Friday, March 20, 2009

Diet for a Recession? More Veggies, Please!

I don't know about you, but I'm certainly watching what we're spending at the grocery store lately. We are trying to keep an eye on our savings and so I'm afraid to be spending too much on food. Typically it's one of the bigger chunks of our weekly budget, because I always rationalise putting unnecessary items in the grocery basket with one word: yum.

When I go shopping just for vegetables, as I do sometimes at a nearby organic veggie-only store, I find that the total is usually pretty low. By contrast, when we buy meats or fish in a specialty shop, or when they are part of a big grocery bill, the total is a lot higher. Animal products tend to be more expensive. So if you're trying to save on your food bills, and you've always wanted to explore vegetarianism, this might be the perfect time to try it out.

An example of a low-cost, yet completely nutritious vegetarian meal I'll be making this week is Swiss chard with lentils. I paid $3 for the organic chard, $1 for a can of crushed tomatoes and I'll be using about a dollar's worth of brown rice and dried red lentils as well. That's about $6 for a meal for four.

Of course, it calls for garlic, onions, spices and olive oil and these add to the cost but they are staples in my kitchen so I don't factor them as an added expense for this meal. In fact, I often modify how I cook dishes according to what I have in the fridge so I don't have to shop for items I'll use only once or twice.

Here's how to make Swiss Chard Lentil Stew

- Put 1 Tbsp of olive oil in large pan on medium heat and saute 2 chopped garlic cloves and a small diced onion for 5 minutes
- Add in 1 cup of red lentils and 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of broth (of your choice) and bring to a boil
- Meanwhile, wash and rip Swiss Chard leaves into pieces that are a couple of inches across
- Chop 2 inches off bottom of stems and the rest into one inch chunks
- Place large pot of water to boil on the stove and add in chard stems
- Once water is boiling, add in ripped leaves and boil for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside
- Back to those lentils.....boil until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes, then add in a small can of crushed tomatoes, 1 tso dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and pepper and the cooked, drained chard
- Stir, bring to a simmer and stir and simmer for 5 minutes until lentils are soft enough
- Adjust seasonings to taste: if you like tart, you can add in 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar; for spicy add 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce; for savoury add in 1 Tbsp soya or tamari sauce
- Serve over brown rice for a vegetarian meal with complete protein

Friday, March 6, 2009

Acidic Diets - Don't Get Burned

Alright, I'd like to stand up and admit I have a problem. Now that I am doing double duty as working mom and stay-at-home mom I am relying on frozen entrees to save me time on dinners. And lunches at work are sometimes provided during lunch hour meetings or when I get a quick minute to run to the cafeteria. Let's just say that finding leafy green vegetables is a near-impossibility. I'm eating a lot of foods that aren't fresh, a lot of meats and breads.

These foods have an acidic effect on the body when they are broken down and digested. This means that what they break down into are molecules with a low pH, and an excess of these can slightly alter your body's pH to be more acidic. This is a problem because our bodies ideal pH is slightly on the alkaline side. When we become more acidic, our body's processes don't run as effectively and some believe this can cause us to become sick.

You know that craving you get when you have a cold and you can't wait to gulp down a huge glass of orange juice? That's your body sending out a message for more alkaline foods. Orange juice, when absorbed by the digestive system, provides alkaline (higher pH) molecules. When people get colds, their bodies typically become acidic and eating or drinking alkaline foods can often make them feel much better. This is one of the reasons Vitamin C (an alkaline-producing vitamin) is recommended for colds. A swig of very alkaline-producing apple cider vinegar, while horrible-tasting can instantly make you feel better when you have that achey acidic feeling.

Right now I'm really craving some fruits and vegetables to get back into a more alkaline mood. I know that I don't have a lot of spare time in my schedule so I'm going to have to do a grocery run that gets me some "green foods" which can easily be prepared and gobbled up by the Bug and me. I want items that can be added to soups, sandwiches, or go into quick salads. I'm looking for veggies that are easy to cook, and fruits I can peel, cut up and store in glass containers in the fridge for easy snacking. Here's my shopping list:

- frozen spinach
- kale
- Swiss Chard
- Brussels sprouts
- blood red oranges
- mangoes or papaya
- pineapple
- watercress
- mixed greens
- hothouse tomatoes
- avocadoes

Hopefully you, too, can use these suggestions to keep your own diet on the alkaline side, without being a slave to the stove.