A Temporary Arrivederci and Your Top 5 Favorite Vegetables

Sweet readers!

It’s me, Kris. Hi!

This Sunday, I’m marrying this guy I like, hurricane permitting. And for a few weeks after that, we’re gonna drive around Italy, searching for duomos and large plates of spaghetti. (And wine. Always wine.)

During that time, and Leigh (of Veggie Might fame) will be running CHG. The schedule will stay the same. There’ll just be a slightly different voice behind it – namely, a vegetarian one with cute hair and much better cooking skills.

I really enjoy keeping this blog, and will miss our discussions while I'm away. In the meantime, hope y’all have wonderful Septembers, and I'll speak to you soon!

P.S. Oh, yeah! The results of last week’s Ask the Internet are as follows:

36 votes: Tomatoes

26 votes: Onions

19 votes: Leafy greens (Kale, lettuce, collards, etc.)

17 votes: Bell peppers

16 votes: Asparagus, Broccoli

15 votes: Corn, Peas (all kinds), Sweet Potatoes

12 votes: Spinach

11 votes: Carrots, Garlic, Potatoes

10 votes: Mushrooms

9 votes: Cucumbers

8 votes: Brussels sprouts

7 votes: Avocado

6 votes: Zucchini

5 votes: Beets, Eggplant

4 votes: Artichokes, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Winter Squash (Butternut, Kabocha, etc.)

3 votes: Garlic and onions (whole Allium family), Hot peppers, Parsnips

2 votes: Cabbage, Leeks, Lima Beans, Pumpkin

1 vote: Broccoli Rabe, Celery, Edamame, Fennel, Lentils, Okra, Red Cabbage, Romanesco Broccoli, Yellow Squash

Tomatoes, for the win.

Green Kitchen: Fresh Garbanzo Beans and the Excitement of New Vegetables

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

Don't get me wrong – a good chunk of my love for the greenmarket is love of, and belief in the goodness of, local eating. I like meeting my farmers, I like minimizing my food's road trips, I like the dirt on my kale that comes from nearby. (Okay, I did not love the cocooned caterpillar that came along with that local kale and its local dirt this weekend, but that's my own problems with squeamishness. In theory, I loved that caterpillar.)

But I also fell in love with the farmers market because, during our early courtship, everything was so new. Kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, lambsquarter, Brussels sprouts still on the stalk – my first couple of greenmarket years, I took home something new and strange almost every weekend. I hit the internet and hit the books, and almost every time I added a new and delicious veggie to my repertoire.

I still love the greenmarket, lo these many years later, but things have become a little... predictable. A few extra bucks in my wallet this summer are opening a few new doors – berries, grapes (that actually taste like something!), and endless varieties of stone fruits – but the veggies are all familiar territory. As each veggie comes back into season, sure, there's a weekend or two of excitement, but true vegetal strangers are few and far between.

So I hope you'll allow me a digression from the agricultural bounty of the greater New York area (love you, Pennsylvania peppers!), as I allowed myself when I met an international temptation too strange and exciting to ignore.

Fresh garbanzo beans.

The bin of fuzzy green pods was nestled between portabellos and quail eggs in the Whole Foods produce aisle, and I could not resist. At $4/lb I thought my few experimental handfuls would cost me a buck or so. These beans are so light, though, that my bag rang up at a mere twenty-nine cents. Score one for the beans.

I hit the internet, and hit the kitchen, and here is what I learned:
  1. Fresh garbanzo beans can be eaten raw. Popped out of the pods they look just like their canned and dried cousins, just green. They have a fresh, not particularly strong taste, like starchier edamame.
  2. The internet will tell you that they should be steamed in salt water in their pods. This works, but the pods are so roomy that they become little saline capsules, which then burst in your mouth or in your hands. The beans are still tasty, but they get lost in the saltwater, and it doesn't really work. So, fresh garbanzos edamame-style: technically works, but not so awesome.
  3. If you use the same method, though, but shell the beans first, well bingo, there you go. A quick boil in salted water gives you bright, salty, tasty little beans.
The internet is full of more elaborate preparations, but I like to get to know a new veggie simply, at first. (Okay, I often end up sticking with those most basic preparations – salt, and sometimes oil, usually make veggies taste like their best versions of themselves.)

Next time – if I even see them again, because their appearance was sudden and they may vanish as quickly and with as little fanfare - I may try some sort of pan-frying, with cumin and other chickpea-friendly spices. I bet the green flavors of the fresh beans would play nicely with that. But for now, for my new friend the fresh garbanzo, simple and quick is the way to go.

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If you enjoy this, you might also enjoy:
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Fresh Garbanzo Beans
Serves 2


1/2 lb fresh garbanzo beans (about 1 cup shelled)
1 T (or so) salt

1) Shell the garbanzo beans. They usually pop out easily, but scissors can be helpful.

2) In a sauce pan or small soup pan, bring a couple of inches of salted water to a boil.

3) Add the garbanzos. Boil, covered, for about a minute.

4) Drain, and eat warm or cooled.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Cost Per Serving
134.5 calories, 2.1g fat, 6.3g fiber, 7.3g protein, $0.26

Calculations
1 cup fresh garbanzo beans: 269 calories, 4.2g fat, 12.5g fiber, 14.5g protein, $0.50
1 T salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
TOTAL: 269 calories, 4.2g fat, 12.5g fiber, 14.5g protein, $0.52
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 134.5 calories, 2.1g fat, 6.3g fiber, 7.3g protein, $0.26

Ask the Internet: Top 5 Fruits?

Sweet readers! The results of last week’s Top 5 Vegetables inquiry are coming a little later today. (Hint: Celery does much worse than expected.) In the meantime, we had a few requests for this follow-up question, which could be even tougher to answer.

Q: What are your top five favorite fruits, and why?

A: Mine, in order:
  1. Cherries. I fear death as a concept in general, but mostly because I wouldn’t get to eat cherries anymore.
  2. Pluots. I don’t particularly like apricots, but this plum/apricot hybrid is a genetic anomaly I can get behind.
  3. Plums. There's nothing more satisfying than digging into a cold, juicy plum on a hot summer’s day. William Carlos Williams was right on.
  4. Bananas. Portable, cheap, and packed with potassium, they're the reliable utility outfielders of the fruit world.
  5. Lemons: You can’t eat them by themselves, but they brighten up so many savory dishes, I can’t imagine cooking without them. Also? Lemonade. BAM.
Mangoes, blueberries, limes, and a really good pear just miss my top tier, and cantaloupe, kiwi, and apricots are way at the bottom.

Readers, what about you? Keep in mind we’re going with the conventional idea of fruits here, which means no tomatoes. And again, look for those veggie results later today.

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal: Quick and Tasty Nostalgia

Today on Serious Eats: Pork Roast en Cocotte with Apples and Shallots – an infallible America’s Test Kitchen recipe that tastes as good as it sounds.

I apologize for being horrifically negligent with posting lately. But, woof. Thangz iz crazy here at CHG central. Husband-Elect’s bachelor party was this weekend. Friends and family are already starting to trickle into Brooklyn. And oh, the wedding is Sunday.

Mommy?

Anyway, I’ve been keeping Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal in my back pocket (um, the recipe, not the food itself) for just such an occasion. It’s the world’s easiest breakfast, and will fill you up clear through the next morning. Not to mention: tasty.

