View Full Version : Healthy Eating?

2011-02-28, 01:10 PM
Well, I've decided it's time for me to stop living on junk food. Time to start eating real food! However, I have one problem - I don't know of any really good healthy food.

Sure, I've started eating more fruits and vegetables and stuff, but they get really bland after a while - I'll grab a banana for breakfast or an apple for lunch or whatever, and that's it. Lately, I've been interested in cooking, and I'd like to be able to actually make healthy meals. Preferably ones that are cheap and easy to pack up and eat cold, because I am a broke college student, but that's not a requirement. However, my Google skills are failing me - I can't find much that looks appetizing/inexpensive/actually healthy online.

But I figured that the Playground holds the answers to practically any question imaginable, and hey, who doesn't like sharing their favorite recipe? And I'm sure I'm not the only one who could use some healthy-eating tips. So . . . yeah, if anybody has some good, healthy-ish recipes, post 'em here.

2011-02-28, 01:11 PM
Buy bags of frozen veggies. Cheap, easy to cook, and contrary to popular belief, the fact that they're frozen and packed doesn't mean they're bad.

2011-02-28, 02:01 PM
One thing to keep in mind is "healthy" is often a relative term. For some people eating healthier involves not supersizing their combo and for others it means using less X in their already highly specialized and complicated diet.

Generally speaking if you are eating a lot of fast food, almost anything you make yourself will be a lot healthier. Even if it isn't really really healthy and could be better, if it is something you will actually make and eat, and its better for you then doritos and taco bell (or whatever you normally eat) then that is all that really matters.

Once you actually get to cooking for yourself and figuring out what you will actually make then you can worry about fine tuning it down more.

2011-02-28, 02:51 PM
As a fellow economically challenged college-student, I may be able to offer a few pointers.

As stated before not eating fastfood is an excellent start, and learning to cook for yourself is really going to provide a long-term benefit for your health. Besides, cooking is fun ! :smallsmile:

Vegetables are generally good for you, and it sounds like those are what you're missing the most of. I myself am really bad at actually bothering to make salads, so I try to stuff as many vegetables as possible in the actual dishes I make to help alleviate that. Bags of frozen vegetables are great - an extremely basic meal for lazy days can be a bag of mixed veggies pan-fried with meat or beans and spices of choice, served with rice or noodles. Throw in a can of crushed tomatoes for some more liquid.

For learning to cook, there are plenty of good recipe resources online. Allrecipes.com is probably one of the most comprehensive - it has thousands of recipes, and you can search by type or ingredient, and then filter to get the most user-acclaimed recipes in that category. It also includes nutritional information for every dish, I think.
I've grown increasingly interested in cooking over the past couple of years, and I will often sit at my computer just recipe-browsing, occasionally finding something that makes me go "Ah, I need to try that sometime", and then adding it to the Food subsection of my Firefox favourites. It's nice to always have a list of go-to recipes if I don't know what to make sometime.

As a cooking novice, soups can be a good introduction to the art - they are easy and cheap to cook, and you can throw a lot of healthy stuff in them, and with proper spicing they will be far from bland. I guess you could also bring soups to school if you have a thermos, though that's not something I've experimented much with myself.

In general I just recommend that you try out some recipes and practise, expanding your repertoire as you master them. When I first started to live alone I pretty much made the same 3 dishes over and over again - now, 4 years later, a week rarely goes by in which I don't try something entirely new.

That's it for now, I may get around to posting some actual recipe suggestions later.

2011-02-28, 03:40 PM
You don't find healthy AND appetizing recipes on the internet? Where do you live and what do you consider healthy?

Colourful vegetables fried in some healthy plant oil, possibly with cheese, are healthy in my opinion. And they do look appetizing.

Edit: Inspired by OotS - why don't you try couscous? It is easy to cook, you can add vegetables so it's healthier, and spices so it tastes of something.

2011-02-28, 04:11 PM
Jacket potatoes are a fairly healthy option--depending what you fill them with, of course! Pretty easy to make, too.

2011-02-28, 04:32 PM
One of my staple snacks;

1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 tablespoon almond butter*
6 medium strawberries

*Un-refridgerated. If it's cold, it won't mix well. You can substitute any good-quality peanut butter (Laura Scudders is pretty good).

