“Don’t overlook the oily little fishes” -Michael Pollan, Food Rule #32
Eating FOR Health… it’s been a shift in my meal planning strategy for quite some time now and I wanted to share how I got there. I’m hoping it helps even just one person include more foods in their life that are pro-health. The kinds that make you feel good. The kinds that make you thrive!
Early on in 2020 I picked up the book, The Hormone Cure. It’s been around for awhile but wasn’t on my radar. It was recommended to me by a friend after telling her about my frequent headaches/migraines and silly aches and pains. Seems every conversation with a group of 40 and 50 somethings eventually leads to our list of grievances about getting older… for me it has been frequent headaches, low energy, unexplained joint pain and tendon injuries. In the grand scheme of things, especially in 2020, these were not much to complain about! But, I was determined to figure it out rather than go the route of my doctor who predictably prescribed medicine with a laundry list of side effects.
I learned many useful tips from that book, but then it lead me to another book, then a podcast, then another book and down the rabbit hole I went… one thing I had was TIME in 2020, and I’m so thankful I did.
After lots and lots of research, I determined that I need to ADD more to my diet rather than remove. There were some holes, things I could do better to improve my health. Once I spent some time analyzing two things: 1 – what I was eating (I needed more healthy fats and even more high quality protein than I was getting) and 2 – when I ate it (I feel 100x better when I eat later in the morning and earlier in the evening) – a few simple steps and changes made all the difference.
Notable changes included: INCREASING the good stuff – greens, fiber, high quality protein and healthy fat. Or as Kelly LeVeque refers to in her books Body Love and Body Love Everyday, the “Fab Four.” Her books made so much sense to me and were really the first ones that resonated with me regarding meal planning and balancing meals that result in being full for the right reasons – it’s a very pro-health lifestyle and way to plan and I love it. It aligns with things I was mostly already doing, (I’ve been happily planning healthy meals since 2006 so this is saying a lot!) but I found so many new ways to elevate my meals. It just makes so much sense and it really is that simple. Adding foods from these 4 categories to every single meal makes me so satiated that snacking – even the healthy kind, is rarely needed! It’s really a mindset and knowing what foods make you feel good or not. ADDING pro-health foods rather than eliminating fits into a healthy lifestyle (NOT a diet!) that’s easy to maintain and works for me. Perhaps some of this resonates with you?
You can imagine there have been some minor tweaks to our pantry, fridge and freezer, but again, it was about making sure I had the foods on hand to balance any meal I was preparing. Since I prepare nearly all the food in my house, guess who was also adding these healthy foods on a regular basis?! I have 3 kids – 1 tween and 2 teens – and they have been awesome about the tweaks. (Although recently one of my kids found a tab open on my laptop for “black bean brownies” and said that crossed the line!) Keeping them informed but not deprived is very important to me. I figured if I’m providing meals primarily from the above categories, there’s less room in their tummies for the Doritos. 🙂
The salad below is an excellent example of what a typical meal for me looks like – greens/carbs (lettuce, radish, bell pepper, herbs), fiber (garbanzo beans, obviously a good source of protein as well), protein (flaked mackerel), and healthy fats (walnuts and kalamata olives + olive oil dressing). I’m not necessarily taking away cheese (dairy), croutons (gluten), or refined sugar and oil salad dressing (ultra processed, refined ingredients), but after a bite of something this satisfying, why would I need to add anything? Plus, if I want some bread with my meal it’s going to be because I walked down to my favorite bakery, Backhaus, and picked up their Heavy Seeded Loaf or Rustic Country Bread. And I’m going to top it with some room temperature, grass-fed, salted Kerrygold butter. Yum. Nobody is being deprived here!
Spring Greens with Radish, Flaked Mackerel and Toasted Walnuts
This bright refreshing salad hits all the key elements of a satisfying, healthy meal for me. It's full of crisp spring radishes, toasted walnuts, creamy garbanzo beans and tossed with a tangy lemon vinaigrette – and it's simple to prepare. Avocado and summer tomatoes would be lovely additions. If you haven't tried mackerel, it's a mild fish high in omega-3's; similar in taste to tuna. Be sure to look for wild, Northern Atlantic mackerel that is low in mercury.
- 4-6 cups mixed spring greens I like to chop my leaves so everything fits on my fork
- 2 4 oz cans wild mackerel, drained and flaked I like Safe Catch brand
- ½ cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup radish, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
- ¼ cup kalamata olives, sliced in half
- 2 tbsp chopped dill
*Lemon Apple Cider Vinaigrette
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice + zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- ½ tsp honey
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Combine all salad ingredients in a medium bowl. For the dressing, combine ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Toss salad with just enough dressing to coat the leaves. Season your salad with a touch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and divide between two plates.
*This vinaigrette makes enough for several salads. I highly recommend making the whole recipe and keeping it in your refrigerator for easy salads all week.