Whenever someone mentions the word dieting, I get an uncomfortable little shiver down my spine. I understand the motivation behind going on a diet (wanting to lose weight, feel better, be less sluggish), and totally get how exciting it is to start a new, promising health regimen. We’re all guilty of this during the first two weeks of January, after all!
But dieting in the sense of restriction, elimination and black-and-white rules does not seem like a sustainable or healthy way of living. Studies have shown that yo-yo dieting can actually do the body harm in the long-term. Skipping meals and doing cleanses can’t be great for you either.
Everyone struggles with their own food issues, whatever they may be (I’m an evening snacker and cheese fanatic. There, I said it!), but dieting surely isn’t the answer. What is, then?
I think the key is simplicity. Healthy eating isn’t complicated; it’s actually extremely simple. Tune out the noise–celebrity endorsements, diet books, new hyped up products, your non-celiac BFF’s gluten-free kick, claims on product packaging, commercials–and go back to basics. What kinds of foods did people eat 100 years ago, before obesity, heart disease and diabetes plagued our population?
This means an apple, not an energy bar with dehydrated apple pieces in it. An orange, not a glass of orange-flavoured “drink.” A lean cut of beef from the butcher, not a pre-flavoured, frozen piece of beef soaked in preservatives. Ok, you get the picture!
If you start creating meals using real, whole, unprocessed ingredients, that’s one huge step in the right direction. You’ll notice that your meals will start to resemble a nutritious, balanced diet – that is, rich in plant-based foods, dietary fibre, healthy fats, lean protein and essential nutrients, and low in added sugar, sodium and saturated and trans fats.
Next, you might start switching over to healthier cooking methods like steaming and roasting instead or frying. A little while later, maybe you’ll start being more mindful about portion sizes and scale things back a little.
Combined with exercise, it’s steps like these–not dieting–that will get you closer to a healthier way of living.
Keeping with the theme of eating healthy without dieting, these Vietnamese inspired summer rolls are the perfect example of a nutritious, tasty dish. Seafood + fresh vegetables + paper-thin rice paper sheets = pretty much the healthiest possible appetizer.
That doesn’t mean these rolls lack flavour, though. Far from it! The creamy, spicy peanut dipping sauce is a perfect counterpart to the cool, crunchy fresh vegetables, sweet shrimp and grassy cilantro leaves. I’ve seen summer rolls made with glass noodles in addition to vegetables and protein, but I decided to leave them out in this recipe and instead up the vegetable content even more.
The summer rolls I made for these photos aren’t exactly picturesque (finicky jobs aren’t my strong suit if you can’t tell!), but by gosh were they delicious. The next time I make these, I’ll be sure not to overfill them so that they stay tightly wrapped like neat little parcels rather than busting open at the seams.
- 12 medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 6 sheets rice paper
- 12 fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper, julienned
- 1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1/2 English cucumber, julienned
- 1 medium carrot, julienned
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 4 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp sriracha
- 1/2 cup crushed peanuts
- Cook the shrimp in a small pot of boiling water until just cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain, transfer to a plate and let cool. Slice in half vertically and reserve.
- Fill a large bowl or casserole dish halfway with warm water. Add the rice paper and let soften, about 5 minutes. Remove one sheet from the water and lay it flat on a cutting board. In the middle of the rice paper, place 2 cilantro leaves, 4 shrimp halves and 1/6th of the red pepper, yellow pepper, cucumber, carrots and bean sprouts. Fold over the ends, roll up like a burrito and transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
- In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, hoisin sauce and sriracha. Stir to combine, thinning with a little water if desired. Heat peanut sauce in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, or until slightly warmed. Transfer to a small serving bowl, top with the crushed peanuts and serve as a dipping sauce for the summer rolls.