Dash of Class: Health is as healthy does

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Food column by Nora Sweat

By Nora Sweat

There is a saying, “healthy is as healthy does.” I really believe that.

In my 30 years teaching nutrition in home economics and family and consumer science, I always told my students there are a lot of ways to burn calories and there are a lot of foods that provide calories, but the final word on whether you gain or lose weight depends on calories in and calories burned.

In the past five years, there has been so much emphasis on television on healthy eating, but we still have a society of people with weight problems. I have to commend our first lady, Michelle Obama, for the interest she has taken in America’s young people.

Even school cafeterias are serving much healthier food than when I was in school. Hot dogs, pinto beans and homemade doughnuts were weekly options then. Can you imagine the elevated levels of sodium, fat and carbohydrates that were in the lunches four decades ago? Not so now. School lunches have baked foods that were once fried and healthier fresh vegetable options, an overall win for students.

I can remember growing up when there were not as many fast food options. In southern Hardin County, there was one restaurant we sometimes visited on Sunday after church. It was called The Martin Box because it was run by the Martin family and it was west of Four Corners on U.S. 62. My dad, a native of Boston, Mass., and a restaurant cook himself, knew how important it was to dine out and it was a great time for teaching manners while eating away from home.

I’m not sure when fast food arrived in Elizabethtown, but I remember as a high school student old enough to date, there was a Jerry’s and Lincoln Car Hop on the south side of town, Dairy Chef across from the city cemetery and Moo Dairy Queen on the same side as the hospital where French’s Dry Cleaners is now. While dating, many couples cruised from the south side of town to Jerry’s, which also had curb service, and back to Car Hop. Thank heavens the cost of gasoline wasn’t what it is today.

Between then and now, the nation has become a fast food haven and many more opportunities for a “sit-down” dinner exist, too. Portions are large, as if they’re feeding a farm hand, and choices vary. It should have made eating healthy easier, but as long as you have loaded baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, king- size desserts and sugary signature drinks, our society is going to continue to get larger.

I learned a long time ago — and especially know now, being a senior — that our metabolism slows as we get older and we have to be disciplined to make wise choices. Riding the recumbent bicycle at the gym for 30 minutes and noting the calories burned didn’t allow me to make those unhealthy choices. In 1987 when I became a Lifetime Weight Watchers member, I vowed to myself to never gain it back. Ha. I wasn’t thinking clearly as I thought the same thing after getting to goal weight with LA Weight Loss. And now I find myself still fighting the fight and trying to be more active to help burn those calories while at the same time I limit calories.

Today, I want to give you some food for thought. Look at the nutritional information for fast food. Even though some are made to appear healthy, you may be surprised. If they are limiting fat, they are making up the flavor with something else. Here are some suggestions.

  • Stay away from third-pound burgers with bacon and cheese, the worst burgers in fast food establishments. With 790 calories, 39 grams of fat and 2000 mg of sodium, it is a no-no. Choose two regular hamburgers with vegetable dressings instead.
  • Stay away from fries covered with cheese and bacon. The reasons are obvious.
  • Another cardiac attack possibility is breakfast at fast food restaurants, especially hot cakes with bacon. Instead, try an egg on a muffin which is only 399 calories, low fat and a good protein source.
  • If you have to have the soft chocolate shake type treat at one particular fast food establishment, go with a small one at 580 calories compared to a large at 880 calories, 160 from fat. The best choice of all is the junior from the kids menu and you still get that great chocolate flavor.
  • Don’t let fish sandwiches fool you into thinking it is a healthy choice. It can be the worst sandwich on the whole menu. Some fast food restaurants offer baked or broiled salmon, tilapia or cod instead of fried. Also, stay away from tartar sauce, one of my favorites.

If you are a fan of Dr. Oz, you know he often offers healthy recipes. The recipe for the energy bar is delicious. Check the nutrition labeling on energy and fiber bars. It doesn’t always mean they are healthy.

The second recipe is from Rachel Torres, my yoga instructor at Energy Sports and Fitness. I love raw spinach in a salad, but I have not tried this one. Be brave and give it a try. Let me know your thoughts.

Dr. Oz Energy Bars
1 cup quick oats
½ cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon. vanilla
3 tablespoon honey

Mix together and shape into bars
Source: The Dr.Oz Show

Gross, but isn’t Smoothie
1 overripe and frozen banana, thawed just a little, 20 seconds in the microwave
½ cup yogurt
Blender full of fresh spinach
1 cup almond milk, fruit juice, regular milk or even water

Blend in the blender until all ingredients are mixed.
Optional additions:
Frozen fruit/berries
Flax meal
Chiai seeds
Ripe avocado
Peanut butter and ¼ cup cocoa and 2 ice cubes
Source: Rachel Torres

Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me,” is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.