There’s a scene in an old Woody Allen movie where his character wakes up to find himself in the future. The first thing the doctor supervising his reanimation does, is to give him a cigarette, “But I thought these are bad for you,” says the Allen character.
“That used to be the view,” says the doctor, “but medical science has subsequently found it’s one of the healthiest things you can do. Make sure you take the smoke right down into your lungs.”
That of course is never going to happen, but the satirical point still rings true. We are constantly told that this or that is bad for us and then told that it’s good for us.
Anyone who has watched Morgan Spurlock eat himself to the brink of serious illness in Super Size Me is unlikely to look at a burger in the same way again. So what’s so bad about a burger? Well the worst things are that they’re usually high in salt, high in sugar, high in fat, and consequently high in calories but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of tasty burgers out there that don’t need to carry a health warning. For a start, a burger doesn’t have to be beef; try turkey, crab or salmon instead. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be meat: chickpeas, lentils, cashews and quinoa all make great burgers. Instead of a cup full of mayo why not go for Greek yoghurt or smashed avocado. Use less cheese by grating it. Use fresh herbs and if you’re really adventurous, try going bun-less.
Maybe not such a bad boy as the burger but still responsible for a lot of inflated waistlines. Pizza crusts made from refined grains cause an increase in abdominal fat and that in turn can lead to an increased risk of type two diabetes and heart disease. The solution is to go for a base which uses whole wheat flour or even one which uses a flour substitute such as cauliflower or sweet potato. The topping can be as healthy as you choose to make it. Go for a low salt tomato sauce, lots of veg and, once again, go easy on the cheese.
It’s all bad for you, right? Wrong. You need to be aware that delicious as they may be, barbecue spare ribs, fried egg rolls, fried rice and sweet and sour dishes are all very high in calories. Anything ‘crispy’ will have been deep fried and those lovely sauces need to be used in moderation, so ask for half portions. So what does that leave? Plenty. Knowing some key words is handy: jum means poached, chu means broiled, kow means roasted and shu means barbecued. Go for steamed vegetables: a steamed vegetable dumpling is delicious and is only 40 calories. Choose the brown rice option rather the nutritionally empty white rice and although fish and chicken are a great source of protein, tofu is good too. If you can’t use chopsticks, learn. They prevent you from wolfing down that delicious food too fast and they give your body time to tell your brain that you’re full.
It’s easy to whip up healthy versions of all these foods at home but if you’re in a hurry hungryhouse now feature hundreds of independent restaurants offering healthier options of all your favourites.