Healthy Meals Dont Have To Be Boring

If you been through a grocery check-out or bookstore lately--or even taken a look at the food section in the paper--you've probably seen some great recipes that inspire you to eat more healthfully and enjoy meals that tantalize your taste buds while sustaining your body. But "eating healthy" is more than great recipes... it's a way of life. It's planning, shopping, and thinking differently about food. Truly, removing the stress from the process of creating meals is a major component a healthful diet.

First of all, what is "healthy food"? Current nutritional consensus holds that healthful diets consist of lean meats and fish, whole grains and fewer processed foods, which tend to have more added sugars, starch and less fiber. Fiber is known to be especially beneficial and whole grains are a great source, but so are nuts and leafy green vegetables. Lastly, a truly healthful diet has reduced amounts of fat, sodium and added sugars, all of which are plentiful in processed foods.

"Fat" is a bit of a dirty word in nutritional terms, but--in its best forms--is necessary and even beneficial. Limit butter, and opt for a drizzle of good olive oil on bread and in cooking. For cooking at higher heats, grapeseed oil is a great choice.

To support your healthy eating plan, stock your pantry wisely, focusing on the kinds of cuisine you and your family prefer. Start with the basics: good olive oil, reduced fat/sodium broth, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, dry beans and lentils. Then if you particularly enjoy Tex-Mex, add good chili powder, cumin, oregano and tomato paste. If Asian fare is always a favorite, keep low sodium soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil on hand, along with longer grain rice... you'll always be able to whip up a fabulous meal with some fresh lean meat and vegetables.

A well-stocked pantry includes fresh dried spices that allow you to experiment with flavors and make otherwise bland dishes really "pop"! Buy your spices in the bulk foods section of your favorite grocery store. These will be fresher and more flavorful than the jarred variety...especially if your spices came WITH your spice rack! Throw those out and start over with fragrant, freshly milled spices that you store in air-tight containers.

With your pantry all put together, you're ready to start planning some meals! A little extra prep time when you come in from the grocery store will make subsequent dinner projects quick and easy. Apportion fresh meats into ziploc bags with marinades right away. Those you won't eat in the next day or two can be frozen for extra time to take in flavor! Plan more than one meal in a week that use that same fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs--wash and chop those right away.

For the busy family cook, concentrate on meals that can be put together in 20-30 minutes. Chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, fish and seafood are all choices that do not require lengthy cooking times. Add a quick-cooking grain, steamed vegetables or a salad and you've got a well-balanced, tasty and healthful meal in no time!

Here are a couple of great recipes to get you started.

Moroccan Spiced Pork Tenderloin

Tender, juicy pork tenderloin is a cinch when you follow these simple rules. Sear the meat over medium high heat to seal in the juices. Use a food thermometer and make sure you only cook the meat to 150 degrees. Let the meat rest (covered loosely with foil) for at least 5 minutes after you remove it from the oven.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 pounds pork tenderloin

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine spices in a small bowl. Season pork on all sides with spice mixture.

Heat oil in 12-inch ovenproof skillet on med high heat. Sear tenderloin until brown on all sides (about 4 minutes).

Place skillet in oven, bake for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 145-150 degrees.

Remove from pan. Cover pork loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

Serves 4

Couscous with Dried Fruit

Couscous has got to be the quickest side dish on earth. Add your favorite herbs, spices, veggies and even nuts to make your own signature dish.

1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
3/8tspcinnamon, ground
1tbsp butter or olive oil
3tbsp dates, chopped
3tbsp cherries, dried
3tbsp golden raisins

Bring broth, salt, cinnamon, and butter or oil to a boil. Stir in the couscous, dates, cherries, and raisins. Return to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Serves 4

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About The Author, Toni Scott
Toni Tanner Scott, Personal Chef and Cooking Coach,