Put the cottage cheese and almond butter into a bowl and mix it up antil the almond butter is mostly mixed into the cottage cheese. The cheese should be a light tan color by now. Next, slice up the strawberries and mix them in.

That's all there is to it.

2011-02-28, 04:37 PM
One of my staple snacks;

1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 tablespoon almond butter*
6 medium strawberries

*Un-refridgerated. If it's cold, it won't mix well. You can substitute any good-quality peanut butter (Laura Scudders is pretty good).

Put the cottage cheese and almond butter into a bowl and mix it up antil the almond butter is mostly mixed into the cottage cheese. The cheese should be a light tan color by now. Next, slice up the strawberries and mix them in.

That's all there is to it.

Interesting, must say I've never eaten cottage cheese with fruits....

I like it with heavy cream and preferably some herbs, but that's probably not very light for stomach. :smallbiggrin:

Juggling Goth
2011-02-28, 05:00 PM
I think the stuff I eat is reasonably healthy. I'm not sure. Most of it starts from a base of frying onions, admittedly. But you can use healthier oils and less of them. It's all vegetable-based; I haven't cooked meat since I was eleven and I'd probably poison people if I tried.

Some of my staple meals:

Stir-fried vegetables - only takes a few minutes. Wok, little bit of oil, ginger, garlic, julienned (sliced long and thin) vegetables like carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms (yes I know they're technically a fungus) etc. If you have it with noodles, they should only take a few minutes to cook, too.

The above + Thai curry paste + coconut milk = Thai curry.

Baked potato. Easy and quick in the microwave. Stab your potato repeatedly with a fork, wrap it in kitchen roll, cook on full power for 4 minutes, turn over, cook on full power for another four minutes, done.

Tomato sauce for pasta and variants thereof - chop and fry onions and garlic in a little bit of oil. Chuck in a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tablespoon of mixed herbs. Simmer it for about ten minutes. Add things like mushrooms, courgettes, spinach, bell peppers, aubergines, etc at the frying stage to make it more vegetable-y. Add chillies at the frying stage and red kidney beans (use tinned ones - the dried can poison you if you don't cook them right, and frankly that's too much hassle) with the tomato to make a vegetable chilli. Add bell peppers at the frying stage and coconut milk and kidney beans with the tomatoes to make a sweeter variation.

Muesli - you have to be careful with breakfast cereals. A lot of the 'healthy' looking ones are actually full of sugar when you read the ingredients. I look for a low-sugar muesli, then bulk it out with cheap porridge oats. I mix in a bunch of dried fruit, too, but again you need to check the ingredients because they often have added sugar.

Spinach and mushrooms with fenugreek - I like this one because spinach is good for iron and I have a bad habit of getting anaemic. Fry chopped onions, chopped garlic and a teaspoon of cumin seeds. Add chilli if you want it spicier. Add sliced mushrooms, lemon juice and salt. Finally add spinach, a teaspoon of fenugreek leaves and a squirt of tomato puree. You can also leave out the mushrooms and fenugreek and add finely-chopped aubergines to get a Morrocan dish called zaalouk.

Risotto - fry onions, garlic and mixed herbs. Then add the vegetables of your choice. Add dry rice and mix it all up good so everything's coated with everything else. Add vegetable stock a bit at a time and simmer until the rice is just cooked.

Everything gets healthier if you serve it with brown rice or wholemeal pasta instead of the white variety. Brown rice is a pain to cook though - I've got a bag of it I bought in a fit of well-meaning optimism and hardly ever use, because I just don't plan my meals an hour or more in advance. Wholemeal pasta only takes a couple of minutes longer than its less-healthy counterpart, though.

2011-02-28, 05:03 PM
Fruits and veggies are great but there are two problems with them:
1) They are somewhat expensive (especially fruits)
2) They are low in calories which is really a double-edged sword. Thus, while they make great snacks and side dishes, it is difficult to have them as staples.

