The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 26, 2014

Amanda Stone: Preparing a healthy meal requires picking battles

CARTHAGE, Mo. — I love a challenge in the kitchen. I enjoy a complicated recipe here and there, but I really love the task of creating a healthy meal when it's beyond time to grocery shop.

There's always something lurking in the cabinet or freezer, ready to be made into a healthy, miracle meal.

It's a challenge figuring out how to eat healthy. The learning curve is quite curvy, voluptuous even. We all have a different idea of what is healthy for us and for our families.

Recently I had the honor of judging a cooking competition for the Battle of the Bulge weight-loss competition at the Carthage YMCA. I was happy to taste several recipes from students in the YMCA's healthy cooking class. It was enlightening talking to the other judges -- who are food nerds like me -- about their personal definitions of healthy eating. I was surprised by how different the answers were. Everyone's food focus is different.

The judges and competitors were great examples of how we all think differently about food and what actually constitutes a healthy meal. You have to pick your battles and choose your food focus. Mine is clean eating with a focus on whole foods. I have always battled my weight, and eating whole foods makes sense to me. When I feel uncomfortable in my skin, I take in less calories by scaling down portions, eating more vegetables and exercising. Whether you're trying to lose weight, physical activity of any kind can make you feel good and help keep you motivated.

Losing weight is difficult. It takes commitment to a change a lifestyle. This is where knowledge comes in. There are so many schools of thought on what makes a healthy lifestyle. There is no clear-cut answer; you have to learn to take cues from your body. For example: Gluten and dairy can wreak havoc with many people's digestive systems, while others have no problem digesting them.

Artificial sweeteners, however, are not food. Therefore, it makes sense that we shouldn't ingest them. Your best bet is to try to wean yourself off of the need for sweetness. Research shows that artificial sweeteners play tricks with your brain, making you have a craving for more. It seems a bit sad, but sugar -- especially artificial sugar -- should be used sparingly, if at all. Once you realize you don't need your coffee, tea or cereal to be sweet (or as sweet) you will be better off.

Clean eating can work for weight loss, but it's gradual and requires plenty of fruits and veggies. Quick weight loss that comes from eating "light" food doesn't usually stick, as lots of us know. Besides, "light" and "fat-free" food isn't real food. Just check the ingredients. Yikes.

Here are the winning recipes from the cooking challenge. Try them this week to lighten up a meal.


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A new provision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows qualifying districts with high percentages of students on food assistance to allow all students to eat free breakfasts and lunches. Would you agree with this provision?

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