Spice up your life

I was recently asked if I’m still “eating healthy”, and when I answered yes, the questioner replied “I couldn’t stand to eat bland food like that all the time”.  I didn’t know how to answer.  Why does the perception still exist that healthy=bland.  Many years ago, when we knew much less about nutrition than we know today, the idea existed that healthy food was spice free, boiled and bland.  We also thought that there were honest politicians.  We now know neither of those things is true.


Anyone who has eaten my cooking knows my food is anything but bland.  I have a rather extensive spice rack, and I am always looking for new spices to try.  I also enjoy experimenting with different spice mixes.  Using spices is a great way to make healthy eating exciting, without adding unnecessary calories or preservatives. Spices can make cooked vegetables palatable for those who usually turn their noses up to vegetables. Last night I marinated skirt steak with my own Chorizo mix (recipe below) and some olive oil for a few hours before grilling and it came out incredible.  I added some sliced eggplant breaded with almond meal and spices, ( I’d give a recipe, but I usually just go with the flow and add spices wily nily)  and then pan fried in coconut oil, finished with a big salad and my wife, daughter and I had a great tasting and healthy meal.  This healthy meal was the polar opposite of bland, and didn’t take a long time to make.

The spice mix possibilities are endless.  I scour the internet for ideas.  Some of my favorites are Moroccan ras el hanout, Tunisian harissa, Indian masala mixes, or African berbere.  These can all be made at home fairly easily, or purchased premixed. Either way, they will add a different dimension to your diet.  They will help you replace quantityimg_2345 with quality.  I usually start out making small batches from someone else’s recipe, and as I feel recipe’s are just guidelines, I will adjust the ingredients to my tastes. I’ve used “Practical Paleo” by Diane Sanfilippo to get ideas for some of my mixes.  I keep a handful bagged and ready at all times.

Once you have some mixes you like, making a quick tasty meal is pretty easy.  Some nights I will just take a container of chicken wings, pat them dry, mix them in a bowl of my “kitchen sink” spice mix (I just add lots of a variety of spices to a bowl and mix.  I don’t measure, so don’t ask) , then bake for forty five minutes at 400 degrees (turning after 22 minutes).  You can do the same with chicken thighs using the above procedure.  Sometimes I’ll just pan fry a bunch of vegetables and then add a few pinches of one of my mixes to get a very tasty side dish.  I like my mixes on the just above medium hot side, so you should adjust the hot spices accordingly.

So now you don’t have to cringe when your doctor (or your spouse) tells you that you have to start eating healthier.  Healthy eating doesn’t need to be boring or bland.  Don’t be afraid experiment with spice mixes to help you make your healthy cooking exiting and different.

Chorizo Spice Mix

2 TBS chipotle powder

1 TBS hot hungarian Paprika (or your favorite paprika)

1 TBS onion powder

1 TBS garlic powder

1/2 TBS sea salt

1/2 TBS coriander

1/2 TBS cumin

1 TSP black pepper

Don’t Mace me man. 

No, I’m not talking about the chemical spray used for self defense. I’m talking about an old fashioned warriors mace like I am holding.  Not only can it be used for self defense, but you can get a great workout with one, and in a pinch it would be a great child motivator (who needs time outs) No, I haven’t gone off the deep end. It’s actually a really great tool to help you get a full body workout in a minimum amount of time and space.  The video I made below gives a good introduction to the many wonders of the mace. 

Healthy smealthy, who needs it!

Ever hear this one; “My (mother/aunt/unspecified female relative) smoke, drank, ate anything she wanted, never worked out, and she’s still kicking around at 99, so why I should worry about living a healthy lifestyle?”

That’s an interesting question.  I mean hell, George Burns lived until he wascharlie sheen.jpg 100, and he smoked cigars and drank like a fish until he died.  Why bother living healthy when living unhealthy is so much more fun? There are many who feel if they die a few years younger while having fun, it will have been worth it.  It’s a compelling argument.  Just ask Charlie, he’s the poster boy for this mentality. After all, that philosophy seems to have worked out for him.  If you’re agreeing with that last statement, Houston, we have a problem.

Modern medicine has done wonders over the last half century or so coming up with a myriad of ways to keep people alive despite their best efforts.  They have medical procedures and drugs that can extend life for years beyond what the average body could do on its own.   The medical/pharmaceutical industries have come up with some truly fantastic products to help people counteract the poor lifestyle choices they make.  So go ahead, have fun, live the way you want and ignore all the stuff out there about living a healthy lifestyle, modern medicine and miracle drugs will keep you alive for much longer than you could do on your own.  How cool is that.

The problem is, while you may live longer, what kind of quality of life will you have in those “extra” years.  I guess that depends on your expectations.  If you enjoy endless hours of Seinfeld reruns then live it up, because there’s a pretty good chance that’s all you’ll be able to do.  If you want to be active and enjoy a high quality of life well into your 80’s and 90’s, well that healthy lifestyle might help.  Don’t believe me.  I wouldn’t, I’m a notorious liar.  Fortunately there are plenty of credible sources out there to back up what I’m saying.  One is a book I recently read written by a couple of guys named Crowley and Lodge back in 2004 titled “Younger Next Year”  They have made a cottage industry out of the subject, as you can see if you visit their website at (youngernextyear.com).  Chris Crowley is a retired lawyer and Henry Lodge is an internist specializing in geriatric medicine.  The premise of the book is that you can live a healthy active life, with the vim and vigor of a 50 year old, well into your 80’s without relying on any miracle drugs to keep you that way. That’s really good news. The downside is that it takes work. really hard and serious work. But if you treat it like a job, and make exercise and your health a priority in your life, the data seems to be on your side that you will be able to live a healthy and vigorous life well into your grandparenting years. If you are over 40 you would be doing yourself a favor by reading this book. If everyone over 40 read this book and applied the basic premise to their lives, the pharmaceutical industry would collapse overnight. There wouldn’t be a need for all the drugs to treat the symptoms of the poor lifestyle choices made by most first world citizens.

If a retired lawyer and an internist aren’t convincing enough, there’s plenty of scholarly information on lifestyle related diseases (Cardiovascular disease, Dyslipidemia, Type II diabetes, Hypertension, Diverticulitis), including this study on diet and exercise interventions for metabolic diseases published in the Journal of the Society for Biomedical Diabetes Research in 2006.(Diet, Exercise, and Metabolic Syndrome)   Just do a little google research and you’ll find plenty of information from credible sources about how diet and exercise can reduce the effects of, if not outright cure, lifestyle related diseases.

I know taking a pill or two everyday for the rest of your life is much easier than modifying your lifestyle. It’s the siren song of a better life through pharmaceuticals. Why bother working hard exercising, denying yourself the daily pleasures of eating and drinking things that are potentially harmful to you, yet so good to eat, when you can just take a pill and make it all go away.  Why bother trying to get your stress under control when that blood pressure pill takes care of it for you.  I get it.  I’ve been in that situation and I almost succumbed to the siren’s call.  I was fortunate that I woke up before I went down that road.  It’s not easy to comprehend how much better you will feel everyday when you adopt a healthy lifestyle.  I’m not sure that I could have convinced my younger self there was a better way.  I was mired in the high stress, crazy work hours, shuttling kids around, grabbing whatever food you can(usually fast and highly processed) lifestyle that is standard in today’s western society.  That makes me sad, because if you only knew how good you could feel by living a healthy lifestyle, as I have come to know, you will regret not having done it sooner, as I have done.  When you adopt a healthy lifestyle, the changes won’t happen overnight, but they will happen, gradually, and you’ll eventually feel so good everyday that you won’t remember what it was like to be unhealthy.