There’s the nostalgia thing, too. Like everybody, I’m sure, peanut butter and jelly holds a special place in my heart (um, the idea of it, not the food itself). My mom packed my lunch with PB&J from first grade clear through to sixth. I didn’t touch it for years after that, being as tired of the sandwich as the general U.S. populace was of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” by November 1996.

But now? I will house that sandwich without ever coming up for air. And having a bowl of it for breakfast feels indulgent, like a treat. Like Mrs. Nall let me clap the erasers out back after school, because I scored a 99 on the spelling test. (Note: In the Morissettiest of ironies [meaning, not really an irony at all], I misspelled “sandwich,” adding an extraneous “t.”)

I urge you to commit the oatmeal to memory (um, the recipe, not the food itself). It’s a culinary trip back in time, not to mention a fast meal when the world becomes busier than you ever thought it could.

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If you enjoy oatmeal and related recipes, you might also dig into:
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Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal
Serves 2.
NOTE: This is not my picture, but a placeholder, and a pretty good approximation of the real thing. It comes from one of those ad-drenched blogs that obviously steals content, so I won't link to it here. Apologies to the actual photographer. My pic is coming a bit later.


1 cup dry 5-minute oats
1 cup water
1/2 cup skim milk
About 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 or 2 tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter
1 or 2 tablespoons your favorite jelly
Kosher salt to taste

1) Combine oats, water, and milk in a small pot. Heat over medium.

2) After a minute or two, add vanilla extract, peanut butter, jelly, and salt to taste. Stir to combine, though the peanut butter will gradually melt into the mixture as the oatmeal heats up. Cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) When the oatmeal reaches your desired consistency, taste it. If you’d like a little more of either PB or J, add it in.

4) Serve, and wonder why you’re not eating this for every meal.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
304 calories, 7.4 g fat, 2.9 g fiber, 7.9 g protein, $0.38

Calculations
1 cup dry 5-minute oats: 147 calories, 2.3 g fat, 4 g fiber, 6.1 g protein, $0.30
1 cup water: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.00
1/2 cup skim milk: 45 calories, 0.4 g fat, 0 g fiber, 4.4 g protein, $0.11
About 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract: 6 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.03
1 1/2 tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter: 135 calories, 12 g fat, 1.5 g fiber, 5.3 g protein, $0.09
1 1/2 tablespoons your favorite jelly: 84 calories, 0 g fat, 0.3 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.21
Kosher salt to taste: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.01
TOTAL: 609 calories, 14.7 g fat, 5.8 g fiber, 15.8 g protein, $0.75
PER SERVING (TOTAL/2): 304 calories, 7.4 g fat, 2.9 g fiber, 7.9 g protein, $0.38

Veggie Might: Oooh, Shiny--Sweet and Spicy Jicama Slaw

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

You may have guessed by now, longtime CHG-VM readers, that I am most inspired unfamiliar ingredients. I get distracted by anything the least bit unexpected at the market. I’m like the Homer Simpson of home ec. Oooh, shiny.

So on recent trips to the farmer’s market and neighborhood grocery, despite list/menu plan in hand, I’ve come home with game changers. That’s the joy of the farmer’s market - you never know exactly what you’ll find. Callaloo was a perfect example. Then it was papalo, a Mexican herb.

A few weeks ago, there was a new stand at the market, staffed by a Mexican woman selling the usual carrots, celery, and potatoes, but also poblano peppers, habaneros, and herbs. The papalo, a robust green herb, caught my eye. The woman told me it’s kind of like cilantro and is particularly good on sandwiches and in soups.

How to describe the taste? Well, papalo has a strong, fresh smell and flavor, reminiscent of lemon and tarragon. Does that make sense at all? Just know that it’s strong, you don’t need much, and hey, look over there.

Of course, it wasn’t soup weather at the time (though it has been the last couple of rainy East Coast days). So I decided to use it in a jicama-summer squash slaw recipe I found in Jay Solomon’s The Global Vegetarian, a newly resurrected staple in my kitchen. The recipe called for cilantro, so I went for the easy substitution.

Sweet and spicy, the papalo took the crunchy summer slaw to a place I’d call...Interesting. It was on my Lunch Buddy menu and I almost didn’t serve it to JBF, it was so odd tasting to me. But caveat in place, I sent it along, and she loved it. I took a little longer to get there.

Papalo is pungent and takes some getting used to. I had made a big batch, and by the third serving it had grown on me. What I didn’t know then that I know now: a cilantro:papalo substitution should come in at around 3:1.

That said, the jicama, chipotle peppers, and squash made for a satisfying side salad. Tossed over greens or just on the side of a sandwich, this zippy little number would be a refreshing change of pace at what summer picnics remain.

While it can be time-consuming to julienne a bunch of veggies for slaw, I find it relaxing and therapeutic. (I also enjoy untangling the matted yarn balls that collect in my knitting stash, so there’s that.) A food processor or coarse grater will cut down your prep time enormously.

If you can’t find papalo where you are, put back in the cilantro (or parsley, if you have that sad, sad soap thing) and you won’t be sorry. But if you do, allow yourself to be distracted by the deep green and pretty scalloped leaves. It’s a taste worth acquiring.

(Additional photography by flickr user h-bomb.)

