It’s January, a time to re-examine those promises we make every year to try to eat better. Rather than attempting to figure out what the newest “superfood” is – a marketing, not nutrition, term – we decided to ask a real dietician and a popular chef whose specialty is healthy eating what we could change in 2021 that would make a difference … without pretending we haven’t just lived through 2020 and getting too hopelessly Pollyanna-ish in our resolutions as we recuperate.
Umo Callins is a registered dietician nutritionist, and board-certified sports dietician, who works with serious athletes as well as regular folks to help them change behaviors that lead to poor nutrition.
What we wish she’d said: “There are shortcuts. Eat these berries. They’ll fix everything.”
The unfortunate reality: “I see people come through my doors all the time who get their ideas about health and nutrition from social media,” Callins (actually) says. “There are no shortcuts. You need a balance of nutrients, quality proteins, non-starchy vegetables and portion regulation.”
Emma Ryan, owner of Plant in Oklahoma City, says eating well doesn’t have to be complicated.
“It’s important to break ‘diet culture,’” says Ryan, a popular chef, instructor and motivational speaker. Her culinary focus is plant-based foods, but she’s more focused on healthy eating than categories.
“Two things everyone can add to their normal diets are leafy greens and whole grains,” Ryan says. “Leafy greens can come in many shapes and sizes. You may think of spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, spring mix, Swiss chard, rainbow chard, butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce or more. Consuming raw leafy greens on a daily basis can dramatically change your day-to-day wellbeing.”
Leafy greens help fill what Callins calls nutritional gaps – those micronutrients, trace minerals and other beneficial components too many of us don’t get in our fast-food-filled, highly processed regimens. “It’s particularly important to pay attention to calorie intake now, too, since many of us are working from home, which also means we need to remember to move around more,” Callins says.
As for the whole grains, Ryan said there are many ways to incorporate them into our diets, including overnight oats, quinoa tacos, rice bowls, etc.
“A little bit goes a long way in the sense that you don’t have to consume all types of whole grains every single day,” Ryan says. “You can mix it up and incorporate them as you see fit, but avoiding processed grains and sticking to whole grains will make a big difference in your longevity and overall health.”
Thinking creatively, but simply, is one of the keys, according to Callins. “Mushrooms are an excellent extender for ground beef or turkey,” she says. “Diced fine, they blend into the texture of the meat and add nutrients. You can do things like add more fresh veggies to pasta sauces.”
To facilitate some of this, services like LocalFarmOK.com and Urban Agrarian connect Oklahomans to fresh produce and other products from Oklahoma farmers. Local Farm OK even delivers to your door. You get access to fresh, healthy food that can easily be added to your normal diet, and you get to help Oklahoma farmers. Chef Ryan has also provided a couple of recipes to get you started; they’re included with this story on the 405 Magazine website at 405magazine.com.
Quinoa Fried Rice
2 cups dry quinoa with 3 cups water
1 broccoli crown, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 large carrots, sliced
1 bunch green onions, diced
1T onion powder
1T garlic powder
3T white or black sesame seeds
¼ cup tamari
2 T toasted sesame oil
salt to taste
- Place quinoa and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. OR, feel free to cook your quinoa in a rice cooker.
- Meanwhile, chop all the vegetables.
- When the quinoa is cooked, dump into a large bowl.
- Add oil to a large skillet or wok and heat over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add broccoli, carrots, and peppers and sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Add all remaining seasonings and saute until well-combined.
- Dump the cooked quinoa intro your skillet or wok and saute for another 3-5 minutes. Then, turn off heat.
- Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.
- Feel free to add more seasonings as needed.
1T coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger root, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
1T coconut sugar
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1T garam masala
1/2t black pepper
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 cups Indian basmati rice
Fresh cilantro, for topping
- Heat the coconut oil in a medium-large pot on the stove.
- Add in your diced onion and minced garlic and let it cook until the onions become translucent.
- Add in your minced ginger, tomatoes, tomato paste, bell pepper, spices, and coconut milk. (Basically, add in everything except for the cauliflower.)
- Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes should cook down and the sauce should begin to thicken.
- Add in your chopped cauliflower and let it simmer for 15 minutes ,or until the cauliflower softens.
- In a separate pot, or in a rice cooker, combine your 2 cups of rice with 4 cups of water. Cook until the rice has absorbed the water and then take off of the heat and set aside.
- Serve your tikka masala with 1/2 cup rice, a generous amount of cauliflower tikka, and top with fresh cilantro leaves.