Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean eating bland foods made with expensive ingredients that are hard to find. Our guests talk about how to introduce more fish and healthy fats, less gluten and less salt into your meals without a lot of fuss or fancy cooking techniques. They also discuss how to use spices and herbs to create flavor combinations that will keep you and your family satisfied at every meal.
- Diane Morgan, author of Salmon: Everything you need to know + 45 recipes
- Jessica Goldman Foung, author of Low So Good: A guide to real food, big flavor and less sodium
- Allyson Kramer, author of Naturally Lean: 125 nourishing, gluten-free, plant-based recipes all under 300 calories
16-27 Healthier Eating
Marty Peterson: A few weeks ago we presented a story on those foods we crave – barbecue, meat and comfort foods. Those dishes are great and they’re fine for our health as long as we don’t overindulge. This time around we’re going to discuss healthier fare and how you can make just a few changes in your cooking habits to achieve it. Just because something is considered “healthy” doesn’t mean it has to be flavorless and contain a lot of strange ingredients that you can only find in certain grocery stores. Our guests say that just being aware of what you eat – what’s on the package label, how to buy and cook fresh foods and how much salt and fat is in the product – can go a long way toward creating a flavorful meal and a more nutritious one. First is Diane Morgan, an award-winning cookbook author who is a huge fan of salmon. In fact, her latest cookbook is all about America’s third favorite seafood – behind tuna and shrimp. It’s titled Salmon: Everything you need to know + 45 recipes. Morgan says that salmon is one of the healthiest proteins out there, and contains substances that protect many parts of our bodies…
Diane Morgan: It’s considered a “superfood”. Anytime you read articles and books on salmon, they’re talking about how it’s optimal for your health: it’s heart-healthy, it’s packed with omega-3s, it helps lower blood triglycerides, your cholesterol level, it’s an anti-inflammatory, and it’s really great for your eye health. Omega-3s also significantly lower the risk of macular degeneration. So, it’s just all around a great protein source.
Peterson: There are two general types of salmon found in the U.S.: Atlantic and Pacific salmon. Although they are raised in very different ways, Morgan says that their nutritional make-ups are pretty much the same…
Morgan: Atlantic salmon is not available other than farmed because back in the 60’s when they used sonar, they basically fished out the Atlantic of salmon. So, there were just not enough to head back up the waterways to spawn, so they developed the farming practices. Pacific salmon is wild. It is wild caught and most of the salmon coming off of the Pacific is coming out of Alaska, but there are fishing stocks out of Washington, Oregon, and California.
Peterson: “Wild caught” salmon doesn’t always start out its life the way you might think. Although you can find Pacific salmon that was born the natural way, Morgan says that wild caught salmon start out their lives in hatcheries. They are then released into the wild as fingerlings, eating all of the same krill that naturally-hatched salmon do and turning that lovely orange-y red color. Morgan says that when you buy salmon it should look the way all fresh fish should – plump, glistening, no fish smell and – if it’s a whole fish – it should have bright, clear eyes. There should also not be a lot of liquid in the pan it’s displayed in. Salmon – both Atlantic and Pacific – can be pricey, but she says that we don’t need to eat very much of it to enjoy its flavor and health benefits…
Morgan: We have this sense that somehow we should be eating six to eight ounces as a portion of fish, and we really don’t need to be. You know, we can eat three to five ounces. It’s perfectly satisfying for our bodily needs, maybe not for the mouthful, but to eat three ounces of fish and call that a portion size.
Peterson: In her book, Morgan has recipes for Green Curry Braised Salmon, Indian Spice-Rubbed Salmon, and Grilled Salmon Tacos with Chipotle Sauce. You always think of fish as having a “delicate” flavor. Can salmon really stand up to all of those bold flavors?
Morgan: It is strong enough to withstand it and I am really careful about not masking the flavor of any fish I cook, in particular, salmon. So, if there’s a recipe in the book that has the bold flavor, it’s there because it’s complementing the fish and not because it’s overpowering the salmon itself. So I’m really, really particular about that, and salmon can take on, because of the high fat levels in the fish – good fat – that it can take on some of these bolder flavors.
Peterson: One of Morgan’s favorite parts of the salmon is the skin, and she has a recipe in the book for Crispy Salmon Skin – which she calls “bacon of the sea.” Who doesn’t love bacon, but oh, the fat and salt it contains! Well, you can cut down on fat and salt and still enjoy that unctuous pork flavor. Jessica Goldman Foung says all you have to do is make it yourself – controlling the amount of fat it has and eliminating the salt altogether. Foung had lupus-related kidney failure and can’t eat much sodium, so she devised recipes for people who have to watch their salt intake and put them in her cookbook, Low So Good: A guide to real food, big flavor and less sodium…
Jessica Goldman Foung: It’s so simple; it really is just sliced pork belly that you cook in the oven for an hour and that you finish in a hot pan and you season it with all those bacon sweet, savory flavors. With the help of cumin and smoked paprika and a little liquid smoke, if you can do it, and it tastes just like bacon, feels just like bacon, you can use it in any recipe that calls for bacon, and it only has the natural sodium found in the pork.
