macilraithWe all spend some too much time wondering, “What shall I prepare to eat? Can I have a healthy meal and enjoy it?” There is a lot of discussion, magazines articles and TV shows focused on food preparation and eating. Remember that not all foods presented to us are actually good for us. Be wary of the advertising and remember to take time to read the labels of packaged foods.

Personally, I love food from all ethnic backgrounds and cultures, so this gives me a huge repertoire of ingredients. I find there are so many things cultures have in common about food, particularly the basics that are needed for fixing a meal. The differences often are the various condiments, spices, herbs and seasonings to achieve the different tastes.

Here is what I typically keep on hand:

  • The staples — flour, sugar, eggs. (Some of these are used sparingly and tend to last a long time. Baking sweets occurs only for special occasions.)
  • Herbs — I grow my herbs over the summer and they may be picked fresh from the garden. I dry them for use through the winter, but if my house were suited for it, I would grow herbs over the winter indoors.
  • Additional spices, condiments — These are kept in the cupboard for use as needed. Even the dated ones are OK to use: rejuvenate them with a whirl in a coffee grinder (mine is used only for this, not coffee).

Having lived in Southeast Asia, I still like to go to the store to see what is appealing and fresh to purchase: seasonal fruits, vegetables (although I grow many over summer), meats, fish and poultry. I never knowingly buy anything processed or genetically modified. However, I do limit my shopping by planning ahead. Prepare more than one serving and freeze the extra for another day. Should you buy only organically grown? It depends upon what it is. Many foods that are peeled do not make much difference in nutrient value. Ask yourself how the meat was grown (range, stock yard, additive to animal food) and whether the fish and seafood was wild or farm-raised.

For fast preparation, there is nothing quite like a slow-cook stew or chowder for winter done either in a slow-cooker or stove top with the burner on simmer. Simply drop everything in the pot and forget about it until ready to eat! Meanwhile, the house smells wonderful.

Many salads make a healthy meal in short order. You will be amazed with the addition of lemon or lime to balsamic vinegar and oil, plus some herbs for taste. A full meal may include the addition of a protein mixed in. What makes a salad become unhealthy are the excess amounts of ingredients and choice and amount of dressings. A serving is a serving size, not humungous!

Grilling meats either on the stovetop or in the barbecue is an easy preparation (marinades can be done earlier) and actual cooking time is relatively short. When grilling, roasting, baking or barbecuing, fix enough for another day and freeze the remainder.

Buying frozen, prepared items usually costs more, takes same time if not longer and they often contain preservatives, coloring, and chemicals you really do not need to consume. Either way, it usually takes about 15 minutes to a half hour, the same as it would if you cooked from scratch.

My best advice is: keep it simple and buy fresh whenever possible. Serve only what is considered an appropriate amount. Otherwise, the healthy becomes overabundance. Enjoy eating your favorite things in moderation — it is easier than you think!

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