What's Fat All About? And: A Delicious V-Day Pasta Recipe(aka: save your calories for the chocolate)!
Low-fat, reduced fat, fat-free, trans-fat, fat-this and fat-that...With all the food label packaging and product marketing out there, fat has got a pretty bad reputation. It's like the Danny Zuko of nutrition: You really really want it but you know it's bad for you. However Danny turned out not to be such a bad guy after all (he got the girl and drove off into the clouds while singing for crying out loud). Luckily, the same goes for America's Sweetheart, fat, which is actually necessary for good health. Without any dietary fat, food would taste exceedingly horrible, your skin and hair would turn dry and brittle, and you wouldn't be able to absorb several important vitamins, since Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble.
So how do you know the difference betweeen the good, bad and the ugly? The good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated and are like oil. They flow through your arteries. The bad fats are saturated fats, which include hydrogenated and trans-fats (the ugly) and are like sludge, sticking to your arteries. Think of a saturated fat, like lard, and picture how it's solid at room temperature. Now picture that in your precious arteries. Fun times, huh? Now visualize an unsaturated fat like olive oil, which is liquid at room temperature and therefore flows through you. Much better. Just like a car, your body needs oil to run smoothly, and it needs essential fatty acids (Omega 3's and 6's) to hum at peak efficiency. Omega 3's and 6's are the two your body can't produce on its own, which is why flax seed oil, fish oil, cod-liver oil and similar essential fatty acid products are so widely praised.
Obviously, you want to stay AWAY from the trans-fats as well, but you already knew that didn't you? Trans-fat actually raises your bad cholesterol level and lowers your good one. However I will point out that many manufacturers and even fast food joints have banned using trans-fats in their products. Still, make sure you read labels and know what you're about the put down your pipes. Choose foods low in saturated and trans-fats, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Don't be afraid to have a little bit of full-fat dairy products once in a while, just don't make it a habit. Avoid fried and baked goods. Yes, I realize that I live in America where there's a McDonald's and a Starbuck's on ever corner...but both places offer healthier menu choices now, so there's no excuse not to eat better even if you're racing between one kids' soccer practice and another ones' band concert. Also, eat at least 2 servings of fish per week, especially salmon or trout since they're highest in omega-3's. Don't like fish? Tofu, soybeans, walnuts and flaxseed will give you the same benefits. And yes, I'm going to keep shooting down every excuse you throw my way. :)
So! Still don't know what to eat since I've just put the fear of fat into you? It's easier than you think. Read the labels and make sure that the majority of the fat is coming from either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. If it lists any trans-fats (and most manufacturers are legally required to now), throw it as far as possible from you and quickly stroll your grocery cart away. To make this even easier on you, here is a list of trans-fat free products, most of which I believe you can find in your local grocery store (you may have to look in the health food/nutrition section if there is one).
Chips and Snack Foods
Terra Potpourri Potato Chips
Good Health Natural Foods Olive Oil Sweet Potato Chips
Que Pasa Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Guiltless Gourmet Baked Spicy Black Bean on Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Stacy's Parmesan Garlic & Herb Baked Pita Chips
Barbara's Bakery Oatmeal Wheat-Free Snackimals Animal Cookies
Barbara's Bakery Fruit Juice Sweetened Animal Cookies
Health Valley Fat-Free Apricot Delight Cookies
Barbara's Bakery Whole Wheat Fig Bars
Health Valley Original Amaranth Graham Crackers
Kavli Crispy Thin All Natural Whole Grain Crispbread
Kashi Seven Whole Grains & Sesame TLC
Blue Diamond Natural Rice and Nutmeal Pecan Nut-Thins
Barbara's Bakery Savory Poppy Seed Lite Rite Rounds
Wasa Hearty Rye Original Crisp Bread
Nature's Choice Moist & Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars Cinnamon, Peanut Butter, Oats 'n Honey
Health Valley Fat-Free Blueberry Granola Bars
Continental Mills Krusteaz Apple/Oat Bran Low-Fat Muffin Mix
General Mills Betty Crocker Low-Fat Wild Blueberry Muffin Mix
Arrowhead Mills All Purpose Baking Mix
Waffles, Bagels, and English Muffins
Van's All Natural 7 Grain Belgian Waffles
Thomas' New York Style 100% Whole Wheat Bagels
Thomas' Honey Wheat English Muffins
Whole Grain Breads
Pepperidge Farm Natural Whole Grain German Dark Wheat Bread
Wonder Stoneground 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Nature's Own All Natural 12-Grain
Sara Lee Soft & Smooth 100% Whole Wheat
Home Pride 100% Whole Wheat
Whole Grain Cereals
Barbara's Bakery Cinnamon Puffs
General Mills Wheaties Raisin Bran
General Mills Multi-Bran Chex
Quaker Squares Cinnamon Toasted Oatmeal
Post Spoon Size Shredded Wheat
Kashi Go-Lean Protein/High Fiber Cereal & Snack
Quaker Toasted Oat Bran Cereal w/ a Hint of Sweetness
Kellogg's Complete Wheat Bran Flakes
A V-Day Recipe to Fall in Love With:
This recipe comes from Lidia Bastianich, the host of Lidia's Italy.
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 495 calories, 19 g fat (3 g saturated), 232 mg sodium, 67 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 15 g protein. Which means it's romantic, deliciously good for you and saves some room for chocolate!
Penne with Pesto alla Trapanese
3/4 lb penne rigate pasta
1/2 lb (about 4) Roma tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
8 large, fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp unsalted roasted almonds
1 large garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano)
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente.
2. While pasta cooks, rinse the tomatoes and basil and pat dry. Cut tomatoes into large chunks.
3. Place the tomatoes in a blender or food processor, followed by the basil, almonds, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large pieces are left.
4. With the machine still running, add the olive oil in a steady stream; it will emulsify the purée into a thick pesto.
5. Scrape the pesto into a big bowl. Drop drained pasta onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the pasta, sprinkle on cheese, and toss again. Serve immediately in bowls.
Happy Valentine's Day!