Peterson: Foung says that we need salt for our bodies to function, and the American Heart Association suggests that we take in no more than 23-hundred milligrams a day, or about one teaspoon. However, most of us take in 4-thousand milligrams a day – but not from the salt shaker…
Foung: The salt from the salt shaker and the sodium from the salt shaker actually only equals about five- to ten-percent of the sodium we’re eating in a day and over 70 percent we are consuming comes from processed or packaged ingredients.
Peterson: Foung says that we like salt because of its ability to enhance foods, such as magnifying and waking up flavors, balancing other tastes and even releasing aromas in food. It also tastes…well…salty, which is satisfying in itself. But we don’t need to add extra salt to enjoy our meals. She even has a favorite “comfort” food that’s easy to make and contains no added sodium – a Ramen noodle bowl in a jar. It’s called “Genmaicha Tea Microwave Soup”…
Foung: You basically fill a microwavable jar, whether it’s a mason jar or something else, with a bunch of raw ingredients. So… sliced bok choy, zucchini noodles, some cooked noodles if you are eating wheat or rice products, sliced shiitake mushrooms have a natural umami flavor, a spice blend, some cooked proteins, and you put it all in this jar and there’s no liquid in it and you throw it in your bag. Now, when you get to work, you actually put in a genmaicha tea bag, which is a green tea with toasted brown rice, has that umami flavor – a savory flavor – and you cook it in the microwave with water. And what you end up with is this very delicate, Asian-inspired, noodle soup that is full of healthful ingredients, it’s super low in sodium, and you will probably never go back to the over-salted stuff again.
Peterson: Foung says that without salt – which, by the way, is the only seasoning besides black pepper that we’re taught to use in this country – food can taste bland. That’s why she says you have to substitute other seasonings in salt’s place to bring out flavors in food, such as curry, cumin, red pepper flakes, and sumac; or trying ingredients that you’ve never used before. But it’s not only salt we crave — we also love fat. It makes food taste unctuous and satisfying, but too much can wreak havoc on our bodies. Not all fats are bad, though, and eating lean doesn’t mean completely eliminating them from our diets. Allyson Kramer has figured out how to make delicious foods with good fats that can keep a body healthy and trim. She’s the author of Naturally Lean: 125 nourishing, gluten-free, plant-based recipes all under 300 calories. But what are the “good” fats?
Allyson Kramer: I think the typical guideline is around 25 grams of fat, and with those fats, you want to really seek out non-hydrogenated types of fat – nothing that comes from a chemical processing plant. I recommend foods that are high in fat, and also in nutrition, such as avocados or cashews – any type of nuts is really great – and even some high quality oils in moderation: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil – extra virgin is very good for you. If you eat animal products, definitely seek out the ones that are good quality, so I really recommend, if you’re going to go that route, go for grass-fed and know higher fat is better than a lot of the fat-free products that have a ton of added sugars to them and that’s not a better choice, I think, than what nature would provide. So, if you can find it growing in a garden or on a tree, that’s probably a good indicator that the fat is good for you.
Peterson: Kramer cooks gluten-free because she has Celiac disease and can’t eat wheat products. But plant-based, gluten-free dishes are tasty for anyone even if they don’t have any dietary restrictions. It also opens up a whole new area of culinary creativity for the home cook …
Kramer: There is such a great variety out there besides just meat, and I don’t think that anyone needs to cut out gluten unless they have a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. However, it is really nice to add less gluten into your diet, or foods that are gluten-free into your diet, because you’ll really kind of get the benefits of so many great grains that you might pass up otherwise. If you can eat wheat, you would go for whole-grain wheat instead of whole-grain sorghum or chickpea flour or buckwheat or millet or amaranth. All of these, they’re really great grains that I think people should really become familiar with because they’re fun and they’re delicious and they’re very nutritious.
Peterson: They’re also very easy to make. Kramer’s Summertime Quinoa Bowl can be put together in about 30 minutes; and her Zesty Black Bean Soup is just as quick and very satisfying on a cold, rainy day. There are also recipes for those whose tastes run to the sweeter side…
Kramer: I love the vanilla almond granola; I probably eat that at least once a week. I make up a big batch, and I eat it with unsweetened almond milk. I also love the nutty butter cookies. I really do like the summertime quinoa bowl, and one of my favorite recipes that I think is a really neat addition to people that might not be familiar with plant-based or gluten-free eating is that magnificent mushroom pizza because of the crust. It uses chickpea flour and it’s a really simple crust to whip up; you don’t have to have any rising time or anything like that and you can bake it right away and you can put whatever toppings you want on it and it’s high-protein, pretty low fat, and the calories are very full of nutrition.
Peterson: All of our guests suggest that you venture out of your culinary comfort zone this year and try new flavors and ingredients to spice up your cooking and create fresher and healthier meals for you and your family. You can find out more about Allyson Kramer and her book, Naturally Lean, on her website at A-L-L-Y-S-O-N Kramer.com. To learn more about Jessica Goldman Foung and her book, Low So Good, visit her site at sodium girl.com. And for everything you ever wanted to know about buying and cooking one of America’s favorite fish, pick up Diane Morgan’s book, Salmon and visit her at Diane Morgan cooks.com. For more information about our guests, log onto our site at viewpoints online.net. You can find archives of past programs there and on iTunes and Stitcher. Our show is written and produced by Pat Reuter. Our production directors are Sean Waldron and Reed Pence. I’m Marty Peterson.
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