Eat less, move more

It is not home cooking that is to blame for the excess sodium consumption; but rather, it is processed foods and restaurant meals. New guidelines advise cooking at home.

Edamame salade 311 (photo credit: Yakir Levy)
Edamame salade 311
(photo credit: Yakir Levy)
The day after the US government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans came out, we attended a seminar on trends in healthy eating at the Southern California Gas Company Center. At the event Prof. Gail C. Frank of California State University, Long Beach pointed out that the No. 1 nutritional problem in the US is obesity.
Over one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. The guidelines therefore emphasize reducing calories and increasing physical activity. They begin the tips for consumers with the message, “Enjoy your food, but eat less.” The key to reducing calories while maximizing the beneficial elements in foods is to choose foods that are nutrient dense. This means they “provide vitamins, minerals and other substances that may have positive health effects, with relatively few calories.”
In real life this translates into eating “vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, and lean meats and poultry.”
Americans consume far too much salt, and therefore lowering sodium intake is a priority. So is limiting the consumption of foods that contain solid fats, refined grains and added sugars. The guidelines encourage people to eat more produce and dairy foods, to use oils instead of other fats and to choose whole grains for at least half the grains in their diet.
When it comes to children, Frank considers drinking milk so important that she advocates even serving flavored milk, in spite of the extra sugar. She cited research that showed that children who drank flavored milk did not gain weight and consumed more nutrients than children who did not drink milk at all.
Yet this recommendation is controversial. Encouraging consumption of more dairy foods is not warranted by the evidence, according to Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. He also disagrees with allowing up to half of the grains in the diet to consist of refined grains, and recommends that refined grains be eaten only sparingly. In addition, he emphasized that red meat should not be grouped with the other proteins; it should be eaten only occasionally.
Variety is another key word in the latest Dietary Guidelines, for maximizing nutrition as well as pleasure. With vegetables and fruits, there are plenty of options. At the seminar, Robert Schueller of Melissa’s Worldwide Produce said that his company carries more than 1,000 different fruits and vegetables. To illustrate ways to prepare tasty, healthy food, the second part of the seminar featured a cooking demonstration by chef Tom Fraker of Melissa’s. We relished his vegetarian entree of edamame (green soy beans), grilled corn and sweet peppers. Fraker also demonstrated a technique for making healthy wrapped sandwiches. His filling of crunchy vegetables – cabbage, Asian radish, green onions and snow peas – was enhanced with a modest amount of avocado and grilled chicken strips which, he noted, could be replaced by tofu. Although the orange-chili dressing was mayonnaise based, he drizzled it lightly from a squeeze bottle instead of spreading it, so that there was just enough to moisten the filling.
Implementing the recommendations at home might seem difficult, but in our experience it’s a matter of making gradual changes. For us it was fairly easy to make the transition from whole milk to low fat and finally to non-fat milk.
Salt was more challenging. We had often heard that you could reduce salt by substituting lemon juice or herbs. Indeed, over time, we have found that we can enjoy our salads salt-free, flavored only with fresh lemon juice and a little extra virgin olive oil. When we make soup, we first add such flavorings as fresh garlic, hot red pepper flakes, chopped parsley and perhaps some thyme. If the soup still needs salt, we add a minimal amount. For our taste some foods, such as potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and avocado, do need a little salt.
At the seminar we learned that it’s not home cooking that is to blame for the excess sodium consumed by many people. Rather, it is processed foods and restaurant meals. For that reason, the guidelines include advice to cook and eat at home and to prepare meals to take to work or to school.

Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.
This recipe is from Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas. For extra flavor, chef Tom Fraker grilled the corn and then scraped the kernels off the cobs, but you can use any form of cooked corn. The dressing is a vinaigrette spiked with hot pepper sauce and cumin.
If you like, you can substitute lima beans or peeled frozen fava beans for the edamame, or cooked lentils for the corn.
Makes 12 side-dish servings
-1⁄2 cup rice vinegar
-1⁄4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
-1⁄2 cup vegetable oil 1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin 2 tsp. hot pepper sauce, or to taste -Salt and freshly ground black pepper
-2 cups shelled cooked green soybeans (edamame) (or about 700 gr. of cooked pods)
-4 cups cooked corn kernels, cooled
-1 small sweet red pepper, cored, seeded, diced
-1 small sweet orange pepper, cored, seeded, diced
-1 small red onion, very finely diced
-1 small jalapeno or other fresh hot pepper, seeded, minced (see Note)
-1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
For dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk rice vinegar with lemon juice, oil, cumin, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper until well combined.
Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add enough dressing to moisten the salad and gently toss.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and chill for 3 to 4 hours before serving.
Note: Use caution when working with fresh hot peppers. Wash work surface and hands thoroughly upon completion and do not touch eyes or face.
For this dish, we adapted the European technique of crowning baked fish with garlic butter to healthful cooking by making a similar topping from olive oil. Using oil also makes this entree more convenient for Shabbat because it can be served at room temperature, so you don’t have to worry about heating the fish and overcooking it. Part of the spiced garlic oil is used to marinate the fish for even more flavor.
Instead of trout, you can use other whole fish; or use fish steaks and drizzle them with a little of the flavored oil before baking. If serving the fish as a main course, serve a colorful accompaniment, like green beans, snow peas, sautéed zucchini or a big, fresh Israeli salad or green salad.
Makes 4 servings
-4 trout, each about 280 gr.
-3 or 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
-2 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
-2 to 3 tsp. minced garlic
-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
-Salt and freshly ground pepper
-1 Tbsp. minced parsley pinch of cayenne pepper
Snip trout fins and trim tails straight, using sturdy scissors. Rinse trout inside and out and pat dry. Put trout in a shallow baking dish. For marinade, mix 2 tablespoons oil with cumin, garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper in a dish. Set aside 1 tablespoon of mixture to use in sauce. Pour remaining mixture over trout and rub it into the fish inside and out. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make spiced oil to finish trout: to reserved tablespoon of marinade add remaining olive oil, parsley, cayenne and a little salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 200º C. Bake trout, uncovered, with its marinade, basting twice, until a skewer inserted into thickest part of fish comes out hot, about 12 minutes; or insert a knife in the thickest part of the fish near the bone – the trout’s color should have changed from translucent to opaque.
Remove upper trout skin by scraping gently with paring knife. Spoon a little of reserved spiced oil over each trout and serve immediately.