Anyone looking for a job, interviewing or beginning a new job wants to feel good in their bodies, right? You want the confidence and energy to show your prospective employer who you are. And if you’re already working, you’ll want a fast and easy way to make sure you eat healthy, every day. By changing up your diet, you can conquer all the daily symptoms of poor nutrition, as well as prevent lifelong health challenges. This is the first article in a series describing techniques for navigating workplace challenges involving food and how to make it the healthiest possible.
Why are Americans so unhealthy?
Americans eat way too much, way too often. Did you know that over 70% of Americans are overweight? This number increases to 90% when it is based on a BMI of 23 instead of the 25 that’s usually calculated. That’s a difference of about 12-15 lbs. Even a few pounds of extra weight may increase your risk of death. Now I don’t mean to scare you, but you are responsible for your life and your lifespan. You DON’T have to die from diabetes, cancer, dementia or heart disease. Sickness and chronic disease are NOT the normal consequence of aging.
And that’s what I’d like to concentrate on today. The S.A.D. diet is making us sick and fat; S=Standard, A=American, D=Diet. So, we NEED to change our lifestyle completely in order to avoid these chronic diseases and live productively. Currently, 60% of our diets come from processed foods, this includes everything from Fast Food to commercially baked products and cereals, frozen foods and bad oils. 30% of our calories come from animal products and only 10% come from plant sources—fruits and vegetables (and most of these calories are from white potatoes and ketchup). That is truly SAD.
What is a Nutritarian Diet?
What we NEED to be eating is REAL WHOLE FOODS, high in nutrient density, low in calories and wonderfully flavorful. Think of it as a “Nutritarian Diet.” Carrots, strawberries, chicken, and oats are examples of whole foods, and green vegetables should be at the center of every meal. Having a salad for lunch with your own homemade dressing is delicious and nutritious! Here’s how to make it easy.
Besides vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are the best items to add to your diet if you’re currently eating the S.A.D. diet, or anything close. These foods are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats and have properties to assist you in preventing cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
Salad Prepping for Lunch:
One obvious way to add these foods is to make salads for lunch, and prep them all each weekend. Make your shopping list, including a variety of greens (arugula, collard or mustard greens, watercress, chard or any of the lettuces), and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, kale and my favorite, brussels sprouts. These vegetables give you the biggest “bang for your buck” nutritionally, with nutrient dense vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Better yet, go to your local Saturday market, in season, to find fresh, organic produce.
Next, chop all the greens, place them in individual glass or ceramic* containers for your 5-day work week, then add a few or a bunch of the following: any of the cruciferous veggies, olives, cooked and cooled black beans, kidney beans, or chickpeas, ground flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, etc. You get the idea—change it up and make each one interesting and unique! You may also add some hard-boiled egg, cheese, meat or fruit—choose any type of berry, fresh, frozen or dried, for a multi-dimensional flavor profile. *The use of plastic containers risks ingesting microplastic particles, considered toxic to your health and the environment.
For a nutritious, healthy dressing, try homemade vinaigrette. Commercially prepared marinades, sauces and dressings usually contain bad oils, considered toxic to your gut, added sugars and extra salt. Making your own dressing ensures ingestion of healthy ingredients with “good” fats and without the salt and sweeteners. See below for an easy recipe which makes it possible to experiment with variable amounts, ingredients and tastes.
Make Your Own Dressing:
Start with the basics: oil, vinegar, mustard, salt/pepper. For the oil, choose extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, coconut, walnut oil or make it a combination (these are considered the “good” fats). Vinegars come in sooooo many types, it’s fun to practice with a variety: champagne, rice, white wine vinegar for mild flavors, cider and rice vinegar for something sweeter, and sherry, red wine, Worcestershire sauce or any of the balsamic vinegars for a more pungent flavor. You may also use lemon or lime juice. Avoid plain white vinegar as it is not suited for this usage.
Top off your nutritionally superior salad with 1-2 Tablespoons of healthy homemade vinaigrette dressing and you’ve got lunches for the entire week!
Simple Vinaigrette Recipe
¾ c. oil
¼ c. vinegar
½ tsp. salt
1/8 to ¼ tsp. black pepper
½ to 1 tsp. Dijon or other grainy mustard
Optional Extras (choose 2-3 to taste): 1 minced shallot, 1 minced or grated garlic clove, 1-2 Tbls. minced herbs, 1-2 tsp. minced red onion, 1-2 Tbls. finely grated cheese, ½ to 1 tsp. raw honey or pure maple syrup
- Assemble your ingredients. Measure each into a blender, bowl or jar with lid. Add mustard, salt and pepper and all the optional ingredients.
- Combine the vinaigrette. There are 3 methods to emulsify the dressing. You may whisk with a fork or whisk, blend with blender or hand-held immersion blender, or shake in a jar with a lid. Emulsification combines the oil with the vinegar but this will be temporary and will need to be repeated prior to each use.
- Taste the Vinaigrette. Dip a salad leaf into the dressing and give it a taste. Tasting with the greens gives you a better idea of how the flavors will combine.
- Adjust the taste. Add more oil for a more mellow taste and more vinegar or lemon juice for tartness and any other ingredients to taste. Whisk, shake or blend again.
- Use the dressing. For a salad with 2-4 servings, start with a tablespoon of dressing, toss and continue adding until greens are evenly coated and look glossy. Serve immediately. If taking to work, place dressing in a small single-serving container and place with salad container in the fridge. Apply dressing immediately before eating your salad. Enjoy!
- Store the vinaigrette. Transfer leftover dressing to a jar or covered container. If fresh ingredients were used, like lemon zest or shallots, it will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Otherwise, you may store at room temp; for longer storage up to 2 weeks, store in fridge.