a good number of people be adventurous and check out the new restaurant with a “funny” name or try that new dish on the menu which they really are not sure about. Our planet is such an amazing place with the tapestry of cultures interwoven each connected to the other by unknown threads…The differences that make us unique also show up in the ethnic cuisines which are based on the available crops in the region and which are also influenced by the interactions between nations via trade, travel and colonization, which were the beginning of what we see today as the global village.

Examples would be the Chinese Noodles giving rise to the Pasta in Italy, Persian spices becoming an integral part of Indian cuisine etc… Today while reading CNN I found an interesting article about the 10 Healthiest Ethnic Cuisines and that is what today’s post is about. The post is mostly based on Daphne Miller MD’s book The Jungle Effect: The Healthiest Diets from Around the World — Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You.” Daphne is an associate professor in the University of California, San Francisco.

Years back when I crossed the oceans leaving India to join my husband in the US, food was the least of my worries because I grew up with what I believed was “exposure” to the western way of cooking and food habits, Boy! was I in for a surprise?! The my new life changed my view of the world, I realized that in a melding pot of cultures which is the US there are certain places where you can actually find “original” cuisine from a different part of the world and that many mainstream restaurants served what was a mishmash of flavors which went well with the intended clientele!

According to the CNN article the 10 healthiest Ethnic cuisines are the following:

  1. Greek or Mediterranean Cuisine
    image credit @mediterrasian.com

    Traditional Greek foods like dark leafy veggies, fresh fruit, high-fiber beans, lentils, grains, olive oil, and omega-3-rich fish deliver lots of immune-boosting and cancer-fighting ingredients that cut your risks of heart disease, diabetes, and other diet-related ailments.

    The Greeks often share small plates of food called meze, having just a bite of meat along with low-cal, healthy Greek staples like fresh seafood, slowly digested carbs (beans, eggplant, or whole-grain breads), and small portions of olives and nuts. If you’re eating out, order grilled fish and spinach or other greens sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

    “This dish gives you the anti-inflammatory combo of olive oil and greens with the blood-pressure-lowering effects of garlic,” says Daphne Miller.
    What to Watch out for – E.g. Spanakopita the Greek Classic spinach pie has layers of dough with butter in between can be calorie and fat laden like a bacon cheese burger.

  2. California Fresh
    image credits@blueheroncatering.com

    California Cuisine is about eating fresh, local ingredients simply prepared and one does not need to live in California to practice that life style. Eating plenty of disease-fighting, naturally low-cal, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables from a local farmers’ market or farm is good for your body, and it’s satisfying, says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., Health magazine’s senior food and nutrition editor.

    “Foods grown locally are going to taste better and may have more nutrients,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., Health magazine’s senior food and nutrition editor, while produce that’s shipped cross-country after being harvested can lose vitamin C and folate, not to mention flavor.

    What to Watch out for – Adding high fat cheese or other unhealthy additives to the fresh food defeats its purpose and is not “waist friendly”.

  3. Vietnamese

    Fresh herbs, lots of vegetables and seafood, and cooking techniques that use water or broth instead of oils — these are some of the standout qualities of Vietnamese food. Real Vietnamese cuisine is less about frying and coconut milk, but more about use of spices and flavorful broths etc.

    Traditional Vietnamese flavorings (including cilantro, mint, Thai basil, star anise, and red chili) have long been used as alternative remedies for all sorts of ailments, and cilantro and anise have actually been shown to aid digestion and fight disease-causing inflammation.

    One of the healthiest and most delicious Vietnamese dishes is pho (pronounced “fuh”), an aromatic, broth-based noodle soup full of antioxidant-packed spices.
    What to watch out for – While eating out watch out for fried stuff and fatty short ribs on the menu.