Whole grains and beans are healthy. Plus, beans and some grains (e.g. oatmeal) are really cheap. Whole grains are preferable over bleached grains as they are bulkier and tend to be higher in fiber. Whole grain cereal (even Cheerios) is ok, just make sure to get skim milk and avoid the sugary stuff.

A dish like vegetarian chili might be good. You could also make bean tacos with a little bit of cheese and salsa (salsa is low in calories).

Tunafish is alright but you don't want to eat too much in a week due to mercury buildup. There are also some tricks like subbing mustard (which has practically no calories) for mayo (which has lots of calories). Roast turkey is good but probably impratical. Cold-cuts are a passable substitute. Fish caught from the ocean are ok (but see tunafish issue). However, farm-raised fish tend to be fatty. Nuts are a good snack.

2011-02-28, 05:13 PM
Cheap, and it doesn't get any easier:

Rice Mush
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add 1 cup of Minute Rice. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add 1 can of you favorite condensed soup- vegetable beef, chicken gumbo, beef with barley, etc. (don't add any more water)- and reheat to desired temp. Garnish with grated parmesan, romano, etc. cheese if desired. Good for one meal, possibly two if you're a light eater. Use real rice if you've got the time (it's usually better for you than Minute Rice).

Cheap, fairly easy, and it'll last you a week:

Start a batch of dried beans cooking in a crockpot in the morning or soaking in water overnight if you don't have a crockpot. You can use pretty much any kind of bean that suits your fancy; I tend to use red kidney beans.

When beans are soft (not mushy; should be around dinnertime), brown 1 lb of ground beef (or turkey or pork or...), adding some Worcestershire sauce, basil, sage, chili powder and red pepper to taste (chili powder has a rich taste but isn't usually spicy-hot; the red pepper will give it some kick). Do this in a large pan like you would cook noodles in. Drain the excess grease from the meat. Add 1 large can of tomato sauce (not pasta sauce) and 1 can of diced tomatoes, the beans, and more of the same spices to taste. Let this simmer with stirring for 15-30 minutes (depending on how impatient you are). Serve with grated cheddar cheese, bread, crackers, etc. The longer you let it simmer the better it will be immediately. Leftovers the next day are even better as the spicing has had a chance to mature.

As a good rule of thumb- cooking on the stovetop is generally amenable to experimentation; when baking, it's much safer to follow the recipe- at least the first couple of times.

2011-02-28, 05:21 PM

Millet provides a whole lot of nutrients and is a pretty interesting food that one can prepare in a lot of ways. It's got a decent amount of protein, as well. Oh, yeah, and it costs like a dollar a pound. A pound is a loooot. Couscous, lentils (okay they aren't a grain, they're in the same supermarket isle, totally counts), and quinoa are all solid options that can provide a nutritious side dish that lasts, can be eaten cold, and offers a lot of variety.

Eating more, smaller meals is good, too.

Being vegetarian will kick cholesterol's ass, while being vegan eliminates it essentially entirely. The latter's harder to do (although not nearly so impossible as some make it sound), and I wouldn't recommend jumping into it, but they're both cheap ways to eat that can cut out a lot of foods that are traditionally unhealthful by default. If that isn't your thing, though, don't worry about it. I just know my eating habits ended up a lot more healthful without much of any conscious attempt on my part when I made the switch. One could also go down the bad road of eating only cheese or only bread or something, though, so who can say.

Other than that, as others have said, vegetables and etc.

2011-02-28, 07:41 PM
Tomato sauce is your friend. So are hot peppers. A spicy marinara-type sauce will make a LOT of vegetables a lot more palatable than you would expect if it's cooked into them.

One of my favorite late-night meals is carrots, green beans, onions, and hot peppers cooked in their own juices until they start to get dryer and brown, and then simmered in a can of ground tomatoes and spices (usually cilantro, often a bit of curry, but honestly it varies according to what's in the pantry) until it's all a reasonably thick blobby mixture.

Sauteeing in oil is over-rated. Everything people say about how great nonsaurated fats are is true, but unfortunately, heat saurates them and ruins those famous anti-oxidants. Steaming and then adding oil afterwards if the dish needs it has better health benefits. This is also true of things like rice... basically, if it CAN be steamed, do that first, and then add raw oil afterwards if the dish calls for it. Some recipes are so inherantly fry-based that you can't get out of it with them, and that's okay too. Not every meal has to be perfect. Just be aware that, in many of these cases, rumors of that fried oil's healthiness may be greatly exaggerated.

