It seems that these days everyone is telling us how to eat to be healthy. Eat this, don’t eat that, this food is now linked to this, and this can happen if you eat too much of that. But it is important to take time to understand the value of the meals you consume, especially in terms of the power of nutritious food on your health and well being.
It can really be overwhelming and easy to get swept up in the powerful tides of experts on health. Everyone has an idea on what to feed our bodies: Anyone from Dr. Oz to your mom, and even the government (yes, even the government – visit health.gov for the 8th Edition of the Dietary Guidelines 2015- 2020).
In honor of national nutrition month, I’d like to share how simple it is to create your own nutritious meals, with all of the good nutrients, and tell you how Meals On Wheels of Tampa provides complete meals to over 700 recipients in the Tampa Bay area every day. I asked my friend and peer, Chef Felicia LaCalle of HealthE Gourmet in Tampa to share easy ways to get the most nutrients from your meals when cooking.
Chef LaCalle says the most important food group to start with, and the one that we can maximize retaining
nutrients from, are our vegetables. She recommends steaming, sautéing or blanching your veggies. How do you know which to steam and which to blanch? She says that typically you want to blanch your green and more fibrous veggies such as green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots to name a few. For softer ones like squash or eggplant, she recommends a quick sauté with olive oil.
How to blanch vegetables: Bring seasoned water to a boil. Depending on the vegetable, you can boil from 25 minutes to 50 seconds. For green beans and more tender veggies, 25- 30 seconds should do the trick; and for more fibrous and thicker veggies, 45- 50 seconds should be enough. Then strain your veggies and dump them in a bowl of ice water to “shock” them. Just a quick dunk will do. Chef LaCalle explains that the blanching process retains the nutrients and vibrancy of your veggies. It also cooks them and keeps them crispy. A last detail is that they won’t turn brown when re-heating for dinner or lunch the next day.
As far as proteins and carbohydrates, Chef LaCalle says that cooking technique really doesn’t change or deplete nutrient levels. It’s all really a matter of preference, so if you like your meats grilled or charred, you’re still getting the same nutrient content. However, always remember that how you cook and prepare your proteins and carbohydrates do make a big difference as to how healthy your meal is: Grilled as opposed to fried, and heavy butter or cream as opposed to lemon or olive oil.
An easy way to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need: Chef LaCalle says that just by seeing varying colors on your plate is a good indication. The nutrients are in the colors! Also, you can obtain important and necessary nutrients by varying your diet. Switching it up allows you access to all the great nutrients nature has to offer.
Meals On Wheels of Tampa provides the variety, portion, and nutrient-rich meals that not only feed Tampa’s senior and
homebound neighbors, but enrich their lives as well. To see how they switch-up their menu with 30 day revolving meal offerings, please visit their site under Programs and Meal Service: www.MOWTampa.org/programs/mealservice. To see their nutritional information, click here.
In need of meal service or know some one that does? Please visit www.mowtampa.org/programs/mealservice.
About Meals On Wheels of Tampa:
Meals On Wheels of Tampa has been committed to nourishing and enriching the independent lives of the homebound and seniors of Tampa since 1975. Today, Meals On Wheels of Tampa serves over 700 people with a hot meal during the lunch hour. Meals On Wheels of Tampa is a 4-star charity and relies on its community for support by not accepting government funding.