Sunday, 2 September 2012

Deliciously Healthy

Deliciously healthy 
DINNER guests does not mean you can´t eat healthy. Just cook it yourself with healthy fresh produce, writes SUZANNA PILLAY.

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  • Pasta is low in fat and GI
Having unexpected guests for dinner can derail your healthy eating regime if you opt for fast food or head for the neighbourhood restaurants.

An alternative is to whip up something quick but delicious, yourself. You only need to stock your kitchen with some healthy fresh produce that can be easily turned into decent meals.

If you think this means boring, tasteless food, think again. Most supermarkets now stock a range of interesting ingredients from around the world that you can experiment with.

From flavoured pastas, oils and vinegars to meat, poultry and seafood flown in from around the globe, the choice is vast. Even exotic vegetables such as artichokes and anchos (Mexican chilli) are being offered in local supermarkets as we get more adventurous gastronomically.

With some help from the staff of O´ Gourmet Food Hall in Bangsar Shopping Centre, we pick out some interesting ingredients that are easy to use at home.


On its own, pasta is low in fat with a low glycemic index (does not cause sugar in blood to rise quickly). It is what you serve with the pasta that drives up the calorie and fat count.

Avoid using creamy, cheesy sauces and fatty meat products such as chorizo. Instead, use pesto or a low fat tomato sauce with mushroom, seafood, tuna, chicken or green pepper for the protein and vegetable selections.

For flavoured pasta you can use a simple aioli of crushed garlic, egg yolk, lemon juice and olive oil. You can adjust the recipe for a traditional aioli and reduce or omit the egg yolk, if preferred.


A versatile vegetable that is high in folate, potassium and antioxidants and low in calories. It works well in both Asian and western preparations, as a vegetarian main course or as an accompaniment to a protein entree.

It is equally delicious stir fried, steamed or served cold in salads. The green variety is more common but you can also come across the white and purple varieties.


Cholesterol and fat free and low in calories (only 25 calories per artichoke). A good source of vitamin C and magnesium, it is suitable for a vegetarian entree. Artichokes can be prepared in a variety of ways including steaming and stuffed.


Boiled, grilled, stewed, stir fried, sauteed, baked or poached, mushrooms still taste good. They are low in calories and fat, so you can use them generously in egg dishes, pasta, stew, sandwiches, salad and stir fry. If you can´t get your hands on fresh mushrooms, the dried variety works just as well. Dried mushrooms like chanterelles and trumpets work well in soups and casseroles.


Most people shy away from beef and opt for fish or chicken when it comes to serving a healthy protein main course. But certain cuts of beef like filet mignon are low in fat and contain about 51 calories per ounce (28g) of filet mignon (lean only). Taken from the tenderloin, it is the the most expensive and tender cut of beef because it doesn´t contain much connective tissue.


Veal is another excellent choice for a low-fat meat entree. Pan fry or grill and serve with some oven-roasted vegetables.


Look out for shelled, assorted raw nuts. Supermarkets usually carry a variety of nuts which you can roast and add to salads for added crunch or use to make a pesto for pasta. Traditional pesto is a basil-olive oil-pine nut-parmesan cheese mix. Try a mixture of pecan-parmesan-coriander-carrot mix, or a sunflower seed-sundried tomato-parmesan-chive mix. Before serving, check that your guests don´t suffer from nut allergy.

Hazelnut and walnut oil

Besides olive oil, flavoured oils such as hazelnut and walnut make good dressings for cold salads. Just mix with your favourite flavoured vinegar to create a special dressing and drizzle over salads.


Flavoured vinegar is an excellent low calorie salad dressing option. It can also be used to create flavoursome marinades and sauces for roasts and casseroles. Aside from the usual sherry, red and white wine vinegar, fruit vinegar such as apple cider, balsamic and black mulberry are good flavours to try.


Honey contains antioxidants and energy boosters. It is great as a sweetener and flavouring agent that can be used in desserts and beverages. It combines well with other sauces and herbs and is suitable for salad dressing and marinades for meat, fish or poultry.
Source : New Straits Times

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