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Fit Food by Ellen Haas

Fit Food: Eating Well for Life

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Fit Food
Three of the four leading causes of death in the United States are related to diet. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, and nearly 16% of children are overweight. Given such dire statistics, we clearly need help in understanding what it takes to lead healthier lives. But instead of depriving ourselves, we should aim for variety and balance in our diet. This is hardly new, but it’s worth restating. A new book, "Fit Food: Eating Well for Life," does an admirable job of doing so.

Fit Food and Healthy Living

The key to healthy eating is to focus on 21 “fit foods,” according to Ellen Haas, author of Fit Food, and founder of FoodFit.com, an excellent Web site devoted to healthy eating and living. But first, Ms. Haas, a former Under Secretary of State for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, lays the foundation for eating healthier foods by offering 10 commonsense strategies for healthy living:

  • Watch portion sizes
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Eat plenty of fiber
  • Limit refined carbohydrates
  • Choose lean proteins
  • Choose fats wisely
  • Limit sodium
  • Get enough calcium
  • Exercise regularly
  • Enjoy a balanced and varied diet
These mirror the government’s new dietary guidelines published in January 2005, and subsequently incorporated in the new food pyramid. See more below.

Nutrition and the 21 Fit Foods

Ms. Haas covers some useful nutrition basics, giving an overview of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, followed by vitamins, minerals and compounds, explaining their respective functions and effects on health. Without taking sides in the low fat vs. low carb debate, Ms. Haas states succinctly how both fat and carbohydrates have a role to play in healthy eating.

Then come the 21 fit foods, chosen for their nutritional superiority and potential health benefits. Each of the 21 fit foods opens a chapter devoted to that food and associated foods. For example, the chapter introducing broccoli as a fit food also includes cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. You’ll have to buy the book to see the other fit foods, but they include spinach, tomatoes, pears, blueberries, whole wheat, soy, turkey, salmon and yogurt.

Fit Food Recipes

Before each set of recipes, Ms. Haas explains the nutritional benefits of the fit food, and offers advice on what to look for at the market or grocery store, how to store and prepare it, and how best to use it. The fit food recipes themselves, supplied by FoodFit chef Bonnie Moore, and many well-known chefs such as Alice Waters, Steve Raichlen, Todd English and Tom Douglas, offer a terrific set of flavors and combinations to make you forget that what you’re eating is in fact “healthy.” And this is the point: if healthy food doesn’t taste good, no one will eat it. With this in mind, we are encouraged to seek foods at their peak to enjoy the fullest flavors: buy them fresh and in season, and buy organic where possible.

Among the 200 recipes, you’ll find:

  • Grilled Salmon Salsa Wraps with Lime Sour Cream
  • Thai Curried Chicken with Coconut and Mango
  • Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp
  • Pumpkin Crème Caramel
  • Apricot Yogurt Dip with Pistachios
These mouthwatering recipes could have used some color photographs to tempt us further, but otherwise all the essential information is there: nutrition facts, including percentage of calories from fat, carbohydrate and protein; serving sizes; preparation and cooking times. The index is easy to use, with the 21 fit foods listed in bold text.

"Fit Food" is a good and useful book that shows us how healthy eating can reward us in so many ways. It reminds us that eating well is less about avoiding so-called bad foods and more about embracing good foods.

Published by Hatherleigh Press (ISBN 1-57826-146-5)

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