  4. Japanese
    image credits@takashisedona.com

    Okinawa in Japan is well known for the longevity of its residents, many of them live a healthy and full life past 100! Miller while travelling through Okinawa found that not only the Okinawan’s healthy, their food habits were simple and easy to follow. “Not only are Okinawans blessed with a diet rich in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables, but they also prepare them in the healthiest way possible, with a light steam or a quick stir-fry,” Miller explains.
    They also practice Hara Hachi Bu, which means “eat until you are eight parts (or 80 percent) full,” she says. These simple diet rules may be why people in Japan are far less likely than Americans to get breast or colon cancer.Japanese staples that are amazing for your health include antioxidant-rich yams and green tea; cruciferous, calcium-rich veggies like bok choy; iodine-rich seaweed (good for your thyroid); omega-3-rich seafood; shiitake mushrooms (a source of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and folate); and whole-soy foods.
    Best items to order in a Japanese Restaurant according to Miller are the Miso soup or the vegetable tofu stir fry!
    What to watch out for  – White rice can cause a spike in blood sugar, so ask for brown rice, rich in fat-burning resistant starch (RS).

  5. Indian Cuisine
    Image credits @aashirwadrestaurant.com 

    Indian cuisine brings to mind the smells of spices, colorful curries, naan bread etc… The spices don’t just add to the taste but they also have plenty of health benefits associated to them. Turmeric a staple in almost all curries is an anti-inflammatory and also helps in preventing Alzheimer’s. Turmeric and ginger help fight Alzheimer’s, according to recent studies. Researchers point to the fact that rates of Alzheimer’s in India are four times lower than in America, perhaps because people there typically eat 100 to 200 milligrams of curry everyday.
    Finding healthy wholesome dishes in an Indian restaurant is easy if you know what to look for. Daal is a lentil cooked with turmeric, fennel seeds, tomato etc. Lentils and vegetables is a safe bet. Yogurt and lentils are very good for the digestive system as they provide folate and fiber.

    What to Watch out for – Any thing deep fried e.g. samosas, fritters etc… curries with cream, butter, coconut milk etc.. those are all loaded with empty calories.

  6. Italian Image credits @azcentral.com Italian food brings to mind Pizza, Lasagna and other cheese laden American favorites, but in reality the food is healthy when eaten right. Italian food is about fresh ingredients, Olives, Spinach, Tomatoes, Oregano, parsley, basil etc… One of the best ways to get cancer-fighting lycopene is in cooked tomato products: a half-cup of tomato sauce has more than 20 milligrams. Plus, garlic and traditional Italian herbs provide vitamins A and C. And olive oil helps lower cholesterol, fight heart disease, and burn belly fat.
    Italians when using cheese use hard cheese like Parmesan etc grated in small amounts.
    What to watch out for – Cheesy pizzas, lasagna etc.. loaded with fat and empty calories.
  7. Spanish Image credits@mediterrasian.com The Spanish tradition of eating tapas (small plates of food): “I love the idea of being able to sample little portions of tasty, healthful foods and making a dinner of it,” Largeman-Roth says.The Spanish eat tons of fresh seafood, vegetables, and olive oil — all rock stars when it comes to your weight and well-being. Super healthy dishes to order: gazpacho (full of cancer-fighting lycopene and antioxidants) and paella (rich in fresh seafood, rice, and veggies).What to watch out for? Avoid fatty sausages and fried items, which can show up on tapas menus in the United States.
  8. Mexican Image credits @q80s.com Authentic Mexican cuisine can be heart-healthy and even slimming, our judges say. In fact, a Mexican diet of beans, soups, and tomato-based sauces helped lower women’s risk of breast cancer, a study from the University of Utah found.And the cuisine’s emphasis on slowly digested foods like beans and fresh ground corn may provide protection from type 2 diabetes.”Slow-release carbohydrates have been shown to lower blood sugar and even help reverse diabetes,” Miller says.
    What to watch out for –Go easy on the chips and dips, keep away from deep fried stuff and also too much of the queso dip.
  9. South American Image credits@ brazil4tour.comWith 12 countries within its borders, South America has a very diverse culinary repertoire. But our judges applaud the continent’s traditional diet of fresh fruits and vegetables (including legumes) along with high-protein grains like quinoa. In fact, a typical South American meal of rice and beans creates a perfect protein, Largeman-Roth says.
    Instead of the whole steak opting for the Ceviche is a healthier option when eating South American food. Ceviche is a mélange of fresh seafood boasts a variety of healthful spices and ingredients, from cilantro and chile peppers to tomatoes and onions.
    What to watch out for – Deep fried dishes made from yams, bananas, sausages etc… 

