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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Healthy Eating Is All About Substitutions

Yesterday I wanted the equivalent of my favorite roast beef sandwich, which previously consisted of soft white bread or artisan sourdough, mayo on both pieces, thinly sliced onions topped by roast beef (from the deli or my own oven) and sea salt. Perfect for me in its simplicity and the wonderful things this does to my senses.

So yesterday I fixed two healthier versions to see which fit my craving best or even exceeded it. Both started out with a huge leaf of romaine lettuce, one slice of deli roast beef on each, which was longer than the lettuce leaf. For the first, I added sliced black and green olives, diced tomato and onions, along with a drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of S&P. This is a very plain-Jane olive salad, used on muffulettas and such. For the second, I added onions and a bit of horseradish mustard.

Both were good but didn't hit my expected mark.

Later that day I ate a quick snack, which was nothing more than two deli slices of roast beef, each rolled around half a stalk of green onion; the mostly white part went in one, and the mostly green part went in the other. Next time I'm gonna slice the green onion lengthwise and then halve it. That way the mild onion taste is mixed in with the more bitter parts. No oil added much less anything else. And this hit the spot. This was the taste I was wanting.

And I thought it had more to do with the mayo. [At this time I'm avoiding all dairy as it does lead to a stuffed nose at nighttime. Plus the MSG hidden in most brands of cream or half-and-half gives me a facial itch and redness irritated by the scratching/rubbing or even worse makes my eyelids itch unmercifully, akin to poison ivy. Since I can't put Benadryl on my eyes, I flush it out of my body by drinking copious amounts of water, plus applying olive oil carefully to my lids and just waiting it out. Takes about two hours. Not fun. But as I've mentioned in other posts, my body is a highly effective MSG detector.]

The moral of this story is: pick out the best complements within each of your fave foods and leave out the rest. For instance, I have this recipe for date nut cake from my paternal grandmother. It is better than dark chocolate most times, and I'm a severe chocoholic. But let's not discuss that now while I'm doing without all forms of sugar (day four, folks!). Or for that matter, the date nut cake. I'll be quick about it to make my point.

My grandmother's date nut cake is... Well, there aren't adjectives to do it justice. But you know what? I found a date stuffed with a walnut is the essence of that cake, without the added sugar, white flour, much less all the time and effort and heating-up-of-the-kitchen-in-the-Texas-summertime involved.

So find the heart of the foods you love and distill it down to the healthier core.

Experiment. Have fun. Take good care of you.

Denise Barker, author + blogger + copy editor

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