And try to grab a good, yellow banana and eat it whenever you happen to see one. Don't stockpile green ojnes and hope to be around during the fifteen minute span of time that thye turn edible. Just keep your eyes open and when you see one that's ready, buy one, eat it, and move on with your life. All fruits are good for your potassium level. Bananas are one of the few that's good for satisfying hunger, though. Actually, if you're trying to cut calories, pears can shut your stomach up just as long and with fewer calories than bananas. An apple might kill your hunger for an hour. Citrus fruits just make you even hungrier. They're good mid-morning or mid-afternoon snacks.

And when you cheat and buy junk food, look for the lowest price tag. For instance, if I'm grabbing dinner at a gas station at midnight and have a choice between a two dollar cheeseburger, a four dollar burrito, and a one dollar hot dog, guess which one is the smallest? The enormous (and tastier) burrito might seem like a better deal, pound for pound, but it probably had 5 times the fat and calories of the little hot dog. A gas station hot dog or a MacDonalds dollar burger serves the purpose of shutting up your stomach just long enough. Kind of an anti-apple.

Oh, another thing that makes vegetables more palatable is adding them to whatever you're eating anyway. Let's face it, there are going to be days you say "screw it" and load up on macaroni and cheese, or Ramen noodles, or whatever. Add enough to these things, and they aren't quite as bad any more. That's the "iguana owner" diet that kept me healthy through some of my heaviest drinking years: a small amount of flavorful pre-packaged "bachelor chow" with a large amout of whatever vegetables were on the supermarket clearance rack cooked into it, trying to use up the last of everything before it went bad. Better it sounds.

2011-03-01, 03:56 AM
Fruits and veggies are great but there are two problems with them:
1) They are somewhat expensive (especially fruits)
2) They are low in calories which is really a double-edged sword. Thus, while they make great snacks and side dishes, it is difficult to have them as staples.

Yes, of course. It would be very expensive to live on vegetables alone.
However, my guess is that most people already eat enough grains and lentils and similar stuff. Simply because they are hungry.

While the healthyness of olive oil and so on might be exaggerated, the unhealthyness of fat in general is certainly exaggerated by lots of people.

2011-03-01, 06:35 AM
Really, my advice is to start to experiment. As suggested, buy frozen vegetables. Root vegetables are also cheaper than fruit and other forms of vegetable, and things like potatoes, turnips and swedes are pretty filling. But whatever you end up buying, just experiment. Some of my best meals have come from "OK, let's put this, and this, and this, and this, in a pot with some stock and boil it for a while. Hm, what if I add [herb]?" If you can get some basic recipes off the Internet, you can tweak them as you like to create variety.

I know I haven't cooked for myself very often - I've only just left home - but from what I've done in the past, some of the best learning comes from just trying something a little different.

2011-03-01, 07:42 AM
If you have access to a freezer and a microwave oven, I'd recommend Bolognese sauce.
Make a big batch of bolognese sauce and portion it up for use later.

When I do bolognese sauce, I usually end up having enough for about 7-9 servings.

I don't usually go by a recipe, but what I tend to use in my bolognese sauce is:

800g (just over 1Żlb) lean beef mince
2 medium onions
200-300g (about Żlb) fresh mushrooms
150-200g baby corn
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2-3 chili peppers (depending on how hot you like your food)
200-300g (about Żlb) green beans
3 cans crushed/chopped tomatoes

white pepper
chili powder
soy sauce
random herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, Italian herb mix)

Chop the onions, peppers, chilis, beans, corn and mushrooms
Brown the onions together with the chili peppers, then place in separate bowl
Brown the mushrooms to soften them up a bit, then place in the bowl to the side.
Fry the mince meat. Add salt, pepper and chili powder to taste. Put the mince to the side in a bowl.
Fry the beans, corn and sweet peppers to soften them a bit.
Add back the onions, mushrooms and mince.
Stir well to mix all the ingredients.
Add the crushed tomatoes.
Add soy sauce and herbs to taste.

