Cooking to Control Pain: Dinner

  • At the end of the day, your “fuel tanks” may be running on empty. Rushing out the door in the morning meant another important breakfast skipped. Too busy during the day, meant a quick pit stop at the gas station “market” for a snack while filling the vehicle with gas. Why does foraging for food at the same place where a toxic petroleum product is purchased seem like a good idea? In such a market, one finds all sorts of highly processed snack foods and highly sweetened drinks that promote inflammation and pain. Besides, the idea of skipping meals and snacking throughout the day puts a lot of pressure on the last meal of the day — dinner.

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    Starvation leads to unhealthy, desperate mistakes at dinner time which further poor health and pain. In order to avoid eating mistakes, one needs a better strategy. The best nutritional strategy to help control pain is called an “Anti-inflammatory” diet with foods that reduces glycemic load and balance required nutrients like omega-3 and omega-6.  But having such a healthy meal at the end of the day requires some thought, planning, and proper execution.

    Think about the deadly dining sins which usually take place at a restaurant. Eating out usually starts off with the three major “B” sins: bread, butter, and beverage. When the stomach is screaming for food, it is hard to turn away the bread basket. But unless that bread is made with stone ground wheat, there are not many nutrients in that piece of bread. All that is left is a highly processed carbohydrate that is quickly converted into sugar. The sudden spike of blood sugar promotes inflammation and pain.  Add a little animal fat on top and that spells a recipe for obesity. Then bring on a sugary beverage and the entire meal is ruined within the first 10 minutes. Think about turning away the bread, the butter, and the beverage before proceeding to the main meal. Ordering a meal at a restaurant requires some more careful thought. Find the vegetables, the fish, and the chicken on the menu. Mix and match the combinations to create the healthiest plate, not just what the cook wants to serve. A balanced plate should contain 50% plants, 25% whole grains, and 25% meat (no more than 4 oz). Thoughtless ordering and eating in a restaurant at dinner time is painful way to end the day. This mistake can be avoided.

    With some proper prior planning, the whole restaurant scene can be avoided. Good health starts at the point of purchase. If one wants to eat mostly plants as recommended by experts like Dr. Andrew Weil and Michael Pollan, the meal plan should revolve around what is in-season at the local market. If nothing is in season, then some frozen vegetables are perfectly nutritious like spinach, peas, broccoli and artichoke hearts (but watch out for added salt). Sometimes a healthy plan requires some key substitutions. A wonderful substitution for rice or potatoes is quinoa. Quinoa is a whole grain that is quickly prepared and offers a wonderful source of protein, fiber and iron. With roasted vegetables and quinoa, dinner can be served at home in less than 30 minutes. Feeling better with improved health is worth the extra effort of proper prior planning for dinner.

  • However, the best laid plans may go to waste without proper execution. Very few people know how to cook these days which means that dinner becomes a flavorless disaster. Bringing out the flavors in foods is simpler than most realize. By roasting, toasting, bruising and searing foods, even the hardened “meat and potato” person will eat vegetables. That’s right, no gentle steaming or boiling bath for those greens; with high heat and brute force, an intense flavor can arrive on the dinner plate. Take asparagus for example, which can be bland without properly executing the right cooking technique. But by roasting the asparagus in a 400-degree oven with a little olive oil, even a four year-old will eat it. No more excuses, eat those vegetables! Eating mostly plants can be enjoyable with the right execution of simple cooking skills.

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    Execution, planning, and thought are difficult when your fuel tank is empty and the world is rushing around. Dinner is just one important meal out of three during the day that represents an opportunity to promote health and pain control. Eating mostly plants at dinner helps to control pain because plants contain powerful antioxidants which promote healing. Plants contain nutrients for healthy bones, muscles, and nerves. Plants help to control inflammation by regulating blood sugar levels. A dinner plate full of animal fat, simple carbohydrates and sugar is a recipe for obesity, disease, and pain. Filling the dinner plate with thoughtful, flavorful food, mostly plants, is disease prevention with every mouthful.

Published On: April 07, 2010