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Finding and Creating Healthy Recipes

 In order to understand the basics of healthy eating, one should do a review of the new and improved Food Pyramid that the United States Department of Agriculture came up with a few years ago.  With the food pyramid you can create your own meal plans depending on whether or not you are trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight.  However, this can be time consuming between calorie counting and trying to squeeze in that last serving of vegetables.  Perhaps the easiest way to start a lifestyle that includes healthy eating is by making a list of all the recipes you want to eat, start cooking, make variations, and then save them in your own personal healthy recipes cookbook.  You can even put your family name on it and start a healthy eating tradition that you can pass on down for generations!  Here’s how to start:

• Make a list of your favorite fruits and vegetables
• Write down your favorite beverages (including sodas and flavored ones).
• Write down foods you love to snack on (including the fatty fried ones like chips).
• Write down your favorite style of foreign foods (Chinese, Greek, etc).
• Write down recipes that you may already have and love.
• Make a list of salt and sugar alternatives in addition to herbs you like.
• Think about whether or not you want organic food to be at the foundation of your healthy recipe cookbook.
Now, if you aren’t used to some general concepts in healthy eating, doing these seven things could take some time.  To help, it’s important to show some details about each bullet point mentioned.  First, if you don’t like many vegetables or fruits, add foods like chocolate and cake next to a particular fruit or vegetable to make them seem more appealing.  For example, I came up with apple chocolate and zucchini cake.  Another alternative is to simply add the word dessert to the end of a vegetable or fruit.  For example, I came up with carrot dessert and kiwi dessert.  Alone, kiwi and carrots may not sound that appealing.  But you can see how adding on the word dessert, a word traditionally associated with something that tastes good, makes it easier for us to include more fruits and veggies to our list.
Second, if you find your list of favorite beverages include soda products like Coke and alcoholic beverages like vodka or rum, you may think of giving up.  But do not give up just yet.  You can turn these things into something great.  For example, you can make alcoholic smoothies but adding things like frozen fruit, sugar-free sherbet, and lots of ice to your favorite drink.  So, instead of just drinking rum, you can add “Strawberry-Bannana-Sherbert” to the word Vodka and automatically you have added some very healthy vitamin C and potassium to what was previously just empty calories. 
Third, the snack foods can make it seem impossible to eat healthy.  But, imagine eating chips you baked yourself at home!  I personally love Doritos.  Doritos are pretty much cheese fried on potatoes.  So, if I find a recipe for baked chips, adding some black pepper and cheese to it, adds not only more flavor than the Doritos, but also a healthy herb and calcium to the previously recipe of pure saturated fat.
Fourth, most people do enjoy eating some kind of foreign meal every once and a while.  Lucky for most Americans, in moderation, a lot of foreign food has great health benefits.  But again, moderation is the key.  So if you want to eat that Sweet and Sour Chicken meal at your local Chinese restaurant, think about keeping it to just once a month.  Although other international foods from Greece and Japan are traditionally healthier, still it must be kept in moderation.
Fifth, regarding writing down healthy recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation isn’t for everyone.  After all, not all grandmothers spent hours in the kitchen daily feeding families of six or more in the 1950’s.  If you do not have a list of your favorite recipes, ask other relatives, friends, and neighbors to let them give you their own.  Ask them, in particular, for something you’ve had of theirs before, maybe at a birthday party or for dinner on Christmas Eve.
Sixth, unless you are a registered dietician with years of education in nutrition, it is highly doubtful you would know of the many alternatives of salt and sugar in the food market these days.  However, you can still make the list by asking someone in your local grocery store or even reading about it online.  This is an important part of your healthy recipe cookbook as most recipes call for some use of salt and sugar, each being a culprit in chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood sugar.
Lastly, think about your budget and which foods you can buy that are organic.  The science behind organic vs. highly processed foods is very clear and whenever possible you want to buy organic.  But again, let this be in moderation, so the change is gradual.  For example, next time at the store, buy one or two things that are organic.  Organic bananas are popular and pretty widespread.
Now, once you have completed your own personal recipes, start searching online for unlimited free access to other healthy eating recipes.  Simply type in the phrase healthy recipes and pages of FREE recipes will pop up as links!  To make the process of finding health recipes simple, try to keep each search category specific.  For example, spend one day looking for main dish recipes and another looking for desserts, otherwise you will be overwhelmed. If you want to spend money, an alternative to searching online would be to buy a healthy eating cookbook from your local bookstore.  The benefits of a cookbook would include the fact that they always traditionally have photos and provide very specific directions making it almost impossible to ruin a new healthy recipe.  However, take my advice; you should spend your money on buying ingredients for your fiesta of healthy eating instead of wasting trees and gas getting to a bookstore.  Also, these days some sites provide photos with each healthy recipe.
You can find more information and tools for eating healthy and the food pyramid online at www.mypyramid.gov/

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