by Raquel Gilkes
To the shock of everyone in my life (especially me), I made a firm decision to change my eating habits and stuck to it. It turns out that I have deeply entrenched dietary prejudices and despite years of gorging myself on cream and other rich sauces interspersed with bits of meat and fat fried in batter and butter, I instinctively preferred food that was good for me when I was forced to think about it sensibly. Therefore, when I was presented with a diet plan containing a whole list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’; I had a list of my own. I am just not the type of person to whom someone can say, ‘eat this and you cannot make substitutions’.
So my dietician and I settled down to protracted negotiations, where we designed a plan for my life to eat real food but that so I would be getting the required amount of nutrients for sustenance. This is exactly why my lifestyle change worked, everything I eat is the food I love, and every single one of my six tiny meals each day is delicious.
Of course I did not get everything my way, she was patient and provided literature and sources where I could research some suggestions myself and she encouraged me to ask questions and make suggestions. Along the way, she convinced me of the value of brown rice, I definitely hated rice of any colour. Brown rice is bursting with nutrients and it can be made to taste quite nice if one is determined.
Caribbean ground provisions are starchy but they are still useful if used in small portions, I admit I was a little startled at first when I saw what a portion size was, but I managed to rally. Now I must admit that I am sometimes hard pressed to finish an entire portion. So yes, cassava, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, green bananas, eddoes, dasheen and yams stayed in my diet even though I jettisoned the Irish potatoes and almost all bread. It goes without saying that cakes, cookies, pastries and all things of that sort met a similar fate. They may be eaten in small amounts (maybe once or twice a year on special occasions) but they really have no place in a normal schedule.
I obstinately refused, and continue to refuse , to eat designer food and other overly processed food. I don’t even know what the correct name is, I call it designer food. You know what I mean, food that has been mutilated beyond all recognition and reduced to powders and portions that look like chalk, taste like cardboard and promise to ‘restore electrolytes’ or ‘build muscles fast’, the more expensive ones promise to do both. It is ‘designer’ because at those prices they clearly were produced by Michael Kors. Sorry, I am not Miss Muffet, I don’t own a tuffet, and I am simply not having either curds or whey.
Then there are the other types of processed foods, vegetables made to look like meat, and franks, and burgers. No please, none of those for me either, I like my food to look like what it is, I will not abide duplicity from my food. Even those are not so bad as my favorite bugbear: over-processed food. What exactly is in a wiener? No one seems to know. I read the back of the package and I am still lost. Do they the scrape the slurry off the abattoir walls? It sure looks like it. They are out too.
The resulting diet plan was simple, easy to cook, easy to follow, and one that I can probably stay on forever. That is usually the best way to go about changing, you have to face the fact that you need to change. Some things have to go, they have to, because they are the problem; but the food on the diet that is left should still be things you like very much.
As I noted earlier, portion control was perhaps more important than anything else, so for example instead of eating twelve green bananas steamed and fried chicken for lunch, I had to learn to eat two steamed bananas and 4oz of fish with vegetables. Here is my recipe for a simple green banana lunch.
Green Bananas, Broccoli and Tomatoes Stir-fry
2 green bananas (peeled, boiled and cut into chunks)
1 large tomato (sliced)
1 medium onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
Ω cup of broccoli cut into florets
Ω cup chicken broth
A little extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Assorted herbs of your choice (I use thyme and marjoram)
Heat a little oil in a medium skillet and add onions and allow them to cook until they become translucent, add the herbs and mix thoroughly with the onions. Then, add the garlic, the bananas and the broccoli with a little chicken broth if the stir-fry looks a little dry. Cover for 3-4 minutes to allow the broccoli to cook without getting too soft. Then, adjust the seasonings add the tomato, and cook for 2 minutes more.