Let simmer for a while. I don't really go for the slow-cook bolognese, so i just let it simmer long enough for my pasta to get done.
If the concoction is too thick, add more water.

I use a large wok to get everything mixed in, and it usually ends up being pretty full, as shown in the picture below:

2011-03-01, 06:03 PM
A somewhat tasty dish I made by accident while experimenting (university student alone at the kitchen:smallbiggrin:):
Give a small shot of olive oil into a pan (a high one since it'll get pretty full), add fresh cut tomatoes and sheep cheese (the feta type) and wait for the tomatoes to fall to pieces and the cheese to become liquid, then pour in a can of kidney beans (the type that is canned with liquids) and add tomato purree. Heat until beans are done. Season with salt, (possibly white) pepper and herbs (things like basil, marjoram, origan thyme, just experiment what you like). For a more intense flavour put in the herbs with the beans so they get cooked into the sauce.
Viola, beans in tomato-feta sauce! Takes less than 30 minutes if you got it down. And there's basically nothing that can go wrong.
Serve with flat bread or white bread/baguette.

Actually, there's a lot of tasty stuff you can end up with if you just throw things into a pan fry it and add a can of beans. Not as healthy but strengthening (I invented it at a LARP the morning of the day when we went into the final battle with more than 3000 people):
Cut up some salami (the rough, chunky kind) and get it into your pan (well, I used a kettle hanging over a fire but what have you) and let it fry in its own fat while you cut some onions, garlic and tomatoes. Put in some olive oil and fry the onions and garlic (not too long), then add some fresh cut tomatoes and let them disintegrate (see a pattern?). Put in a can of kidney beans and add tomatoe purree etc. just go on like the first recipe, it's the same from there. Tastes best when the salami pieces have just begun to get crunchy.
Serve either with thick white bread or with selfmade nutty brown-grey bread or bannock.

Those are really hearty and incredibly simple.

Also delicious: cut aubergines into long slices, salt them and let them cry over night. Then just fry them in oil and put a slice on a slice of fresh dark bread. Maybe salt again. It can't even be called a dish, or cooking. But it's tasty and filling (and fat and salty). But vegetables!

You see, I like it simple and strong.:smallcool:

2011-03-01, 08:42 PM
Lean proteins are always a good choice.

2011-03-02, 02:07 AM
One thing worth mentioning that took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out: if you just cook whole wheat pasta normally and then pour sauce on it, it isn't that great. But if you use a lesser amount of (whole wheat) pasta than you normally would, and cook up a destined-to-be chunky pasta sauce with lots of vegies in it, then you've got a nice meal. Start the sauce thinner than you'd prefer, and once it's boiling add the pasta. Whole wheat noodles boiled in a nicely seasoned tomato sauce are delicious, because they actually absorb the flavor. The extra starch thickens the sauce, which doesn't work if you're uber-carb-paranoid, but if you know ahead of time that most of the bulk is going to be mushrooms, peppers, onions, zuchini, etc and you're just using the extra starch from a handful of noodles to hold the sauce together, it's worth it for a good meal.

Oh, and whether you like eggplant or not (I personally do not; it's not unpleasant, just sort of boring and pointless, tastewise,) if there's a grocery store that's always selling it cheap in their clearance bin, keep it around. As far as I can tell, the people who actaully think it tastes great are insane, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It's a great thickener, for sauces, soups, or even omelletttes if you're not in a real health mood that day. It can be used to add healthy bulk and tecture to pretty much anything.

Also, keep a few flavors of vinegar around. They're a healthy way to add zing to quite a few things, and also to spped up cooking times. Even a tiny dash of, say, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar added to a glass of cold water can make it a lot more interesting. In fact, I've heard it argued that most of the referances to ancient people drinking wine constantly actually referred to flavoring their water with vinegar, rather than actually doing drunken manual labor in the desert 24/7.

2011-03-02, 01:44 PM
I started using twice as much meat as I usually do for pasta, and half as much pasta noodles. MUCH healthier, and still delicious.