3 perfect foods

could you live on this?

The Perfect Food: one item that provided all the nutrients, protein, fats and energy you needed.  It would have to taste so compelling that you never got tired of it.   You could live on it, drinking only water.  We have a version of Perfect Food for our dogs and cats: chow, which is designed to meet all their known nutritional needs.  When some new nutrient is discovered, chow manufacturers just throw some in.  So far people don’t have chow, although we do have meal bars, which may be the same thing, judging by the flavor.  The Perfect Food already exists for babies – breast milk, which provides everything they need for the first months of life.

Taking a cue from nature, manufacturers use milk as a base, and throw in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants to create a not-quite-Perfect food. Ensure and similar products are positioned as meal replacement shakes, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to live on them for too long.   They work best as occasional meal replacements, or as a nutritional supplement for people who need to gain weight, or who aren’t able to eat much else due to illness.   Some yoghurts are also being positioned in this category, with added nutrients, fiber and now plant sterols, with cholesterol-lowering effects.  But would you be happy eating only yoghurt or a sweetened milk shake all day everyday?

With the right ingredients, it’s possible to create almost-Perfect versions of some popular foods:

  1. Pizza: not the kind that’s dripping with too much cheese, sausage and pepperoni.  The Perfect Food pizza would be thin whole grain crust, with plenty of fresh vegetables, a modest amount of cheese and possibly some chicken or other low fat meat.  For example: whole grain crust plus tomato marinara made with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, spinach or arugula, thin slices of potato and part-skim mozzarella or goat cheese.  If you don’t want it in pizza form, make it into a calzone.
  2. Burrito: not the kind that’s oozing cheese, sour cream and fatty meats. Wrap up low fat refried beans with chopped tomatoes, peppers, roasted chilis, potatoes, dark lettuce, onion, a modest amount of grated cheese.  Optional: scrambled egg or chicken or lean red meat.  Add a dab of guacamole and salsa.
  3. Yoghurt smoothie: using fresh fruit and juices in a smoothie boosts the vitamin, mineral and fiber content far higher than milk-based meal replacement shakes.  I like to use Greek-style yoghurt to get concentrated protein and calcium, and the shake stays thick and creamy.  Blend about 1/3 cup with 1 cup mixed chopped fruit like melon, peaches, pineapple and berries and 3/4 cup 100% juice of your choice.

The key ingredients in these 3 choices are fruits and/or vegetables.  They add natural fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, which tend to be lacking in meal replacement bars and drinks.  They also add taste variety, important if you are eating the same thing everyday.  Actually, if you used these three items for 3 meals/day, you’d be doing pretty well nutritionally.  Limit portions and you’ve created your own weight loss diet.

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