Health Eating Is A Matter Of Choices

IN THE KITCHEN

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So, your plan for self-improvement means eating in a healthier way. One of the best places to start is the new Food Pyramid developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It can be found on the Internet at www.nal.usda.gov:8001/py/pmap.htm or just do a general search on "Food Pyramid." It is also now printed on many food packages.

At the base, forming the recommended foundation of most meals are breads and cereals, with 6 to 11 servings suggested for each day; next come vegetables, three to five servings; and fruits, two to four servings.

The layer of the pyramid above the vegetables and fruits include a building block representing meats and other proteins, along with one for milk, yogurt and cheese, the USDA suggests you have two to three servings from each of these groups daily.

At the top of the pyramid are fats, oils and sweets, all of which are to be used sparingly.

The USDA only recently revised the Food Pyramid, so if it is something you learned in home economics or science back in high school, you might be more familiar with the Four Food Groups:

  • Fruits and vegetables were one group and we were supposed to eat four or more servings of these each day;
  • Breads, cereals and other grains were another group and we were to eat four or more servings from this group as well;
  • There was the milk and milk products group and the USDA recommended adults have two servings a day from this group, while children were to have three to four servings daily; and
  • The fourth group was poultry, fish, meat, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, and it was recommended we have only two servings from this group.

The USDA, along with the Department of Health and Human Services has seven guidelines for a healthful diet.

1. Eat a variety of foods to get the energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber needed for good health.

2. Balance the food you eat with physical activity to maintain or improve your weight.

3. Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables and fruits which provide needed vitamins, minerals, fiber and complex carbohydrates and can help lower your intake of fat.

4. Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

5. Choose a diet moderate in sugars.

6. Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium.

7. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

The following are recipes found in an old Reader's Digest book "Eat Better, Live Better."

French Cauliflower Pie

1 medium cauliflower, about 1 1/2 pounds

2 cups milk

1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon butter or margarine

Steam cauliflower for about 5 minutes, or until it is still rather firm. Let cool for 10 minutes, remove core and chop the remainder coarsely.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir the cauliflower and all other ingredients, except butter, into the eggs. Grease a 2-quart, deep pan, such as a souffle dish, with the butter, and pour the egg mixture into it.

Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the center seems firm when shaken and the top is beginning to turn golden.

This quiche can be made with vegetables other than cauliflower, such as broccoli or cabbage. Potatoes can also be substituted. Makes 8 servings.

Five-Minute Soup

4 cups, low-sodium canned chicken broth (or homemade)

Half a raw cucumber, peeled and sliced very thin

4 raw mushrooms, sliced

2 cups shredded raw green-leaf vegetable, such as spinach, lettuce or cabbage

1 tomato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup leftover lean meat or poultry (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat broth, add vegetables and meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with pepper. Makes 6 servings.

Wrapped Fish

4 boneless 6-ounce cod, bass or halibut fillets

1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine

4 parboiled rings of green pepper

4 paper-thin slices of onion

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 small bay leaves

Water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put each fish fillet on a piece of oiled aluminum foil large enough to enclose it. Brush with butter and top with green pepper, onion and tomato. Sprinkle with lemon juice and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Place a bay leaf on top of each fillet, mainly for effect. Fold the foil over the top of the garnished fillet and crimp edges together securely.

Put the fillets in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour 1/4-inch of water into the pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. After 15 minutes check the fish to see if it flakes, which indicates it is ready to eat. Bake longer if necessary. Serve in wrappings. Makes 4 servings.

Mushroom, Egg and Barley Casserole

1/4 cup uncooked barley

2 cups boiling water

3 tablespoons chopped green pepper

2 cups sliced mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 eggs, hard-boiled, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour barley slowly into boiling water and cook for about 30 minutes, until tender; drain and set aside.

Sauté green pepper and mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of butter for 5 to 6 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 1 1/2 to 2 quart flameproof casserole, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, stir in flour and cook, over gentle heat, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, blend in milk, then return to heat and whisk until smooth and thickened.

Stir cheese into the sauce, then mix in the hard-boiled eggs, barley and vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then bake for 30 to 40 minutes until crusty surface forms.

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