Macrobiotics: A Holistic Diet Approach to Better Nutrition

When Diets Ruled The World

One of the challenges of being bigger than the nationally accepted BMI scale is that everyone is quick to offer you advice on ways to diet and  “loose” weight. Now the best advice always starts with you talking to your primary, skilled clinician or practitioner. That advice from “Great Aunt Sally” may sound good, may just not hold much “weight”. Get it <grin>.

Unfortunately, because of that, there are many diets that promise easy weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. Those on the menu have includes the Paleo craze, the “group loose” collection from Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem to the more vintage Grapefruit diet, fasting and more. 

Note: I don’t advocate or know enough about all of these to promote. Links are simply shared for your personal reading.

Diet Focus

One that I often heard about but always seemed like way too much work was the Macrobiotic diet. But since I have a pal recently starting it, it was a good reason to look into it more.

What separates the macrobiotic diet from all of these is that the macrobiotic diet promotes whole health improvement, including mental and spiritual improvement as well. This is a very general description of the diet. The macrobiotic diet is a very restrictive diet and takes effort and self-discipline to follow. It is more of a way of life rather than just a change in eating, often promoting a positive energy and a more informed state of mind. To follow a macrobiotic diet is to enlighten one’s life.

So Why Consider a Macrobiotic Diet?

There are several reasons why you might want to consider adopting a macrobiotic diet. Many people choose to start eating healthier after learning that they are at risk of developing a disease. While a macrobiotic diet won’t cure you of disease, it can improve your health and complement a treatment plan a medical professional has prescribed.

So if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, premenstrual syndrome, or are at risk for breast cancer, then you may want to try the macrobiotic diet. Beyond these benefits, a macrobiotic diet promotes whole-body health. Whether you want to lose weight, eat clean, or have more energy, adopting a macrobiotic diet may be able to help you achieve these goals.

How to Follow the Macrobiotic Diet

Macrobiotic foods include indigenous, local, seasonal foods that have been organically or naturally grown, processed, and stored. Some research indicates that the macrobiotic diet is good for the local economy because one of the biggest rules of the diet is to try to buy locally grown products. Besides buying locally grown products, there are a few other principles that dieters are encouraged to follow:

  • Avoid cooking with electric appliances.
  • Only use natural products such as wood or glass to hold and store foods.
  • Chew each mouthful of food at least 50 times until the food is close to liquified in your mouth.
  • Purify water before drinking it or cooking with it.
  • Only eat and drink when hungry and/or thirsty.

Some people follow the rules strictly, while others choose to be a little more relaxed. The rules are more about adopting a holistic and balanced lifestyle rather than losing weight.

What to Eat on a Macrobiotic Diet

The macrobiotic diet is a very restrictive diet. When describing the definition of macrobiotic foods, natural, wholesome, and nutritious are good words to use. The macrobiotic diet is composed of:

  • 40%-60% whole grains
  • 20%-30% fruits and vegetables
  • 10%-25% bean products

Just as some people are relaxed on the rules, some people are also relaxed on the included food groups. They may include seafood and/or lean meats as well. The foods should be primarily baked, boiled, or steamed when cooking.

The Overall Effect of the Macrobiotic Diet

Although the macrobiotic diet will help with weight loss, that isn’t the main focus of the diet. The diet is designed to help people adopt a more balanced, holistic, natural way of living. Adopting the macrobiotic diet means adopting a new lifestyle and in the process creating a new you.

Feeling inspired? Try these healthy recipes:

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Eating on the Go: How to Find Healthy Options on the Road

Eating well can be challenging on its own but eating well while on the go presents its own unique set of challenges. Luckily there are easy ways to reduce the likelihood of living on convenience store burritos and slurpees while on the road. Check out these tips to keep your eating habits healthy and your journey enjoyable.

Plan Ahead

The most effective way to maintain a healthy diet or even just access to foods while traveling is to plan ahead. Sturdy fruits like apples, bananas, and oranges travel well without any prep work or refrigeration. Vegetables like snap peas and baby carrots also hold up well when packaged in zip-top bags. Other fruits, like grapes, cantaloupe, or pineapple, and vegetables like carrots, celery, or jicama can be prepared at home and carried in small containers within a soft-sided cooler or ice chest (just make sure to refreeze the ice packs in your hotel room each night). Include items like beef jerky, tuna pouches, string cheese, Greek yogurt, fruit leather, and a refillable water bottle to ensure you have a healthy snack or mini meal close by whenever hunger hits. For years I have been a huge fan of the Lock & Lock brand of food storage products. I think I have mentioned them several times including when they come back full, rare but always a nice treat or during my party prep posts.