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If you dig this recipe, you may also dig:
~~~

Sweet and Spicy Jicama Slaw
adapted from The Global Vegetarian by Jay Solomon


1/2 large jicama (about 2 cups), julienned
1 medium yellow squash, julienned
1 large carrot, grated
2 chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce), minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp cilantro or 1 tbsp papalo
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

1) Combine all the julienned veggies in a large mixing bowl.

2) Add lime juice, oil, herbs, and spices, and toss.

3) Stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes to combine flavors.

4) Serve this sassy little slaw over salad greens or as a side dish at your end-of-summer barbecue.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
48.1 calories, 3.5g fat, 5.4g fiber, 2.3g protein, $.97

Calculations
1/2 large jicama: 98 calories, 0g fat, 12g fiber, 2g protein, $1.10
1 large carrot: 31.25 calories, 0g fat, 2.5g fiber, 1.25g protein, $0.20
1 medium yellow squash: 31 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 2g protein, $0.75
2 chipotle peppers: 7 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 0g protein, $0.36
1 lime: 9.5 calories, 0.03g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.10
1 tbsp canola oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
2 tbsp p√°palo: 2.75 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.06
1/2 tsp cumin: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
1 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
escarole salad greens: 32 calories, 0g fat, 4g fiber, 4g protein, $1.22
Totals: 192.25 calories, 14g fat, 21.5g fiber, 9.25g protein, $3.91
Per serving (totals/4): 48.1 calories, 3.5g fat, 5.4g fiber, 2.3g protein, $.97

Ask the Internet: Top 5 Vegetables?

Sweet readers, this one was born of a backyard barbecue conversation. It got unexpectedly (and excitedly) in-depth, and it could help to determine future content of the blog (especially recipes).

Q: What are your top five favorite vegetables, and why?

A: Seems like an easy question, right? But my list took awhile. Eventually I came up with:
  1. Sweet potatoes. The candy of the earth.
  2. Red bell peppers. So versatile, so delicious.
  3. Tomatoes. In any form, any time.
  4. Swiss Chard/Kale. Who knew leafy greens could be so tasty?
  5. Onions. Is there food that exists without them?
Eggplant would have been #6. I don't care for radishes (which is why you almost never see them here), and cauliflower has to be pretty heavily doctored for me to dig in.

And with that, I throw it to you. I wonder what will win? We can even post the results on Friday.

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Tomatoes with Balsamic Dressing: A Recipe of Timelessness

Wow, you guys. It’s crunch time. There are less than two weeks to go before our nuptials, and Husband-Elect and I are up to our eyeballs in place cards, strappy shoes (him not me) and various tulle-embellished paraphernalia. The cat must be wondering when he wandered off the streets and on to the set of My Big Fat Swedish Wedding.

If you're unfamiliar with the process, planning a large wedding is slightly less logistically complicated than the Rebel Alliance’s attack on the Death Star. But only slightly. We’re attempting to maintain so many piles of Stuff and spreadsheets and word documents (in Gill Sans, The Official Font of Soon-to-be-Married People), any thought of cooking has perished along with the idea of a comfortable, but supportive bra. I am suddenly very thankful for my years working as an Associate Producer, where the daily tracking of data/minutae rivaled that of the Pentagon.

What I’m trying (rather longwindedly) to say is this: we’re eating things that require as little effort and forethought as humanly possible.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Awesome!

Spaghetti and jarred sauce! A little involved, but okay!

Candle wax? Is it flavored? Sure!

It’s times like these when simple, 10-second salads are vital to preserving any semblance of health. What’s more, they provide variety for a palate increasingly accustomed to tortillas spread with mustard.

Take Tomatoes with Balsamic Dressing. I threw it together for lunch yesterday, and man, it hit the spot. It sated my craving for fresh food and salt, and felt way more substantial than a reg-oo-lar green salad.

Just – you gotta know: The quality of TwBD is entirely dependent on the quality of your tomatoes. You could go at it with anemic supermarket Romas, which will surely be less expensive, or you could opt for greenmarket dealies, which may cost a little more, but will elevate the dish immeasurably. In this case, option #2 was our girl, and it made all the difference.

And now, back to wedding planning. Maybe later, there will be time for some frozen peas and chipotle sauce. *Fingers crossed*

