No, that bag of potato chips is not your friend, no matter what it seems to be saying to you.
Experts at the University College of the Cayman Islands say there are healthy alternatives to the comfort foods many may have turned to in recent weeks with the stress and limited mobility imposed by coronavirus restrictions.
Limited access to grocery shopping has also made it more of a challenge to make sure there are nutritious foods at the ready as we hunker down in our homes and sink into our couches. On top of that, some households are dealing with reduced incomes.
“Eating healthy has always been more expensive,” said Wayne Jackson, head of UCCI’s School of Hospitality. “But we have to try to make sure we can eat healthy.”
Careful planning, disciplined shopping, creative preparation and portion control all play a role in keeping metabolism up and extra pounds at bay during what for many is a more sedentary period, said Jackson, who has a master’s degree in management information from the University of Delaware. He suggests taking inventory of the food you have on hand, planning low calorie/high protein meals, making a shopping list and sticking to it.
“Do not pick up things that are not on your list,” Jackson said. “Be disciplined enough to just buy the things you need.” Follow that up with discipline in the kitchen. “When you come home to prepare your meals, you have to look at portion size,” he said. “Eat with greater consideration. “We also need to shop with greater consideration, he added. Ideally, because of social distancing measures, people should be buying groceries as infrequently as possible. That means more frozen foods are likely in order, since fresh produce and meats have a limited shelf life.
UCCI’s Tanique Dunbar, a lecturer in the hospitality program, teaches students the fundamentals of food and beverages and food preparation. She said grains and beans are also a good way to stretch a dollar and make sure you are getting your protein. Things such as lentils, peas, garbanzo beans, along with cereals such as barley, bulgur and rice are good staples to rely on.
“You can be quite creative with them,” Dunbar said. “You can braise your barley and mix it with vegetables. “Fruits are also important,” she added. “But I would say go with the frozen fruits and make smoothies. You could also poach it and make it into a reduction. You could use it with your pancakes and waffles. I also put them into baked products.
When it comes to fresh produce, she said, broccoli, carrots and corn have longer shelf lives than many other vegetables. “I also use beet roots and cabbage. Those seem to keep longer,” she said. And tofu, she added, typically packed in brine, doesn’t spoil quickly.
There are also ways in which you can make preparing such food more nutritious. For instance, Jackson said, when fixing rice on the stove top, pour off some of the water you’re using to boil it. Along with the water, you’ll be pouring off some of the starch in the grain. He also suggests pouring off the water when boiling fish -- an element in many Caymanian dishes -- to lower the salt content in the resulting broth. If you’re baking bread, especially something like banana bread, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, he said, and, if you’ve been buying whole milk, consider switching to reduced fat milk to eliminate some calories.
“Take small steps at this time,” he said. It’s a good time to add to your food preparation skills, Jackson said, and he suggested searching out YouTube videos to expand your repertoire in the kitchen.
“When this passes,” he said of the pandemic, “we can take that forward, so we don’t fall back into our old routines and we can live a healthier lifestyle.”
Note: quinoa, millet, bulgur or couscous can be used as substitutes for the barley
Cabbage Mix/ Filling:
1 cup cabbage finely julienne/ shredded
¼ cup green apples Julienne
¼ cup onions finely diced
2 tbsp olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
(note to make the vinaigrette use three -parts oil to one-part vinegar)
Flatbread or Pita Bread
Note: addition can be made, grilled chicken, roasted garbanzo beans etc.
Notes: This dish can be served with any stew: saltfish rundown, stewed fish, braised beans, curried chicken etc.