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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Retirees find watching their weight harder than sticking to a healthy, meat-free diet

BREAD SUBSTITUTES: Lundberg Organic Brown Long Grain Rice from Amazon.com, organic diced tomatoes, black-eyed peas and chopped peeled garlic. Organic brown rice, whole wheat pasta and quinoa are healthy, whole-grain substitutes for bread that leave you feeling full.
PROPORTIONS: I use 2 cups of organic chicken broth or water for every cup of organic brown rice. All the ingredients go into an electric rice cooker (with a brown-rice setting) at the same time, along with olive oil, a little salt and other seasonings.



A couple of years after I retired in 2008, my weight ballooned to 228 pounds from a combination of stress and not working.

After I gave up meat and poultry -- in favor of a heart-healthy diet of seafood, a daily salad and olive oil instead of butter -- I lost maybe 5 pounds.

Then, with the help of a trainer at the gym, I found a diet that really worked for me -- no bread, no pizza, and lots of whole grains, sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables, in addition to seafood -- and the pounds started coming off.

I also began working part-time for a fleet-management company -- driving press and marketing cars to New York City, Philadelphia and other places, and most of the time returning by mass transit.

It took a while, but I shed more than 40 pounds.

However, I soon got fed up with the low hourly pay, stopped working and started volunteering more, while going to the gym twice a week (volunteers are seniors who have nothing better to do with their time).

Still, last summer, I started putting on the pounds, despite following the same diet that was such a success before.

I've applied for part-time work again, but even an enlightened company like Tesla appears to hire only young people, from the looks of the workers in its New Jersey showrooms.

Assembling ingredients

We prepare most of our meals at home, but I think of cooking as just assembling good ingredients and seasoning the food to taste, while trying to avoid added sugar and too much salt.

For example, when I make pasta with sardines, I use a bottled sauce without added sugar and never salt the pasta water, because so many of the other ingredients already have plenty of sodium in them.

We don't cook with butter or cream at home, and when eating out, we ask the kitchen not to use them in our food.

We substituted olive oil for cooking and frying instead of vegetable oils, most of which contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).

One upside of home cooking is all of that exercise I get shopping at several food stores, especially when I park far away from the entrance.


Here are the proportions that work for me when cooking at home:

For pasta with sardines, 1 pound of pasta; a 40-ounce bottle of red or vodka sauce (without heavy cream); three cans of sardines with oil or tomato paste (minced before adding them to the sauce); one can of anchovies (drained and rinsed); and red wine, extra-virgin olive oil, capers, and dried herbs and seasonings to taste.

For a 10-inch frittata, 3 cups to 4 cups of egg mixture with grated cheese, chopped pitted olives, diced tomatoes, mushrooms and other ingredients poured into a preheated pan with olive oil.

For organic brown rice or quinoa prepared in an electric cooker, 2 cups of chicken broth or water for every cup of whole grain, plus a little more if you add black-eyed peas or beans, diced tomatoes, pitted olives, mushrooms and chopped fresh garlic.

SEAFOOD BOLOGNESE: Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti from Whole Foods Market ($1.49 for a 1-pound package) with sardines in marinara sauce.
PLENTY OF LEFTOVERS: Cooking 1 pound of pasta at a time leaves plenty of leftover for breakfast (topped with eggs sunny side up), lunch and a snack.
SWEET MASH: ShopRite Supermarkets in Paramus, Rochelle Park and Englewood sell 3-pound bags of Organic Sweet Potatoes for $3.99. I bake them or cut them up with the skin, boil them until soft, then drain and mash them with extra-virgin olive oil and a half-dozen seasonings, including curry powder, cinnamon and granulated garlic. 
LESS GREEN: Last week, two brands of Organic Spring Mix -- Earthbound Farm and Wholesome Garden -- dropped in price to only $3.99 at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro and the Costco Business Center in Hackensack. I dress my salads with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE RADICCHIO: I prefer Earthbound Farm, which contains radicchio in addition to all of the baby lettuces in spring mix. Above, Wholesome Garden Organic Spring at the Costco Business Center.
COOKING AHEAD: Leftovers from a kitchen-sink frittata make a great snack or a light dinner. 
PESTO ACCENT: I pour the egg mixture into a preheated non-stick pan with olive oil on the stove top and, after the crust sets, finish the frittata under the broiler, adding pesto when it is cooling on the counter.
ASIAN GREENS: From an array of greens at H Mart, the Korean supermarket chain, I favor Chinese broccoli and mustard greens or whatever I find on sale.
COVERED COOKING: I poured a half-cup of organic chicken broth and a little sesame oil into the pan, brought them to boil and added the thick stems, putting on the glass cover. The leafy greens go in later.
KALE AND EGGS: I prepared an egg-white omelet with smoked wild salmon, reduced-fat Swiss cheese and pesto, and added kale from the other pot. 
SAY KEEN-WA: Like organic brown rice, organic quinoa can be prepared in an electric cooker, with all of the ingredients added at once. A Mexican-style salsa makes quinoa even more appealing.
NO-SALT SEASONING: I prepare fresh spinach with chicken broth, sesame oil and Organic No-Salt Seasoning from Costco Wholesale, which has an extensive line of spices sold under the Kirkland Signature house label (a few of them are shown below).

SUNNY SIDE UP: For perfect fried eggs, use a non-stick pan with olive oil, and don't turn the flame above medium. I add grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, and eat them over pasta, quinoa or brown rice.

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