Thursday, March 4, 2010

Eat Real, Unprocessed Foods

The return of warmer days with more sunlight hours means the return of life in the plant world.

We're not quite there yet, but spring is in the air.

It's evidenced in the natural world by the appearance of crocus, new green growth on trees, and in the grocery store by the return of young, leafy greens.

The beauty of preparing meals with alkaline-rich spring veggies is that the taste of spring's bounty speaks for itself.

Complicated recipes and flavor-enhancing sauces are not necessary.

For instance:

1) Wash a bunch of asparagus, snapping off the woody ends. Line a skillet with olive oil and heat it on high; toss in asparagus and move skillet about so the stalks char-grill but don't burn.

Once tender, remove asparagus from the skillet and lay on a large plate or platter. Drizzle with lemon juice and season with cracked black pepper and salt.

For additional color, you might like to grill a medley of vegetables, i.e. add radishes and or organic bell pepper to the skillet with the asparagus.

2) Wash baby spinach leaves and an equal amount of arugula; toss into a bowl. Add a peeled avocado and gently mix into greens with enough olive or walnut oil to coat the greens; top with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and pistachio nuts.

To Serve: Present the plated asparagus and the spinach and arugula salad as a light meal with chunks of crusty bread, and with the asparagus spears, you might like to serve sides for dipping.

Yesterday I briefly mentioned the health benefits of incorporating more and more spring vegetables into one's diet as March progresses, and using vinegar (or lemon juice) over those veggies as a way to bring out the best flavors and as a means of helping sluggish winter-livers detox.

Fresh produce, especially fresh vegetables, is a topic I frequently return to in these posts.

When grocery shopping on a budget for health and wellness, 80 percent of one's purchases should come from the store's edge, starting with seasonal veggies and fruit followed by meat, fish, dairy, and dry bulk foods like grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

In other words, 80 percent of one's groceries should be whole, unprocessed foods or 'real foods' as author Nina Planck calls them in her book Real Food: What to Eat and Why.

On her blog The Nourished Kitchen, Jennifer McGruther challenged readers to eat only 'real food' for at least a month suggesting participants begin the challenge by purging their pantries of processed foods.

I think of processed foods as the packaged, tinned, bottled, and frozen foods found in the middle aisles of the grocery store, the aisles I advocate shoppers spend as little time in as possible by way of staying on budget. (See my 7 in-store budget-wise tips.)

And with the recent news that much of Whole Foods 365-brand bags of frozen organic vegetables are grown in China, it's yet another reason to stick to the periphery of the store where you can buy fresh and seasonal produce.

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