I do a lot of preaching about healthy eating, but I have a dirty secret: deep down, I’m a junk food junkie. I love all things crunchy and salty (especially cheesy) and sugary, but now that I know how harmful processed foods are for my body, every bag of chips or candy bar comes with a heaping side of guilt.
Cutting out junk food entirely would be ideal but, let’s face it, that’s not a realistic goal for most of us, and can lead some of us down a dangerous path, so mindful consumption in moderation is best. My solution is to find ways to make my favorite junk foods as healthy as possible so I can have the things I’m craving as part of my healthy diet, sans guilt.
My hands-down favorite junk meal is ramen noodle soup. It has no nutritional value on its own and is absolutely loaded with sodium and saturated fat, making it one of the worst things you can eat, but if you throw out the seasoning packet, and add fresh vegetables and some lean protein, it can become a balanced and nutritious meal that will satisfy both your cravings and your dietary needs.
Ingredients for 1 serving:
1 package of ramen (you can use instant, but the fresh “yakisoba” noodles you can find near the tofu in the grocery store have better texture and are less processed)
1 large head baby bok choy
1 small carrot
2 stalks green onion
4 fresh shitake mushrooms (or 1⁄3 cup dehydrated shitake mushrooms, soaked for 30 minutes in warm water and drained)
1⁄3 block firm tofu, cut into ½ inch thick slices
A small handful of raw mung bean sprouts
1 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 boiled egg
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees while you wash and cut your vegetables and tofu.
2. Coat your bok choy, carrot and tofu in sesame oil, season with salt, and roast for 10 minutes.
3. Heat your liquid ingredients until steaming but not boiling, drop your shitake mushrooms into the broth, and keep hot.
4. Boil your noodles in a separate pot according to the instructions until cooked, then strain and put into your serving bowl.
5. Arrange your roasted and raw vegetables and tofu (except the green onion) around the cooked noodles, then pour the broth into the bowl.
6. Top with your boiled egg and chopped green onion and serve.
My husband is out of town this week and whenever I must cook for just myself, it’s hard to muster the motivation to cook a proper meal. If I’m being honest, most times I’ve faced this dilemma, I have put myself to bed with an empty stomach.
But now that I have innocent and intelligent eyes watching my every move, I am determined to demonstrate proper self-care, which means simultaneously accommodating both the needs of my body and the wants of my mind. If we can learn that there are no “bad” or “good” foods, that almost anything can be included in a healthy diet with the appropriate accommodations, we can tear ourselves away from toxic diet culture and take guilt off the menu forever.
By TRESSA DALE
For the Clarion