Dinner Time: Is Good Food on Your Healthy List?

By: Denise Stegall

What is the one thing that you think of every day? Several times a day, perhaps. You wake up

thinking about it, daydream about it. You even plan shopping trips and take vacations to find it. You spend hours planning and preparing for it. What is this one thing that has our minds so preoccupied? Good Food!


GOOD FOOD is on one thing that we think of constantly. Maybe not minute by minute but

certainly more often than you even realize. How many times just after breakfast have you

asked your spouse, “What do you want for dinner?”.



Nothing brings us together the way good food does. We gather around tables at home, with friends, in restaurants surrounded by the people we love. It fills our bellies and warms our soul. The good food you eat nurtures your body and gives it what it needs to optimally function. It sharpens your mind, increases energy, keeps you feeling great! It’ll even help you maintain a healthy weight or if need be, lose weight, too!


Bookstores and bookshelves are filled with cookbooks on good food, the internet is loaded with recipes for good food yet the term “Good Food” means something different to everyone. I even polled my family, who as you can imagine I know pretty well, and some of their answers surprised me. Overwhelmingly though their good food included pasta, pizza, taco’s burritos and ribs which, I’ll admit, agreed with most people I have worked with in the past at Living Healthy List. As a health and life coach, the first thing I want to know is what my clients are eating on a regular basis.


It seems that comfort foods are mainly thought of as good food. Foods that are heavy,

smothered with butter, cream, cheese and tons of calories. Not much nutrition, either.

How often have you though about good food and an image of a green salad with pomegranates tomatoes and chick peas popped into your mind?


Why do so many of us think that foods that are good for us: vegetables, fruit, whole grains,

legume, nuts seed, fatty fish and lean meats don’t taste good? The answer to that is multifactorial. What you ate growing up can dictate your likes and dislikes. Your location, family background, and income level play a role. If, as a child you weren’t encouraged to try new foods like fish, Brussel sprouts, or even a grapefruit your palate never had the opportunity to acquire a taste for them.


When my nephew was little, he would not eat a vegetable, any vegetable. His dad didn’t eat

vegetables either which made the case for “veggies being good for you” a true challenge for my sister. As an adult in his 20’s, he still isn’t keen on vegetables but he can be coaxed to eat them if they are smothered with cheese or Ranch dressing. Which, by the way, defeats the point of the wholesomeness of the veggies. But, at least it’s a start. Interestingly, the same nephew loves sushi rolls so maybe there is still hope for his taste buds. Another factor that plays a role in us believing that foods that are good for us but don’t taste good is in the way they are prepared. Most of us home cooks have basic cooking techniques like frying, baking or boiling. We have never learned more advanced techniques (advanced not difficult) to transform a boring leek into a creamy, delicious and satisfying soup or a basket of

mushrooms into a sweet and sassy topping for steak. Instead we boil or fry them into oblivion with tons of butter and oil. Not that butter and oil are bad, they absolutely have their place in cooking just not so much or so often.



Finally, most of us never learned the finesse of using herbs and spices. Go into any household and I can bet you’ll find a salt and pepper shaker in the kitchen. Maybe a few random spice jars hidden in the back of a cabinet, probably past their prime. They are an afterthought instead of part of the planning and cooking process. With herbs and spices you can take a head of lettuce and turn it into a scrumptious meal. That olive oil I mentioned earlier will come in handy, here!


Condiments and sauces in the United States are pretty benign. Mayo, mustard and ketchup are the most popular and let’s be honest the most boring! I am encouraged by the influx of

international condiments that can now be found in the local supermarkets. Sriracha anyone?

Growing up in New York I thought sauce was red, thick and took hours to cook on the stove. It was not until I was un college that I expanded my culinary skills and began experimenting with beurre blanc, chimichurri and pesto. They may sound complicated and exotic but I assure you if an 18-year-old college kid could master them in 10 minutes, you can too!


