As a registered dietitian, I talk about food a lot, whether it's with my clients, friends, family, or even on occasion with random strangers. Time after time, the "good food vs. bad food" theme ("healthy vs. unhealthy") arises. Usually people start the conversation with statements like this:
- "I only eat gluten-free bread, that's healthy right?" (Gee, I missed the memo on that one)
- "I eat a banana with my yogurt at breakfast – that's bad, right, because bananas have a lot of sugar?" (They do?)
- "Sometimes we eat chips but I know that's bad." (Not if you enjoyed them!)
- "I force myself to eat kale because I heard that it's healthy, but I don't like the taste of it." (That does not sound like fun.)
- "I don't eat anything white." (Oh, so no cauliflower or halibut for you?)
People, people! A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you!
Yes, kale is a healthy food, but what's so special about it? Nothing, really. It's just like any of the other leafy greens and, when eaten regularly and with a variety of other foods, it will give you some vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that your body needs to keep well. And if you like the taste of kale and love eating it, all the better! I happen to enjoy eating kale, but if I didn't, I can tell you how unhappy I would be if I had to eat it only because it's "good for me."
Eating is a lot easier than that! I choose when, what, and how much I eat based on what my body is telling me that I need for that particular time. I choose foods based on flavour, a variety of textures and tastes, and how hungry I feel. This means I include a wide range of foods that will meet my nutrition needs and satisfy my cravings. I do not choose what to eat based on the latest health trends or food fads and I certainly do not buy in to the good versus bad debate.
Speaking of kale, are any of you wondering what to do with all that kale you are getting out of your garden right now? Or, if you do not have a garden, then the kale your neighbours keep giving you?
Here is a list of ideas:
- Steam it and serve it with a little olive oil and lemon juice sprinkled on top.
- Substitute it in your favorite quiche or frittata recipe.
- Make the all famous kale chips (a hit at my house).
- Chop it up and add to your favourite summer pasta recipe.
- Cook it up and freeze it for later to throw in a smoothie with frozen berries for a cool summer treat.
- Mix it up with beans, some cooked quinoa, and roasted vegetables.
- Add it to soups and stews.
Here's a recipe that I adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon that adds an interesting twist to Caesar salad. It's also a great way to use up some of that kale this time of year!
- ½ cup whole almonds
- 1 whole head of garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 4 tsp lemon juice
- One large bunch of kale, torn in to bite-sized pieces
- One head of romaine, torn in to bite-sized pieces
- Croutons (optional)
- Soak the almonds in water for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
- Cut off the top of the garlic head to expose the raw cloves. Cover in foil and bake in the oven at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and golden. Let cool.
- Squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins and into a food processor.
- Add the soaked almonds, oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and ¼ cup of water. Process until smooth.
- Place lettuce and kale in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. If you like a bit of a crunch, add some croutons.