Peppers and citrus can add flavor without using salt to make a dish healthier for those watching their sodium intake.
A healthy caesar salad using a dressing made with yogurt, topped with chicken and freshly grated parmesan.

Reading through cookbooks, old and new and scouring the internet for the perfect meal can be tiresome. I don’t know if you are like me but so many recipes out there look deliciously good. However reading the ingredients I realize they are not correct for the way I should be eating. We all have different health issues. At my house I cook for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, always trying to limit salt while not limiting flavor. I also have to cook the correct way for those in my house. Cooking the correct way for my family is healthy and light but with a ton of flavor.

Personal hurdles

My largest hurdle personally was the fact that I am a picky eater. Just looking through some of the meal plans of various diets and I realized right away I would have to do what was correct for me. Therefore the plans with what are probably great meals for some, would never work for me.

Life as a picky eater

Do you have a picky eater in your life? Trust me it makes eating challenging. I once went on a hunger strike at the World’s Hemisphere because my dad would not let me have a hamburger for breakfast. Please understand I wanted a plain, meat and bun burger with a lot of ketchup. The perils of a picky eater, I love ketchup but I won’t touch a tomato however I love tomato basil soup. See my conundrum? I did receive my hamburger after a day with no food. I am sure my dad didn’t want others to see a little six year old stumbling through the hotel due to lack of food.

First step: figure out a system that you can live with

About seven years ago I decided it was time to take care of myself. I ended up going to weight watchers every Tuesday for over five months. I would only let one lady weigh me in. As a result I felt like I was letting her down if I gained weight. I basically ate the same thing every day but I was happy and full. This was the correct way for me to lose weight. Additionally, I took a very bold step, one I didn’t think I could realistically do. I cut out all alcohol, with the exception of Christmas Eve. Ironically after a couple of days I really didn’t miss it. This system was working for me. The lack of meal variety would probably not work for anyone else. For my husband I cook healthy and light with a ton of flavor which in our house means spicy! He appreciates it and I get great satisfaction from cooking for him.

Progess in the making

I walked daily with a friend, as a result I could see the improvements daily. Basic foods filled up my meals, things like fruits, vegetables and lean meats. I cut out most sweets which was challenging, but I got use to it. By the end of five months I had hit my goal. I kept the weight off easily for about nine months. However we began a remodel and gutted the kitchen. Along with late night dinners and half price wine nights the weight slowly crept back on. What I learned was all of those cheesy dishes or rich sauces were not for me any more. I could have one every once in a while but I needed to eat correctly and that meant clean, flavorful foods, actually we all do.

Back in the day…

There was a time in my life, like the first three decades I could eat whatever I wanted and still stay the same size. Cookies and Cream milkshakes with whip cream from Mad Dog and Beans in Austin ( can I have a hallelujah!) was a daily occurrence just to keep weight on.Those days are long gone. I don’t think I am alone on this front. As a result in the last two years I have really made myself step out there in a healthier way. I had ahi tuna nachos last night, something I would never have touched before. In the process of broadening my food horizons I have learned to cook with my family’s health in mind.

I often use peppers with seeds to add some spice to our food.

What I am trying to say…

We are not all in our twenties or thirties any more. I cook for extended family and friends often. As a result I am taking into consideration health issues like their high blood pressure, cholesterol, sodium intake and inflammation. When I cook I try to steer away from heavily salted dishes, as a result I use lemon or lime juice and often jalapenos or serranos. These all add flavor without increasing the sodium. Some of my favorite recipes are stuffed bell peppers or butternut squash soup

Adding garlic to a dish can make it healthier. Garlic is believed to help reduce imflammation.
You can roast garlic, mince it, press it cook it into meals, mix it into dressing.

Garlic works magic

Garlic helps with cholesterol issues, so I toss it into most dishes. Fresh ginger is believed to help reduce inflammation and nausea. I often saute in olive oil which also helps with inflammation and is believed to protect against heart disease and stroke. Making salad dressings from scratch ensures all fresh ingredients which include a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. I haven’t even touched on different vinegars, for example balsamic vinegar includes antioxidants called polyphenols , boosting our immunity system. It is also believed to have healing powers and energize us. There are so many healthy ways to cook without resulting in bland foods. Along the way you enhancing your body’s natural powers to take care of itself. You can cook in ways for your family that will help or correct health issues while keeping their tummies tight.

New Year, time to renew me!

As I start another calendar year I plan on putting all I have learned into practice and regularly exercise despite the weather and my limited free time. I challenge you to try new things, use new spices, vinegars and ingredients to make meal time not only tasty, filling but good for you.