(Ph)ood


Healthy Eating, Healthy Living
November 7, 2010, 3:39 pm
Filed under: People | Tags: , , , ,

As Americans, we are accustomed to technology making our lives easier and more convenient.  Cars, computers, and microwaves have decreased the amount of “required” physical activity and increased our accessibility to food sources.  America’s pursuit of convenience never ends and it seems neither will our ever-expanding waistlines.  Obviously, in some aspects of life I fully support the pursuit of convenience and efficiency, but in terms of physical well being, I do not.  There will never be a pill that replaces all of the huge positive health benefits of physical activity and exercise – reduced risk of coronary artery disease, hypertension, some cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression and anxiety disorders, frailty, perhaps dementia, and definitely mortality.  Additionally, exercise has even been shown to improve academic performance.

One of my graduate school advisors, Dr Frank Booth, argues that the dramatic increase in chronic disease occurred simultaneously with the dramatic improvement in technologies over the past century.  The cause of this, Booth says, is the abruptness in which we “engineered physical activity out of our lives.”  It took our pre-historic ancestors millennia to genetically adapt to their environment and that physical activity was mandatory to facilitate survival, as “physical activity was obligatory for gathering food, constructing shelter, and providing defense.”  In a matter of 100 years we quickly moved away from a lifestyle that made us more fit for our existence in our environment and made overweightedness and chronic diseases more common.  As a result, brilliant individuals such as Dr Booth dedicate their career to elucidating the mechanisms of our poor lifestyle choices – eating a high-fat diet, being physically inactive and the ensuing development of chronic diseases.

As I mentioned earlier, there will never be a pill that fully replaces the benefits of exercise, and until a pill is designed that pharmacologically elicits the “high” that some experience as a result of exercise and motivates the masses to be more physically active, Americans must find other means of making exercise enjoyable.  Exercise does not have to be regimented.  Activities such as walking or biking to work or school, walking dogs at a local shelter, and joining a local team or club are all enjoyable ways of being more physically active.  The overall goal should be to find activities that keep you physically active on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes per day.

Just as many argue that they do not have the time to exercise, many say they neither have the time to commit to preparing healthy foods.  Healthy eating is the focus of this post.  Healthy eating does not have to be bland.  In fact, it can be incredibly delicious and astoundingly easy to prepare.  For the past month or so I’ve had the opportunity to test recipes for a diabetic cookbook written by Washington D.C. author, Robyn Webb, and sponsored by the American Diabetes Association.  The book will be called Comfort Foods: Food To Fill You Up, Not Out, American Diabetes Association, 2011.  In this post, I share with you my experience being a recipe tester as well as hoping to convincing you that healthy eating can be quick to prepare and very delicious.

Recipe Testing with Robyn Webb (Robyn’s website)

About one month ago, I was introduced to the idea of recipe testing.  When an author prepares a cookbook, he or she distributes their recipes to a cross section of those who will actually purchase the book.  Typically, testers are chosen based upon a person’s skills and enthusiasm for food. Within Robyn’s group of testers there are a good mix of professional testers, chefs, and food bloggers who are excellent home cooks.  I was fortunate to be chosen because a friend saw my food photography and put me in contact with Robyn.  Because of my interest in food, as well as my passion for diabetes research, I was a good match for Robyn.

The recipes I have made ranged from the super easy to the more involved, but were all designed for the basic home cook.  I’ve made things like a chopped salad with cilantro lime dressing, pancetta penne, spiced sweet potato wedges, hamburger sliders with dijon mustard sauce, roasted chickpeas, and spaghetti squash with pine nuts and sage.  All have been incredible and, like advertised, have been very simple to make.

I will admit that I was skeptical of some of the healthy recipes that I had to make.  Recipes such as spaghetti squash did not immediately appeal to me.  I went as far as “saving this recipe for last” because I honestly did not think it would be very good.  However, it turned out to be the most delicious thing I made in the bunch.  It was light, flavorful, and filling.  In hindsight, these were terms that could be used to describe all of the recipes.  If it wasn’t for the friends who I had over to enjoy many of these recipes I could have eaten them all myself.

In addition to just preparing and enjoying these fabulous recipes, I have had to document the “experience” in the form of a recipe evaluation worksheet.  Obviously (and most importantly), I have to describe the taste and it’s components: How was the salt content? The spices?  How about the fresh herbs?  I also document the appearance, texture, color, shape and aroma of the food.  All of which really asks the question, “does this recipe not only taste good, but does it look appetizing?”  The goal is to make these healthy recipes look appealing, not like the stereotypical health foods with are “drab browns and greens.”  Lastly, I describe how easy it was to prepare and whether the directions were clear.

Overall, the experience has been outstanding.  I love to cook and obviously I love to eat.  Being a recipe tester and using the recipe evaluation worksheet has allowed me to focus on aspects of food that I might not ordinarily pay attention.  Often, I am in such a rush to eat that I don’t take the time to appreciate the food, such as individual flavors and textures.  This experience has taught me to slow down and appreciate food more.  I have been very fortunate to be given this experience and I am grateful that Robyn thinks I am doing a good enough job that she will allow me to be a part of future projects.

I hope this post has made you aware, or maybe even reaffirmed, that healthy eating can be both good for you as well as taste fantastic.  I encourage you to try some of Robyn’s recipes in cookbooks that she has produced in the past as well as those that will arrive in the near  future.  I can guarantee you that I will do so.  All of her cookbooks can be found on her website as well as on Amazon.

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robyn Webb, Robyn Webb. Robyn Webb said: One Recipe Testers experience working on a cookbook. A look of what its like to work on a national book http://bit.ly/d4QFBh (@abmakulec) […]

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