NEW CASTLE —
There is a little game I would like to invite you to play called “Maria Says.”
This is an opportunity for you to decide to play the game and make some changes to impact your health.
Maria Tsikouris is our registered dietician at Jameson Hospital and the Dean Ornish Program. For more than 20 years, Maria has educated patients and the public about the recommended dietary guidelines for health. I have asked her to give us the top three things she says most often when counseling people to make a positive impact on health.
“The rules of the game are to give yourself permission to change,” Maria explained. “We can get stuck where we are at in our habits and our preferences.
“When you have to change because of a health issue it can be horrific. So, choose the change now that will prevent diseases later.”
So first off, Maria says: Eat your vegetables. Many people are not friendly with veggies. Maria suggests inventing ways to make them more tolerable.
Broccoli is a top veggie for fighting off cancer. But some find it difficult to eat. Marinara sauce over broccoli instead of pasta is delicious. Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce is good if you like Chinese take-out.
Make your own stir fry at home and include garlic and ginger, maybe a little olive oil and you will be able to mask broccoli with the other flavors to make it more tolerable.
Any casserole can have color (and important nutrients) added to it by adding a few veggies such as peas or cut green beans, and is another way to start slowly introducing more veggies to meals.
Carrots are the other vegetable that Maria recommends because they are loaded with beta-carotene. When carrots are cooked, the beta-carotene can be even better absorbed by the body. Add carrots and any vegetable you have in the fridge to your soup or grate some carrot into a rice dish. When it is hidden in a side dish or entrée even small amounts add up.
If nothing else, regularly include a side salad at lunch or dinner. If this is an addition for the non-veggie lovers, it is a good place to start. If you are an on-again, off-again salad eater — turn it on!
Next, Maria says: Eat your fruit, don’t drink it. Eat fresh fruit instead of juices. Juices add calories to their diet without fiber. Fiber content in fresh fruit protects you. The fiber will slow down the impact to your blood sugar levels.
And finally, Maria says: Try a whole grain, instead of refined. The common change is to think whole wheat bread instead of white. However, adding whole grains to your diet should also include brown rice instead of white rice; whole wheat pasta, instead of white pasta; Old fashioned oatmeal, instead of instant oatmeal.
To finish as a winner in the game Maria concludes, “Start looking at foods in a different way. It is important to give yourself a chance to develop different taste buds for healthier choices.”
What you tell yourself about new patterns and new tastes and textures is the wild card in the game. If you can say, “Wow, this whole wheat pasta is helping my heart and arteries” or “I am going to fight cancer with this broccoli,” you will be the winner.
Maria is available for personal nutritional counseling and teaches community education classes such as, “Eat Well For Life,” and “Drop 10 in 10.”
For more information call 724-656-4094.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 package (16 ounces) sliced mushrooms
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed with press
- 1 package (16 ounces) broccoli flowerets
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, chopped
- 4 6-inch whole wheat pitas, halved and toasted
- 1/2 cup marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until mushrooms are golden brown.
Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet over high heat, heat 1 inch water to boiling. Add broccoli. Reduce heat to low; cover and steam until tender, about 8 minutes.
Remove broccoli; add to mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss well to mix.
In small bowl, mix ricotta, basil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Spoon broccoli mixture over each toasted pita half. Spoon ricotta mixture in dollops on top. Drizzle pizza with marinara sauce. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until heated through.