As I’ve gotten older and approach 50, my celebration is in April, I’ve noticed that most of us at this stage in life have gotten a little thick in the middle. We can blame it on menopause, it

certainly a contributor but more likely our food choices are the culprit. When you were little you were probably allowed one cookie at a time. As an adult do you still limit yourself to just one? Probably not. If you do, congratulations, may I have some of your willpower? Cookies are my Kryptonite.


Our food choices have always dictated how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally and at this incredible stage in our lives its never been more important! This is the best time of our lives. We are wiser, more confident, have more time for ourselves and have cultivated

meaningful relationships with friends and family. The sad truth is that many of us are not living a heathy, happy fulfilling life. Heart disease, cardio vascular disease, obesity, and diabetes are wreaking havoc on so many of us, (about 13.7%) and that number grows as we age.


It’s time to focus on good food- real food! The foods that lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, help us lose and maintain a healthy weight and feel vibrant? Real foods are whole foods which are mostly unprocessed, free of chemical additives, and rich in nutrients. These are the foods our grandparents ate prior to the 20th century, when processed, packaged and ready to eat meals became the bulk of the western diet. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, lean meat, poultry and fish are the staples of a healthy diet of real food. 


The basic premise of Eat Real Food is consuming foods the way nature intended them (or as

close as possible). It’s a lifestyle philosophy, not a diet. I know, I know. You’re thinking that these are the foods that don’t taste good. I assure you that they do. Your taste buds just don’t realize it. After almost 50 years of eating processed foods with added artificial flavors, sugars, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), canola/vegetable oil and chemical additives that you can barely pronounce your taste buds are numb! Anything you eat that isn’t super sugary and salty seem to lack flavor. The wonderful, natural flavor is there but you can’t taste it.


As soon as you stop eating processed foods, and pretty much everything we eat is somewhat

processed, you notice the sweetness of carrots, strawberries no longer need to be sprinkled

with sugar or drowned in whipped cream. You’ll find that a little bit of good quality olive oil has an amazing flavor and that a little goes a long way. Focus on Eating Real Foods 80% of the time and your life will change. You will feel better, you think more clearly, your joints are less stiff and you have more energy to do the things you enjoy. I truly feel that at 50 you can feel as good if not better than you did when you were 30!


With the holidays fast approaching the topic of good food has once again dominated the

conversation in my circles. Specifically, because many of the traditional foods we eat during the holidays are not particularly heathy. They tend to be heavy, calorie laden, full of butter, cream, gloppy canned soup and of course we eat too much of it. During this holiday season I encourage you to “lighten up” your traditional dinner menu. I’ve even made it easy for you to do so by giving you my some of my favorite Thanksgiving Recipes.


Be assured that it’s not as daunting a task as you may think. Planning and prepping are

essential. Simply by adding a green salad with an olive oil and vinegar dressing using herbs

and spices as well as a dish using a whole grain like quinoa you can completely change the

focus of the meal to good food that’s good for you.


Turning 50 is momentous which makes it the perfect time to evaluate what is important and what is not, and to decide on any changes you need to make. Eating real food, and creating healthy habits now helps you view your life with optimism, hope and enjoy this incredible time in life.


Fifty is a threshold that opens to new horizons and those healthy habits you make today can

determine your quality of life for reaching your next milestones.



Meet Denise Stegall

Denise Stegall is a speaker, teacher, transformational life coach and CEO and curator of Living Healthy List, an online healthy lifestyle magazine. She has innate wisdom as a connector and a leader who radiates emotional intelligence, strength, positivity, and a zest for life! Denise holds a BA in Hotel, Restaurant and Business Management with a focus on nutrition,

experience in the food industry and has certifications in Health Coaching, Life Coaching,

Nutrition, ETP and Plant Based Cooking. Denise has condensed 20 years of experience/study in nutrition, cooking, exercise and coaching to educate women on how to live, healthy happy and fulfilling lives by focusing on 4 pillars health, wellness, personal development and fun! As the CEO and Curator of Living Healthy List she is determined to connect Living Healthy List to experts that can trust and provide honest, reliable, research-backed content that can be implemented in real life!

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