~~~

If this looks good to you, these might look, uh, just as good:
~~~

Tomatoes with Balsamic Dressing
Serves 1


1 1/2 ripe plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Stem tomatoes and cut them into eighths. Place them in a small bowl. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
58 calories, 4.7 g fat, 1.1 g fiber, 0.8 g protein, $0.98

Calculations
1 1/2 ripe plum tomatoes: 17 calories, 0.2 g fat, 1.1 g fiber, 0.8 g fiber, $0.92
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil: 39 calories, 4.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.04
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar: 2 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.01
Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.01
Freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.01
TOTALS/PER SERVING: 58 calories, 4.7 g fat, 1.1 g fiber, 0.8 g protein, $0.98

Saturday Throwback: The Problem With Diet Foods

Let’s get this out of the way up front: I eat diet products. I drink Diet Coke, dig low-fat granola bars, and am not ashamed to love No Pudge brownies as if they were my own mother. Moreover, I challenge anyone who insists that their yogurt tastes better than Weight Watchers’ Amaretto Cheesecake brand to an all-out dairy war. (Note: I will win.)

Like most people who’re even slightly concerned about the magnitude of their bum, diet products are a part of my everyday life. I buy them regularly because they let me think that I care about what I eat, without actually having to care about what I eat. And in a world of 770-calorie Strawberry Frappuccinos and Deep-fried Cheesecake, doesn’t that borderline awareness count for something?

As it turns out, maybe not.

A flood of recent studies and articles claim that many diet foods may not be as beneficial as they initially seemed. While they can keep calorie counts down, there’s apparently a link between consumption of certain products and the tendency to be overweight. Some foods have even been found to flat-out promote obesity in animals, as well as high cholesterol and other exciting conditions.

I don’t mean to condemn diet products altogether, but these findings definitely raise some questions: like what, exactly are the problems with them? How do we address those issues? And in the long run, does it even matter? Let’s explore.

THE PROBLEMS

Diet products may cause overeating. This occurs in two ways. The first happens when an individual gorges on a diet food, since she believes it won’t hurt her as much as the full-fat version. (There’s even a name for it: “the SnackWell Syndrome.”) The second cause of overeating, according to Time Magazine’s Alice Park, is that “people are preprogrammed to anticipate sugary, high-calorie fulfillment when drinking a soda or noshing on a sweet-tasting snack. So, the diet versions of these foods may leave them unsatisfied, driving them to eat more to make up the difference.” In other words, you’ve initially tricked your brain into less calories, but your body won’t stand for it later.

Diet products might help people develop tastes for full-fat versions of the same food. One study suggests that this might be especially true of children. Says Sarah Kliff of Newsweek: “when we eat diet foods at a young age we overeat similar-tasting foods later in life, suggesting that low-cal foods disrupt the body's ability to recognize how many calories an item contains.” Think about it: if you’ve gobbled fat-free hot dogs your whole childhood, doesn’t it make sense that you’d wolf down the full-fat varieties as an adult?

Diet products can cost more. If you’ve ever priced shredded cheese against lower-fat versions of the same brand, this may ring particularly true. It may only be a $0.10 or $0.20 difference, but they add up over time. The most egregious example of this trend, however, is the rise of the 100-Calorie packet. You know, those baseball-sized bags of wafers purchased for $3.99 when three cookies would cost a fraction of the price? According to Morgan Stanley food industry tracker David Adelman, “The irony is, if you take Wheat Thins or Goldfish, buy a large-size box, count out the items and put them in a Ziploc bag, you’d have essentially the same product.” [Peters, NY Times.]

Diet products contain more artificial flavors and preservatives. This is more my own observation than the research (so please take it with a grain of salt), but diet foods seem to have lots more chemicals than their regular counterparts. Compare the ingredients of Lay’s Classic Potato Chips (Potatoes, Corn and/or Cottonseed Oil And Salt) with those of Lay’s Light Original Fat Free Potato Chips (Potatoes, Olestra, Salt, Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Tocopherols, Vitamin K, And Vitamin D). Though I’m sure an abundance of cottonseed oil isn’t spectacular for the heart, isn’t olestra the stuff that “may cause anal leakage”? (Mmm … anal leakage.) Yikes.

THE SOLUTIONS

Shop smart. Nowadays, it’s pretty commonly accepted that the prices of nutritionally sound eats are too high. Yet, with a little planning and some strategic shopping, whole foods are as affordable as a pack of low-fat Twinkies (and they’ll satiate longer, too). Making a plan, drawing up a list, shopping the perimeter, clipping coupons, stockpiling, and ESPECIALLY paying attention to circulars are just some of the brainy strategies available to anyone with healthy ambitions.

Read nutrition labels. If you do buy a processed diet product (and who doesn’t?), take the time to scan the Nutrition Facts and ask some questions: what’s the saturated fat content? How many calories are in a serving? In what order are the ingredients listed? Are you comfortable with all the additives? Once there’s a better understanding of what goes into a product, your perspective on it might change. For help with decoding, here’s the FDA’s guide to food labels.

Eat real food. Straight up, it’s better for you, and there’s an easy guideline to separating the real from the processed: “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” (Thanks, Michael Pollan [yet again]!)

Cook. Preparing meals at home instills healthy habits, encourages quality time with family, and allows eaters to know exactly what’s going into their dinner. It de-emphasizes diet products and promotes a reliance on whole foods, as well.

Limit portions. Admittedly, I haven’t read French Women Don’t Get Fat, but friends and reviewers sum it up thusly: Gallic chicks eat almost whatever they want, but know when to say when. Conversely, we Americans aren’t raised to savor taste; we gulp our food down, and then look for more. That means one thing: dude, we need to get on the ball. Reasonable quantities are essential to both a balanced lifestyle and weaning ourselves off diet products, and the American Diabetes Association and Mayo Clinic have more.

Drink water. In almost every article I read, diet soda was cited as a main villain in the product studies. Water is free, abundant, crazy-healthy, and can actually be very tasty.

THE CONCLUSION

While I hardly think diet victuals are the devil, this research has helped convince me of something: we gotta try to eat right. That means no (or fewer) shortcuts. That means fruits and vegetables, rice and grains, and lean meats and fish (environmentally sustainable fish, of course). It means cooking and keeping a careful eye on what’s piling up in the pantry. It means indulging intelligently and avoiding chemical-laden science projects that attempt to pass themselves off as actual edibles.

Alas, nobody’s perfect, and being on-point all the time is exhausting. But, if once - just once - I can sub an orange in for that 90-calorie pencil-sized granola bar, at least it's a step in the right direction.

FURTHER READING/SOURCES

Can Sugar Substitutes Make You Fat? by Alice Park (Time, 2/08)
Diet Soda No Better for You Than Regular by Marisa McClellan (Slashfood, 7/07)
Do Diet Foods Lead to Weight Gain? by Alice Park (Time, 8/07)
Four Ways Not to Lose Weight by Sarah Kliff (Newsweek, 10/07)
The Oreo, Obesity, and Us by Delroy Alexander (Chicago Sun-Times, 8/05)
Skip the Diet Soda by Lucy Danzinger (SELF, 3/08)
Snack food companies are placing bigger bets on smaller packages by Jeremy W. Peters (New York Times, 7/07)

(Photos courtesy of Things, ecandy, and DK Images.)

Top Ten Links of the Week: 8/13/10 - 8/19/10

As promised!

1) Money Saving Mom: How do You Feed Hungry Teenagers Without Breaking Your Budget?
I have never seen a human being eat so much in a single day – or sitting – than my brother did at age 15. Moms, I salute you, and I salute your suggestions in this extensive comment thread. Now, who’s up for half a pizza?

2) Village Voice: The 10 Easy Diet Rules of the Sietsema Weight Loss System
Number six is a little strange, but this common sense approach to dropping a few pounds from the Voice’s food critic is worth a gander.

3) Lifehacker: Master the Art of Low-Effort Cooking
Behold! It’s all your rice cooker, microwave, and hot pot questions, answered! If I had read this in college (heck, if the internet existed like this in college), I would have eaten far fewer chicken fingers.

4) Jezebel: The Hierarchy of Food Needs
Interesting pictorial representation of what humans require from food, moving from rock-bottom basic needs to more extravagant wants. It goes a long way towards explaining hunger and obesity in America: when folks don’t have access to the basics, it’s foolish to think they’re going to give a flying you-know-what about much beyond that.

5) Serious Eats: 6 Ways to Build Your Spicy Food Tolerance
Also effective for iocane powder, for your inevitable battle of wits with Vizzini.

6) The Simple Dollar: 48 Things Frugality Has Taught Me
What a neat read. I’d love to do something like this soon. What about you guys?

7) Lifehacker: Keep Your Eyes on Your Food to Avoid Overeating
More evidence that visual cues are invaluable to gauging the amount of food we consume.

8) Huffington Post: The Myth of Superfoods
There’s more, but here’s the main thrust: “If you want to get the most from your diet, you're much better off focusing on dietary diversity rather than loading up on the top 10 foods some magazine says you should eat more of.”

9) The Kitchn: 9 Essential Things for a Joyful Gluten-Free Life
You guys! Who can’t do the Wheaties! Look at this.

10) stonesoup: 7 Tips for Cooking with Vino
Number 4: “Don’t expect all the alcohol to be removed by the cooking process.” Say wha?