In fact – I think its the primary food storage product I have used for the last 15 years. With a silicone seal, locking clips and shapes that fit nicely into my bags and got me back and forther to Atlanta and Washington DC during my recent commute effort. They are my go-to “travel buddy”.  While many of them came from QVC back in the day, they are now available on Amazon. These are a few of my favorite sizes; the Lock & Lock Plastic Food Storage Airtight Container Set (2300ml/78oz+1000ml/34oz+(180ml/6oz×2) is a good starter. I use whatever I don’t need for craft supplies. But at less than $20 they are a good all around set. Another good by is the  Lock & Lock Water Tight Food Containers, 14-Piece Set it is a few dollars more at $29 but fills in the packable sizes. You can still find them on QVC (no affliliate links – just a good resource) and they often offer larger custom sets, such as the Lock & Lock 18-piece Storage Set. Oh and Lock & Lock often has a wide assortment of colors and sales  – so they are the ones I will but for doggie-bags, this way I dont have to worry about getting them back.

By the way, they just aren’t for people food – Even Dino got some of the Storage Bins Food Storage Container with Flip-top that fits the medium bag of his food.

Dont forget that great recipe for the protein oakcake recipe I posted – those are perfect for travel plain or with jam and peanut butter on them. Freeze them the night before and by the time you are ready to eat them they will be thawed.

Vending Machines

Look past the candy bars and toaster pastries and you will find an assortment of healthy (or at least healthier) food options waiting in the nearest vending machine. Most vending machines offer such nutritious snacks as nuts, raisins, trail mix, beef jerky, and sugar free gum. You can also find healthy versions of normally unhealthy treats, like dark chocolate or whole grain chips and crackers. While the packaged cookies found in vending machine are full of fat, sugar, and preservatives, Fig Newton cookies can tame a sweet tooth while providing a dose of real fruit, whole grains, and fiber. Some vending machines even offer bags of microwave popcorn that can be prepared in your hotel microwave. Many places are reaching out and trying to offer a wider range of vending machine options. While in Las Vegas recently, I even saw one machine that was chilled and had fresh fruit.

Grocery Stores

Instead of relying on restaurants and convenience stores for meals, seek out the nearest grocery store to find healthy food that is much cheaper than most restaurant fare. Many large grocers have a well-stocked salad bar where you can fill up on fresh fruits and veggies. Some even offer hot soup made fresh every day. Individual servings of meats, cheeses, yogurt, boiled eggs, or fruit cups are also available. Food from the grocery store is much cheaper than restaurant food, so do not overlook this option. When I was traveling  I always checked to see where the closest Trader Joes was. While Whole Foods was a great option (but expensive) as well as the traditional grocery stores, I like Trader Joes sizes, and they often have ready to go sized meals perfect for the plane.

Eating healthy on the go requires a little forethought and preparation but can also save you both time and money. A little advance planning and finding healthy options at the vending machine and local grocery store can make your next trip a success.

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Know Your Extracts: Sniffing out the Best Vanilla for Your Baking

Vanilla extract; the first thing I check on my baking supply list.

So we have another great guest post this week on the power of vanilla from my pal Anna who also wrote the “5 Ways to Taste the Mediterranean Without Actually Going” post. I love sharing BiteTheRoad with folks who want to write and talk about the various passions they have so was grateful she was willing to do this one. Ok, and truth be told it’s one of my favorite flavoring tools! Thanks again Anna!

 

Know Your Extracts: Sniffing out the Best Vanilla for Your Baking

It’s a question that seems as old as baking itself — chocolate or vanilla?

These two are the most popular cake flavors out there, and making a good chocolate or vanilla cake is critical to any baker’s repertoire. But we’re not here to argue. Whether as a flavor enhancer or the star of the show, vanilla tastes good, smells good, and has been used in all kinds of sweets for hundreds of years.

But did you know that not all vanilla is created equal? While it’s likely not shocking to learn that there are different forms of vanilla you can buy, it might be more surprising to know that some are better than others for certain contexts. This, as well as the overall quality of what you use, can have dramatic effects on what comes out of your oven.

High Quality Vanilla vs Low Quality

Know Your Extracts: Sniffing out the Best Vanilla for Your Baking

In general, “high quality” and “low quality” designations for vanilla are related to the origin and purity of the flavor, as well as alcohol content.

Imitation vanilla, on the other hand, is often made using lab-created vanillin (the flavoring compound found in vanilla). Generally, this vanillin is made as a byproduct of other forms of manufacturing, such as while processing wood pulp. While that might sound concerning, it is still perfectly safe to consume, though typically has a slightly less pronounced vanilla flavor and less alcohol content.

Pure vanilla extract is exactly what it says on the label; pure vanilla extracted from vanilla pods and processed into a liquid by boiling it with ethanol and water. Additionally, it is required by law to contain at least 35% alcohol content and 100 grams of vanilla beans per liter.

Natural vanilla is taken directly from vanilla beans and has the least amount of alcohol at roughly 3% per bottle. It generally has the most pronounced and “pure” vanilla flavor of the three liquids.

Vanilla paste is a compromise between liquid vanilla and straight vanilla beans. It is made from vanilla extract, adding sugar and thickening agents for texture. Most brands also add small quantities of ground vanilla beans to achieve the desired speckling.