  10. Thai
    Image credits @cityofangelsfestival.com Thai food has come to be synonymous with coconut milk cooked curries and other preparations.Can a soup fight cancer? If it’s a Thai favorite called Tom Yung Gung, the answer just might be yes. 

    Made with shrimp, coriander, lemongrass, ginger, and other herbs and spices used in Thai cooking, the soup was found to possess properties 100 times more effective than other antioxidants in inhibiting cancerous-tumor growth.

Okinawa in Japan is well known for the longevity of its residents, many of them live a healthy and full life past 100! Miller while travelling through Okinawa found that not only the Okinawan’s healthy, their food habits were simple and easy to follow.
“Not only are Okinawans blessed with a diet rich in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables, but they also prepare them in the healthiest way possible, with a light steam or a quick stir-fry,” Miller explains.

They also practice Hara Hachi Bu, which means “eat until you are eight parts (or 80 percent) full,” she says. These simple diet rules may be why people in Japan are far less likely than Americans to get breast or colon cancer.

Japanese staples that are amazing for your health include antioxidant-rich yams and green tea; cruciferous, calcium-rich veggies like bok choy; iodine-rich seaweed (good for your thyroid); omega-3-rich seafood; shiitake mushrooms (a source of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and folate); and whole-soy foods.

I was impressed by the list of cuisines, many a time I tend to mark off cuisines in its entirety as “healthy” or “non-healthy” now I realize it is not really the cuisine that is not healthy, it is my habit of not making an informed decision which is at fault. If I take the time to find what goes into a dish, how it is cooked etc… eating healthy should be a breeze! Here’s to a healthy lifestyle! baby steps 🙂

Source Article in CNN

Read the Health.com article by Annie Corapi

Check out the Book by Daphne Miller at Amazon

The Jungle Effect: Healthiest Diets from Around the World–Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You

Healthy Snacks For A Healthier Lifestyle

Summer the season for fresh produce in the local farmers markets and the farms in around the suburbs… It is the perfect time to start a healthy and sustainable way of living. Enjoying fresh farm grown produce, be it fruits or vegetables is such a pleasure.

Summer is the time when every one feels more hungry and the days definitely are longer and we are all more active too. The easy way would be to just reach for the candy bars or the ice -cream sandwich which feels so good when we enjoy it but really does nothing to the hunger.

Most of the snacks we get are loaded with sugars and fat which while adding unnecessary calories does not help satiate our hunger. In my quest to make summer healthier I put together this  list of healthy snacks:

From the kindergartner to the kid in you these snacks suit everyone in the family 🙂 –

Dried fruits mix – I buy Pecans, Walnuts, Peanuts, Raisins and other dried fruits (I like:) ) and make my own mix. I mix the nuts up with a drizzle of honey and roast them in the oven at 300F for 15-20 minutes and give them a good shake together and keep them in airtight jars. Keeping them all roasted and ready in different bowls and letting your little one make his/her own mix is a good way to start a healthy life style really young. It’s fun and Healthy!!

Bake Your Own Fruit Muffins -My favorite snacks have always included muffins and cookies. Now I have adapted my love of baked goods to include healthy baking. I use whole grains, bran, less sugar etc.. to make healthy versions of my favorite sweet snacks. I have substituted butter with apple sauce and have had decent results baking cupcakes and muffins. These are some  of my favorites:

1. All-Bran Chocolate Brownie

2.Healthy Fruit Muffin

3.Healthy Chocolate Muffin

4. Healthy Granola Bars

Cheese – It is just a matter of finding low fat cheeses and keeping the quantity in control. The variety available is mind-blowing, my favorite incidentally is the Laughing Cow wedges which come in different flavors too. One of my favorite appetizers is a slice of pineapple, an olive and a piece of cheese on a toothpick, try it I like the sweetness of the pineapple with the salty tartness of the olive and the cheesiness of the cheese, simply perfect!