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Casual Kitchen: Who Does the Cooking in Your Home? The Results May Surprise You
Via Twitter, Dan asked followers who did the majority of household cooking. 80% of the time, it’s the ladies.

New York Times: For Moister Chicken, Tuck the Flavor Inside
Chicken wraps, in which the chicken is the wrap.

The Simple Dollar: The Challenge of Couponing
Interesting take on coupon sites. Dunno if I agree, but if you have a couponing problem, yo, Trent solves it.

Thank you so much for visiting Cheap Healthy Good! (We appreciate it muchly). If you’d like to further support CHG, subscribe to our RSS feed! Or become a Facebook friend! Or check out our Twitter! Or buy something inexpensive, yet fulfilling via that Amazon store (on the left)! Bookmarking sites and links are nice, too. Viva la France!

Thank You!

Hi sweet readers,

Links are coming shortly, but I wanted to thank everyone who wrote in to Monday's kitteh-heavy Ask the Internet. Your suggestions have been invaluable, and in the last four days or so, we:
  • Started feeding Tim Riggins like a nine-pound cat instead of a 35-pound dog. This has already made a Hummer-sized dent in our scooping responsibilities.
  • Are gradually switching him from Target brand litter to Feline Pine. I swear, I could taste the clay dust on my tongue last week, so this has been huge.
  • Combed the pet store, reading ingredient lists on cat food bags. We settled on a small bag of Nutro adult, and will see how he adjusts. (Though, I think we'll be okay. This cat eats anything vaguely food-shaped.)
  • Gave him a wine cork, milk container seal, and a paper towel tube to play with. Between those, a $2 packet of jingly balls, and the feather-on-a-stick our neighbors left when they moved, he's been pretty happy.
We're still working on a slight nipping problem, but beyond that, it's all systems go. Thank you again for helping us go from feline-ignorant to feline-semi-knowledgeable.

Links are on their way!

Kris & Husband-Elect

Veggie Might: Traveling While Vegetarian

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Hello from Canada! Bonjour du Canada! My good pal KC and I are wringing out the last bit of the summer travel season with a road trip along the Bay of Fundy to Prince Edward Island.

Almost as much fun as being here (whales! porpoises! seals!), was plotting our course and picking fun things to do with her 6-year-old daughter (whales! porpoises! seals!). My additional task was ensuring there were places for me to eat along the way, here in the land of abundant seafood/fruits de mer.

Vegetarian/vegan travel can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. In my 19 years of vegetarianism, I’ve never gone hungry from lack of choices. There are a few things I do when I’m traveling to unknown locales, but starve is never one of them.

For this trip, and this post, I called on my own Veg Posse (VP) and Friends of the VP to bring you the best vegetarian/vegan travel tips they and the Web have to offer.

Meet the VP:
LEIGH: me, writer/tea-drinker, lacto-ovo vegetarian
DH: roommate/pal, actor/orator, lacto-ovo vegetarian
BA (in absentia): pal, rock star/bon vivant, vegan
LB: pal, rabble rouser/animal advocate, 98% vegan
HC: friend of the VP, giver of good email, vegan

1) Do Your Research
When traveling to an unfamiliar destination, make a plan. Both LB and HC agreed that researching restaurants online is the best way to find veg-friendly places to chow down. Sure, you can get French fries/pommes frites/chips and salad just about anywhere. But sometimes you want a healthier/less boring option.

HC wisely recommends calling ahead whenever venturing out to a new vegetarian restaurant. “One thing I have learnt is that vegan restaurants close down so frequently that information can be out of date. The number of times I have trekked through a town to find that the restaurant is no longer there...rather depressing.”

Get out your guidebooks, interweb resources, and maps, and plot a course for the nearest veg-friendly restaurant. Here are the most highly recommended sites for searching veg-friendly travel.

VEG-SPECIFIC:
Happy Cow.net: Hands-down the most popular and comprehensive vegetarian directory on the Web. You can search restaurants by country, region/state/province, and city. You can define results by veg-only and vegetarian-friendly, user ratings, and/or veg type: vegan, vegetarian, and veg-friendly. Plus, Happy Cow provides other resources, such as travel and health articles, as well as forums for members to share information. I used Happy Cow to find a great vegetarian restaurant in Moncton, New Brunswick that not only pleased my palate, but a picky 6-year-old’s.

VegGuide: A community-maintained veg restaurant and market guide. It allows you to search for restaurants, groceries, and markets all over the world by country, region, and city; describes each entry by “How Vegetarian?”; and allows for user ratings.

Vegan Forum: Message boards like Vegan Forum are a great way to get the skinny on local joints from local folks. After you’ve found a place that sounds good on “paper,” search for it, or ask about it, on a forum and find out if anybody really eats there.

GENERAL:
Trip Advisor: An invaluable resource when planning any trip. You will find user ratings and reviews on hotels, restaurants, and destinations of all sorts. Since I knew seafood would be all the rage where we were going, I did a little digging on Trip Advisor and found several Lobster Suppers with vegetarian options on Prince Edward Island. After emailing the proprietors, I found the one with the best veggie deal for the price.

Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forums: The first (two) name(s) in travel guides for the modern adventurer. Just enter your destination and the word vegetarian or vegan in the Lonely Planet search window, and you’re almost guaranteed to find a thread loaded with information from fellow travelers.

2) Pack a Snack
A frugal traveler of any stripe packs a few snacks or meals for the road (or airport). For a veg, it’s especially helpful if you’re unsure of your options where you’re headed or along the way. BA, rock star and world traveler, always stocks my fridge with single-serve soymilk and soy yogurts when she’s passing through NYC. HC swears by raw cashews and veggie sausage sandwiches. LB packs apples, carrot sticks, and rice cakes for the road. Me? I’m a tamari almond, granola bar, and peanut butter sandwich traveler—plus single-serve almond milk for continental breakfast cereal.

3) Make a Few Concessions
As DH said so eloquently said, “sometimes you just have to give up eating healthy when you travel.” So true, DH. Fast food is inevitable at times, and a moment of calm and surrender can be worth far more than stress about finding organic, seasonal, local produce in the suburban jungle. HC and LB agree, though we all make an attempt to avoid it unless unavoidable. LB says, I just find it hard to patronize places that promote an unhealthy diet, nutritionally, ethically and environmentally, on such a large scale.” Preach it, sister/soeur.

Fast food joints are getting better about offering vegetarian fare. Salads are prevalent, though often less than appetizing; veggie burgers pop up every now and then, though vegans should ask for an ingredient list before ordering. I had a fast-food veggie burger on Tuesday when we kicked off our road trip with the kid’s choice of restaurant, and it was pretty good.

Still, there will be times when your only option is fast food French fries/pommes frites/chips. Remember when you were a kid and you begged to have only French fries/pommes frites/chips for dinner? When you’re a veg/vegan on the road—especially in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.—that kid gets to live his/her dream.

4) Know You Will Not Starve
There will always be something for you to eat. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your waiters and the locals. Someone will be able to guide you toward food you can eat and enjoy.

Since my international travel experience is limited to the Great White North, I put the following question to LB and HC: How do you negotiate what's available/cultural norms/etiquette? Their answers were so brilliant that I’m just going to quote them outright.
    LB: “In my first serious solo trip overseas to Tanzania, I spent the first 2 weeks with a volunteer group working in a local village. The village women were responsible for preparing our meals, which we ate with our hosts. I honestly don't recall if I specified that I was vegetarian but amazing vegan options were available at every meal. Their diet in general is not very dairy-rich, probably due to limited dairy production in [that] area of Tanzania, and also, I imagine, cost. My colleagues were actually a little jealous of my diet, as the meat they were served was generally of the chewy animal sort—not very appetizing! Later, when I did a 10-day walking tour with just me and a guide, I told him I was vegetarian, and so he would buy rice and vegetables in the markets of the various towns and have our hosts for the evenings prepare them for me. I don't recall anyone thinking my diet was odd or out of place and, again, I think this is largely due to the fact that Tanzania is not a wealthy country and so meat, while available, is costly and not served at every meal.”
    HC: “I find that in many countries where they have dietary restrictions for religious reasons, they find it easier to understand the concept of veganism, and it's not so strange to them to hear that someone can't eat something as a result of their beliefs.”
No matter where you go, in the whole wide world, there will be something for you to eat. Except, says HC, maybe in France if you’re a vegan.

If you’d still like a little help explaining your diet, check out this article:
WikiTravel—Vegetarian and Vegan Food

There you’ll find a link to the International Vegetarian Union’s Vegetarian Phrases in World Languages page. You’ll be able to say, “I am a vegetarian. I do not eat meat, pork or chicken./Je suis un v├ęg├ętarienne. Je ne mange pas de viande, de porc ou de poulet,” in a bajillion/baguillion languages.

5. Relax and Enjoy
Sometimes, the best way to plan your vegetarian/vegan vacation is not to plan at all. Just get out there, meet some people, and have fun. And eat some French fries/pommes frites/chips.

All the veg-specific guides mentioned in this article, and many more, can be found at
~~~