Vanilla beans are considered the ultimate for vanilla in flavoring and baked goods. These are the real deal, no alcohol or additives in sight. Just a long dark pod filled with tiny caviar-like “beans” ready to add to any recipe.

When to Use Each Kind of Vanilla

Know Your Extracts: Sniffing out the Best Vanilla for Your Baking

While instinct may say to use vanilla beans for everything, this would not actually be the best use of resources. Imitation is, of course, the cheapest and most affordable, but the more pure and better quality the vanilla, the more it costs:

(Prices based on Cook’s Bulk and Wholesale Vanilla)

  • Non-alcoholic vanilla — $12
  • Pure vanilla extract — $13
  • Vanilla bean paste — $25
  • Vanilla bean pods (3) — $15

Aside from price restrictions and personal preference (for example, imitation vanilla may have a less robust flavor/aroma than vanilla bean pods), any form of vanilla can be used for any type of baking.

That being said, most bakers (and especially social media food personalities) prefer vanilla bean paste and pods for the telltale speckling that they leave in the finished product. This only works for light-colored, vanilla-centric baked goods, however. If you wish to use a high-quality vanilla in a darker product, save some money and use a good vanilla extract.

For bakers who object to using alcoholic vanilla in recipes that don’t involve heat (frostings, creams, sodas, etc.), non-alcoholic vanilla or vanilla bean pods are optimal.

Love vanilla? Try these vanil-licious recipes from Bite The Road:

 

Be sure to read the next BiteTheRoad.com post on other creative Vanilla ideas later this week

 

 

 

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5 Ways to Taste the Mediterranean Without Actually Going

5 Ways to Taste the Mediterranean Without Actually Going

Mediterranean cuisine covers many different countries in the Mediterranean basin. Every region has different influencing flavors in its food, however, there are core flavors that can be tasted throughout the Mediterranean region as a whole. Southern Europe features deep flavors such as the tomato-based flavors of southern Italy or the tangy and savory flavors of Greece with the use of bold cheeses and softening yogurt. In a country such as Morocco, the food is heavily seasoned in perfect blends for full rich flavor.

While some countries may use more or less than others, here are five great ingredients that will bring the Mediterranean into any dish:

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar comes from Italy, traditionally made from aged grape must. It has a rich flavor, much more complex than the typical wine vinegar, with hints of sweetness. Balsamic vinegar is not meant to be cooked and is often used as a topper for fresh fruit and grilled meat or fish. Many different types of Balsamic vinegar now exist locally and internationally which is a point of debate in many circles as to what is “real” Balsamic Vinegar. Bon Appetite Magazine does a good job of helping you sort through the various kinds in a 2017 article here.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is used frequently in Mediterranean food because of its abundance in the region. Olive oil is used in cooking but because of its bold flavor, it is often used as a condiment base for dipping bread. Luckily living in the Bay Area I have access to many types of artisanal olive oils including one of my favorites from the DaVero farm and vineyards

Lemon

Lemon is a flavor that can be found throughout Mediterranean cooking and is often found alongside garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, and parsley. Lemon is a much-appreciated ingredient because of the compatibility of its citrus tones with common Mediterranean dishes like fish.When you can get freshly picked lemons use them! Two of my recent favorite recipes include ways to preserve them and a “rocken” lemon cake recipe from King Arthur Flour that I think is hands down one of the best Lemon Bundt cakes I have ever had. Best part it translates into two loaf pans nicely as well.

Mediterranean Oregano

Oregano is best known for its uses in Italian cooking, but what not many people know is that there is a difference between Mediterranean oregano and Mexican oregano. Mediterranean oregano features a softer, sweeter, and more minty flavor than its Mexican counterpart, and is used in a variety of Mediterranean spice mixes, from Italian seasoning to Zataar seasoning

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are powerful in almost every Mediterranean region’s cooking. It is a flavorful crop that can be kept and presented in many way, tomato paste, tomato purée, etc. It holds a very sultry flavor that can be sweetened or more rustic. A flavor that goes well with pasta, rice, meat, seafood, vegetables and so forth — making it very versatile.

Try It: Savory Yellow Rice with Chicken

Rice:

  • 11/2 cups Basmati rice
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 21/2 cups chicken broth

Chicken:

  • 4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs cubed (1.3 lbs)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 11/3 tsp cumin
  • 1/3 tsp coriander
  • 1/3 tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1/3 tsp curry powder
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 11/3 tbsp lemon
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 21/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Medium onion sliced

Rice directions:

Melt the butter and add the turmeric and cumin. Stir just until fragrant, about a minute. Add the rice, make sure it is well coated and toast in the seasoning for about 4 minutes. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Chicken directions:

Mix all the spices along with generous amounts of salt and pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil. Doing this in a bag will make working in the yogurt easier. After it is mixed thoroughly, add the chicken and onions and let sit overnight. Heat the remaining 1.5 tbsp of olive oil, add the chicken until cooked and serve with the yellow rice and tzatziki sauce.

 

Craving more Mediterranean flavor? Try these from the BitetheRoad archives:

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