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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eating Healthier: Taking in Your Food Surroundings and Options



Lentils and veggies as a fulfilling dinner

Working at Trader Joe's is a great education in food and for taking advantage of what is available wherever you buy your food. I used to go into Trader Joe's and buy the same things every shopping trip, only varying slightly from time to time. Now that I am at the register seeing what people buy and putting all of the products on the floor, I see how many other options there are, especially healthy options, that I never paid attention to.

It is very easy to get stuck in a food rut, which is why I am grateful that I am in an environment that allows me to learn about different options. When checking people out at the register it is interesting to notice what people buy. It is possible to shop at a store like Trader Joe's and not buy healthy food. The cookies, candy, dip and chips there may be a better option than other places due to no preservatives or additives and organic options, but it still does not make it healthy. Also, the frozen meal options are great and convenient, but all frozen dishes are high in sodium. According to LiveStrong.com (Yes, that LiveStrong. If you still don't know what I'm talking about, it is Lance Armstrong's organization) the simple reasoning for this is taste.

"Processed foods such as frozen dinners, pizza, appetizers and snacks are often high in sodium primarily because the American palate is accustomed to salty foods. Sodium-free meats and combination foods such as pizza are generally not considered tasty and the food industry responds by placing salt where it is expected. Salt is also easier to obtain and cheaper to use than higher-quality flavorings, spices and herbs. Sodium is added as a preservative in some foods."

I started to notice that customers who looked exceptionally healthy and fit were buying simple foods, such as lentils, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, quinoa, kale, yogurt or granola. If they were buying frozen food it was frozen vegetables or fruit with nothing added to it. This is actually a good option if you are not planning on eating the fruit or veggies you buy within a day or two.

Based on this realization I decided that my shopping list needed a bit of a makeover. Now I try to buy something new and healthy each time I shop. Recently I decided to buy pre-cooked lentils. I had a few customers ask me for them so I was intrigued. I have had lentil soup before, but never just lentils prepared on their own. That night I made a dinner with them, veggies and some feta cheese. That's it. Simple, healthy, filling and something I would have not usually thought of making.

Lentils are a healthy food for many reasons. They are high in iron, which is great for a vegetarian like me. The high fiber helps stabilize blood sugar by helping with steady slow burning energy. They also are a good source of vitamin B, which helps the nervous, digestive and immune system.

 Here is the brief recipe.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients:

- 1 package of pre-cooked Trader Joe's lentils
- 1 bag of Trader Joe's frozen vegetable medley
- 1 cup of Trader Joe's frozen spinach
- Crumbled Feta to taste
- Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

1. Boil enough water to emerge lentils package in pot. When water starts to boil, turn off heat and place lentils bag in water for 5 minutes. Remove lentils bag, cut open being careful of the hot steam and pour into a bowl.

2. Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Pour the contents of the frozen vegetable bag into the pan and coat with just enough olive oil to cover the veggies. Do not slather them with olive oil, they will be mushy and oily and gross. Cook until tender.

3. Combine the veggies with the lentils. Add feta cheese, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.

2 comments:

  1. I've always thought it would be interesting to work as a cashier in a grocery store to see what kind of people buy which foods. Fun post!

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