Fresh Fruits – Chopped fresh fruits are always a very healthy snack to go. It is even more interesting when they are cut using cookie cutters, melon-ballers etc… different shapes make it more attractive and fun! I love making flowers (best fruits for flowers – Melons, pineapples, mango, grapes etc..)

Fresh Fruit smoothies – Love making smoothies (has been a favorite since childhood, now I avoid adding the scoops of ice-cream to it 🙂 ) Basically blend fresh fruits with milk and sometimes add nuts to give it a kick. One special one I make is the Apple, Pistachios and Milk smoothie try it you will agree it is yummy!! I use 1% milk and only use a cup per smoothie (there by keeping my calories under control). Some of my other favorites are listed below in the fruit bar category.

Fruit bars I make my own fruit bars by freezing smoothies 🙂  beating together fruits and nuts in a blender and freezing them in yogurt cups,jello molds,  ice trays etc to make healthy natural replacements for ice-cream! best ones according to me :

1. Strawberry banana with either yogurt or milk added  (my secret ingredient with banana is to add half a pod of cardamom for flavor)

2.A Very berry icy –  Strawberries, blue berries, black berries etc any berry you can find and milk. Adding a touch of vanilla adds a different flavor to it.

3. Choco Banana Icy – This one is for the Chocoholic – Banana and milk with a teaspoon of either drinking chocolate or cocoa powder. When using cocoa powder I tend to add a tsp of sugar to it.

4. I also like frozen pieces of fresh fruit when they are in season (it helps to keep cool when out in the sun) Fruits that freeze well – Grapes (especially when they are getting a little too ripe) Water melon (anything which is really juicy will crystallize and it makes it more sweet.

Vegetables cut into small strips with a healthy dip – Dips can be anything from peanut butter to a ranch dressing. I make my own ranch dressing which is lighter, tasty and fresh. With dressings I keep an eye out for the amount of oil and salt I use.

The recipe can be found here >> Easy to make Light Ranch Dressing

This is another dressing which I like to use >>

it is a Soy dressing from Food network

  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy oil
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 generous tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • Salt to taste (I tend to avoid the salt as soy sauce has enough salt for my taste)

Whip all the ingredients together and drizzle on vegetables or salad greens.Enjoy!

Hoisin Dressing: (from the foodnetwork.com)

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients and whisk well to blend. (Will keep in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 5 days.)

Yield: 1 cup

My basic Vinaigrette (I like to make it fresh every time, keeps the tanginess intact)

  • EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)- 4 tbsps
  • 1/4 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • Chopped Fresh Basil,Thyme and oregano
    a Tsp of dried thyme, basil and oregano
  • Pepper and salt to taste

Whisk together the liquids until it becomes viscous (cloudy and white) add spices, pepper and salt to taste enjoy drizzled over your favorite greens!

1 cup of Fresh Lemon Juice

Mint leaves for Garnish

8 cups water + 1 cups of sugar  (heat in the microwave for 4 minutes)

Add some ice to the sugar water mixture to cool it down. Mix in the lemon juice and your lemonade is ready. I serve mine with lots of ice and a mint leaf. Check for sweetness I am tad on the less sweet side.

Enjoy Summer with all the fresh ingredients and flavors at your local Farmers market. It is a fun way to spend time finding healthier produce and also getting to know the producers 🙂 So get out there Enjoy the dog days of Summer!

Live Green!

I would love to add any other ideas anyone would like to add to this list.

Some things which I think will help:

Kidco Healthy Snack Frozen Treat Trays

Lunch Boxes and Snacks: Over 120 healthy recipes from delicious sandwiches and salads to hot soups and sweet treats

Healthy Snacks with Blue! (Blue’s Clues)