If you adored this article, vous adorerez:

Try This: Salted Watermelon

For their wedding favors, my friends H and I gave each one of their guests a small jar of pink, white, or black high-end salt. Husband-Elect chose the latter, which we weren’t exactly sure how to use at first.

Then, a few weeks ago, I bought a 13-pound watermelon. I gutted it, cubed the whole thing, and on a whim, sprinkled a cup with a little bit of the salt.

And? It is CRACK. Juicy, salty, sweet, powerful, cheap, healthy crack. Here’s a picture:

See? Crack. Go try!

Green Kitchen: Gingered Carrot Soup with Lime and Cilantro

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

One thing I love about eating in season is the way it pushes me towards inspiration. Sometimes it's a beautiful bunch of red kale at a farmer's stand, or stalks of fresh Brussels sprouts in the fall. Or sometimes it's a giant bunch of carrots I bought a week and a half ago and totally forgot about.

Nature's bounty and my flightiness would've gotten us nowhere, though – nowhere past weeks and weeks of carrot stick snacks – without a little technological intervention in the form of my brand new immersion blender.

Holy goodness, has there ever been a more glorious kitchen invention? Fill a cup with milk and fruit, bzzp, you have a smoothie. Even better, when it comes to soup – you've got a steaming pot of broth and veggies? Bzzp, you have a silky puree. Oh, and also: YOU DON'T HAVE TO WASH YOUR WHOLE BIG BLENDER.

Sure, you puree soup in a normal blender in batches, but it just takes one loosely-screwed blender bottom and one splatter painting of hot soup up your kitchen walls and down your shirt to scare a lady off of that method for good.

I started with carrot ginger soup and ended up with something a little less sweet, and with a little more kick. It's not very spicy, but the tart lime juice punches it up. As I am, thankfully, not among the disadvantaged for whom cilantro tastes like soap, that seemed like a natural addition. Also because I will put cilantro in everything. Cilantro chocolate milkshakes may be next.

With cilantro and lime you might expect this to taste something like Mexican cuisine, as I did when it was cooking. But it turns out that the ginger, cumin, and coconut oil remind your mouth of curry, too. This is a meal without a country, then, but the carrots, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno all came from the farmers market, so it's at least decidedly local, too.

~~~

If you like the look of this soup, you might also quite enjoy:
~~~

Gingered Carrot Soup with Lime and Cilantro
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side.
Adapted from Epicurious.


2 tablespoons coconut oil (or neutral oil)
5 cups chopped carrots (about 2lb)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons diced ginger (about 1 inch squared)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
5 cups vegetable broth or bouillon
2 limes, zest and juice
cayenne pepper to taste
handful of cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
1 cup Greek yogurt, plus extra for garnish

1) Put a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add oil. When hot, add onions and carrots. Saute until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.

2) Add ginger, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin. Saute 1 more minute.

3) Pour in broth (or bouillon dissolved in water). Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, and cook uncovered until carrots are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

4) Remove soup from heat. Stir in lime juice. Let cool a bit, add cilantro, and puree in batches in a blender, or use an immersion blender right in the pot. Add cayenne pepper to taste.

5) Let soup cool to about room temperature. (An ice water bath in your sink is a good idea here – soup sitting warm for too long can spoil.) Stir in yogurt. Cover soup and refrigerate, at least four hours but preferably overnight.

6) When serving, garnish soup with a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkle of lime zest, and a few cilantro leaves. Pretty and delicious!

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Cost Per Serving
4 servings: 185.5 calories, 8.5g fat, 5.3g fiber, 7g protein, $1.69
6 servings: 123.7 calories, 5.7g fat, 3.5g fiber, 4.7g protein, $1.12

Calculations
2 T coconut oil: 234 calories, 27.2g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.80
5 c chopped carrots: 262 calories, 1.5g fat, 17.9g fiber, 6g protein, $1.00
1 medium onion: 42 calories, 0.1g fat, 1.8g fiber, 1.2g protein, $0.50
2 T diced ginger: 3 calories, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.1g protein, $0.20
1 jalapeno: 4 calories, 0.1g fat, 0.4g fiber, 0.2g protein, $0.50
1 clove garlic: 4 calories, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.2g protein, $.02
1 t cumin: 9 calories, 0.5g fat, 0.7g fiber, 0.4g protein, $0.02
5 c Better Than Bouillon: 25 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.93
2 limes, zest and juice: 8 calories, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.1g protein $0.66
cayenne pepper: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
handful of cilantro leaves: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.10
1 c Greek yogurt (2% fat): 150 calories, 4.5g fat, 0g fiber, 20g protein $2.00
TOTAL: 742 calories, 34g fat, 21.1g fiber, 28.1g protein, $6.74
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 185.5 calories, 8.5g fat, 5.3g fiber, 7g protein, $1.69
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 123.7 calories, 5.7g fat, 3.5g fiber, 4.7g protein, $1.12

Ask the Internet: Feeding a Pet on a Budget?

Note #1: Hello, visitors from Lifehacker! Welcome to Cheap Healthy Good. If you’re new to the site, this post might be a solid way to start. (Or, y’know, just keep reading.) Hope you like the place.

Note #2: Today on Serious Eats: Raw Tomatillo Salsa, a.k.a. The Easiest Recipe in the World.

Sweet readers, I have to apologize in advance for what might be a spotty couple of weeks. The wedding is approaching at lightning speed, work has picked up, and to top it off, we adopted Tim Riggins four days ago.

No, not this Tim Riggins.

This Tim Riggins.


 Last week, Tim was the friendliest young stray cat Husband-Elect and I had ever met. This week, after searching for any sign of local ownership and coming up with zilch, he is our pet. We’ve already been to the vet for a checkup and several shots, and are scheduled for a de-cojone session on Friday.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know the first thing about felines. I’ve never owned one, and don’t even particularly like them. Tim, however, seems to be the exception. It could be his constant purring and general adorability, or the fact that he has not yet peed on my pillows. (Husband-Elect, having had a cat growing up, is slightly more knowledgeable.)

Subsequently, I will have a recipe for you tomorrow, but in the meantime, we’re kind of scrambling to feed this guy. Coincidentally, it leads to today’s normally-on-Tuesday Ask the Internet question:

Q: Do you own a pet? How do you budget for him/her? What do you feed your pet that allows you to optimize its health, but stay within your budget?

A: All suggestions are super welcome, though if you have a cat (or several cats), I’d really love your input. (Also – cats don’t drink milk? They’re lactose intolerant? Everything I know is wrong.)

Thanks, everybody!

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Saturday Throwback: Save Money on Seasonings - MYOM (Make Your Own Mix)

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG archives. This one is from February 2008.

The more I learn about saving cash on food, the madder I get with myself when I knowingly waste money. While this holds true for every aspect of grocery shopping, it’s double the fury when it comes to McCormick-style seasoning packets. Why? Well, almost any pre-packaged spice mix, rub, or powder can be made at home for a fraction of the price. Oftentimes, it’ll taste better, too.

Case in point: I’ve been running out of chili powder for almost a month now. It occurred to me several times to buy some, but always in places like the Q Train or the bathroom at Barnes and Noble. Finally, last Wednesday, I couldn’t wait any longer. My Turkey Chili with Beans needed a massive ¼ cup of the stuff. Pressed for time, I scrounged up a few dollars and hightailed it to Key Food, where naturally, they were all out. Rendered temporarily insane by sheer desperation, I bought a single packet of McCormick Original Chili Seasoning Mix.

It cost $2.39. ($2.39! Seriously! Not kidding! I just about choked.)

Slightly perturbed, I raced back home and immediately Googled homemade chili powders. Turns out, this Recipe Zaar mix could have been made under five minutes with spices I had lying around. Plus? PLUS? My calculations put it at a grand total of $0.18.

Needless to say, duh.

Yet, there was a silver lining, as a post was born. Listed below are roughly 33 recipes for 21 common seasoning mixes. Also included are five excellent Master Sites, in which you’ll discover dozens more concoctions beyond your wildest, spiciest dreams.

With the exception of Essence of Emeril and the Recipe Zaar Chili Powder, I haven’t tried any of these, so I’m referring them blindly. Also, I didn’t include any barbecue rubs. This is for two reasons:

A) There are approximately a billion available all over the web, and

B) I’m a born and bred New Yorker. I don’t wanna embarrass myself claiming to know anything about BBQ. (Bagels and pizza? Another story.)

Enjoy, and please go crazy in the comments section if you know of any other resources.

Master Sites
All Restaurant Recipes
Budget 101
Recipe Goldmine: seasoning search part 1 and part 2
Recipe Zaar: herb & spice mixes and marinades & rubs
Top Secret Recipes main page and search function

Adobo Powder
Chef Michele

Chili Powder
About.com
FatFree.com

Chinese Five Spice Powder
Chow Recipe Source

Curry Powder
Alton Brown/Food Network
Chow

Emeril’s Essence/Creole Seasoning/Bayou Blast
Emeril Lagasse/Food Network

Fajita Mix
About.com
Townie Blog

Garam Masala
All Recipes
O Chef

Herbs de Provence
The Epicentre
Recipe Land

Italian Seasoning
About.com
Cooks.com

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
All Recipes
Astray Recipes

Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Group Recipes

Lemon Pepper
Fabulous Foods

Mrs. Dash
About.com

Mulling Spice
Mom’s Budget
Price Smart Foods

Old Bay Seasoning
Busy Cooks
Cooking Cache

Paul Prudhomme Seasoning
Astray.com (Cajun Meat)

Paula Deen’s House Seasoning
Paula Deen / Food Network

Poultry Seasoning
All Recipes
CD Kitchen

Pumpkin Pie Spice
About.com
Post Gazette

Shake and Bake:
All Recipes
Food Network

Taco Seasoning
All Recipes
CD Kitchen

Top Ten Links of the Week: 8/6/10 – 8/12/10

It's a thought-provoking roundup today, sweet readers. Grab some coffee and start pondering.

1) Wall Street Journal: Changes in Flushing Set Off Food Fight
My family hails from this area of Queens, so I find this story of Asian supermarkets edging out traditional grocers just fascinating. If you sell food, do you cater to the residents who have been there for decades, or the exponentially increasing population of new residents, who have entirely different diets? Will old-school folks accept eel as part of their everyday cuisine? Will recent immigrants develop a love of Entenmann’s crumbcake? How does the shifting ethnic makeup of the U.S. play out in produce?

2) HuffPo: The Dark Side of Vitamin Water
This piece has been making the rounds lately, and we mentioned it briefly in Wednesday’s Nutritionism article. To summarize: Coca-Cola is being sued over the continued existence of VitaminWater, as it allegedly makes unfounded health claims. Coke’s response (and I am not making this up): "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage." Nevermind the word “vitamin” is IN THE NAME. Other choice ad lines Coke denies would give a false impression: “it will keep you ‘healthy as a horse,’ and will bring about a ‘healthy state of physical and mental well-being.’” Mind, consider yourself blown. (Thanks to reader Alice for the link!)

3) Jezebel: Is it Selfish to Throw a Vegan Wedding?
Oo! Chelsea Clinton’s wedding spawned this interwebs mini-tempest. Three or four years ago, I would have thought it was way selfish, especially if a large contingent of guests are avowed meat eaters. Today, that’s changed. Vegan food can be just wonderful, and a well-prepared vegan buffet could shock the beejeezus out of friends and family. (Seriously! Imagine a pasta-themed wedding. No one would even notice the difference. They’d be too busy stuffing their faces.)

4) The Atlantic Food: The Minds Behind the Shopping Carts
Did you know that supermarkets only make 1% or 2% profit off of sales? And that they’re constantly in danger of closing? This are more fascinating facts, including why grocers probably won’t be the ones to lead the war on obesity, found herein.

5) New York Times: Your Tired, Your Poor, and Their Food
How can you not love an opening line like this? “One of the first sights that greeted immigrants in New York, right after the Statue of Liberty, was a prune sandwich.” William Grimes’ detailed, tempting review of two books, 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement and Twain's Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens, will have you clicking to Amazon before you even finish reading.

6) Get Rich Slowly: How I Save Tons of Money By Grocery Shopping Once Every Three Months
Some may find this an extreme way to save cash, and I don’t think I could do it due to space limitations, but you gotta applaud the writer’s commitment and planning. That’s a lot of beans.

7) Kalyn’s Kitchen: Twenty Zucchini Recipes for Sneak Some Zucchini on to Your Neighbor’s Porch Day
Mouth-watering rundown of South Beach-friendly zuke recipes, guaranteed to get use up quite a bit of your summer haul.

8) Lifehacker: Use Your Kitchen Sink to Get Cooking Smells Off Your Hands
Garlic fingers. They’re a pain in the tuchus, right? No matter how many times you douse yourself in Palmolive, the scent can be impossible to clear from your digits. Until now.

9) Len Penzo: The 10 Most Economical Sandwiches
Salami wins! BLTs lose. How do eight other popular American sandwiches fare? Only Len Penzo knows for sure.

10) What’s On My Food?
Wanna know what pesticides can be on which berries? You will never need another similar website again. (Thanks to reader Christy for this one.)

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Chow: What Food to Bring to New Parents
Solid, out-of-the-box advice like, “keep your visit brief. Unless your friend is begging you to stay, 45 minutes is the max. New parents have barely enough time to shower, let alone two hours to sit around and gossip.”

Make and Takes: Wipe-off Weekly Menu Board
Man, this is cute.

Neatorama: Wine Monkey
Speaking of cute…

The Oatmeal: When to Use i.e. in a Sentence
Oops.

The Simple Dollar: A Guide to Using Dry Beans
Quick tutorial on making and using bagged legumes, which I have not yet been able to master.

AND ALSO

Gawker: Share Your Most Spectacular “I Quit!” Stories
Some of these are just fantastic. (Due warning: Some are fantastic and profane.) Here’s mine: one summer in college, I worked busing tables at new (terrible, perpetually empty) restaurant. After receiving no training, a negligible cut of the tip pool, and once, a $30 paycheck for a 20-hour workweek, I tendered my resignation on a cocktail napkin and walked out. It was irresponsible, but felt awesome. The place went out of business by the end of the year.

Thank you so much for visiting Cheap Healthy Good! (We appreciate it muchly). If you’d like to further support CHG, subscribe to our RSS feed! Or become a Facebook friend! Or check out our Twitter! Or buy something inexpensive, yet fulfilling via that Amazon store (on the left)! Bookmarking sites and links are nice, too. Viva la France!

Veggie Might: Lunch Buddies—Share Costs and Get Healthy Together

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

Freelance work is light this month, and I’m finding myself with more time to spend in the kitchen. My good pal JBF, however, is busier than ever.

As are most worker bees these days, she is doing the jobs of several, keeping late hours, and coming home exhausted. She manages to cook healthy dinners, but making lunch to take to work is a challenge.

She finds herself eating on the run, spending insane amounts of money for midtown Manhattan lunches, and making less than healthy choices that sabotage the good work she is doing in other areas.

Since my unceremonious kick to the curb (from the job where I was doing the work of several), I’ve been working from home. For the most part, I have time to cook healthy meals for myself every day. (These habits were already in place, so it wasn’t much of a shift.)

JBF’s struggle gave me an idea. What if I made lunch for both of us—kind of like a personal chef-lite?

The Proposal
  1. Share food costs, saving us both money (I’d make enough for both of us.)
  2. JBF: Kick me a little extra for my effort 
  3. Leigh: Make 5 inexpensive, healthy lunches and snacks per week
  4. Leigh: Provide variety, but dishes can repeat (We both easily lock into dishes we love.)
  5. JBF: Report back with preferences every couple of days
  6. Leigh: Call/email to arrange drop off/pick up
  7. Leigh: Submit an invoice with food and labor at the end of the week
  8. Everybody wins: I stay on a schedule and make a little extra scratch, and JBF gets healthy lunches and snacks for less than she was spending on take out.
While JBF is an omnivore, she eats primarily vegetarian when dining sans hubby. She gave me carte blanche to make the meals veggie, even vegan. She also loves to try new things, so I’m at liberty to be creative. And as we know, keeping it interesting is the golden rule of sticking to any kind of healthy eating plan.

Here’s how it’s been shaking out.

JBF’s Take-out Stats
(click on graph to enlarge)




Lunch Buddy Stats for Week One
(click on graph to enlarge)


That’s over 40%!

Week two demonstrated similar savings, though we operated on a four-day week. So far our little arrangement has been a success! I’m sticking to a meal plan, which is hard for me, as well as experimenting with new dishes. JBF is getting healthy, home-cooked meals delivered to her door (We live near one another; it’s no big.), and we’re both in the black.

We’ve even made time to eat together on occasion, and that’s the best part of the deal.

~~~

If this article had you dancing in the aisles, shimmy on over to

Nutritionism, Your Health, and Your Money

You’ve heard of it. Maybe in a magazine. Maybe in a Michael Pollan or Marion Nestle talk. Maybe on a recent newscast about the lawsuit leveled at Coca-Cola over VitaminWater.

But what is Nutritionism? Why does it get a bad rap? Who is affected by it? What does it cost us? How does it affect our health?

There are many answers to these questions, and we'll try to address them as best we can here. As always, if you have more to say or I get something wrong, the comment section is wide open.

WHAT is Nutritionism?

According to food guru/Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan, who picked up the term from scientist Gyorgy Scrinis, Nutritionism is, “the widely shared but unexamined assumption that the key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient.”

In other words, it dismisses a whole food’s composition to focus on its individual components, which are assumed to be most important to your body. A tomato isn’t necessarily valuable because it’s a tomato. It’s valuable because it’s a vessel for lycopene.


WHY is Nutritionism a not-so-good thing?

In many cases, there’s little research showing these nutrients are beneficial when found outside their native whole foods. The tomato is a complex structure, see, with its own biology and ways of interacting with other produce, grains, and meats. Take the lycopene out, stick it in a supplement, and there's scant evidence to show how it might affect you.

Have doubts? It’s understandable. Billions of dollars are spent telling us how wonderful certain nutrients are, no matter the form. Just remember, as Pollan highlights: “Indeed, in the case of beta carotene ingested as a supplement, scientists have discovered that it actually increases the risk of certain cancers.” Yikes.

Beyond that, there’s another issue. Manufacturers add nutrients to otherwise nutritionally bereft foods, which entice buyers to believe those products are healthier. The Lucky Charms with Calcium and Vitamin D? Likely do jack-all for your wellbeing. In fact, now that you’re eating Lucky Charms every morning, you’re probably worse off.

[Apropos of nothing, as much as I dig Jamie Lee Curtis for A Fish Called Wanda (and adore her husband), I’m pretty sure Activia is just yogurt with a weak laxative.]


WHERE can I find evidence of Nutritionism?

All over the supermarket, man. Specifically in the center aisles. More specifically, on the labels of processed food: “probiotic yogurts; whole grain cookies that are high in fiber; orange juice with added calcium, and so on,” as Kerry Trueman of The Green Fork puts it.


WHO’S pushing Nutritionism?

With apologies to Don Draper, marketers and advertisers.

Why? Well, buyers will pay more for processed food they believe to be healthy, whether or not it’s actually so. The food industry takes advantage of this like you wouldn’t believe.

Consider the granola bar.

Your everyday Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bar, no health promises included, costs $3 for a box of eight. The ingredient list is gigantic, and four of the top seven are some form of modified sugar.

Across the aisle, Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Antioxidants Chewy Bars costs $2.50 for a box of five. With a name like that – all those nutrients! – you’d expect a healthier snack, right? Here’s what you’re paying 33% more for:

Chicory Root Fiber, Rolled Oats, Crisp Rice Cereal (Rice Flour, Sugar, Malt Extract, Salt, Caramel Color, Mixed Tocopherols for Freshness), Sugar, Semisweet Chocolate Drops (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Milk Fat, Soy Lecithin, Confectioner's Glaze [Shellac, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil]), Inulin from Chicory Root, Vegetable Oil (Hydrogenated Palm Kernel, Coconut and Palm Oil), Canola Oil, Fructose, Contains Two Percent or Less of Honey, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Glycerin, Tricalcium Phosphate, Whey, Chocolate, Salt, Gum Arabic, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Sorbitan Monostearate, Polysorbate 60, Vitamin E Acetate, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Zinc Oxide, Almond Flour, Nonfat Dry Milk, Whole Wheat Flour, Partially Defatted Peanut Flour, Soy Protein Isolate, BHT (for Freshness).

Mmm … Partially defatted peanut flour.

(All prices and ingredient lists taken from Peapod.com on 8/11/10.)


HOW are they getting away with this?

Federal regulation of food labels is misguided at best, and at worst, damn negligent. Otherwise, how can you explain VitaminWater?

Essentially, it boils down to this: while the FDA is a little cautious about labels making outright health claims (i.e. “Cheerios prevents cancer!”), it’s generally okay with labels that list food contents (i.e. “Pop Tarts! 20% Daily Value of Fiber!”). So consumers are tricked into thinking an item is healthy, when really it’s the nutritional equivalent of wall insulation.

Not to mention, according to Pollan, “The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.” So there’s that.


WHEN will Nutritionism change?

I don’t know.

I’m not trying to be flip there. Awareness is on the rise, MObama’s programs are receiving a lot of positive attention, and the FDA is trying to do better. So labeling changes may occur in the near future.

How effective will they be? Will they help spawn greater initiatives? Can concern for the greater good overcome the money thrown into advertising? Those questions are harder to answer.


HOW can I avoid being snowed by Nutritionism?

There are three big ways you can avoid the dubious health claims and high prices associated with Nutritionism:
  1. Buy whole foods. They’re healthier and cost way less.
  2. Read a product’s ingredient list, rather than the flashy claims on the front of the box.
  3. Enact change in a positive way. Cook for your friends. Talk to your school boards. Start sentences with, “Oh! You know what I read about CalciPuffs? They’re 0.1% added calcium and 99.9% recycled atomic cardboard.”

HOW can I learn more about Nutritionism?

First, read Michael Pollan’s "Unhappy Meals" article in the New York Times. He explains things far, far more thoroughly than I ever could. Then, check out any of the journal pieces written by Gyorgy Scrinis, a huge influence on Pollan, and the originator of this whole Nutritionism thing. Finally, head over to Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, which discusses the relationship between advertising, Nutritionism, and our health almost everyday.

And that’s it. Readers, what do you think? Did I miss anything or make any errors? (Please tell me if it’s the latter.) I’d love read comments.

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