By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“Oh, temptation, temptation!” said one of my staff members. “I like only unhealthy snacks,” she said.
Sugary chocolate, fresh white bread, and cakes are her favorite snacks. I don’t blame her. I was in her shoes once. Then, I got some health scares—first, a near-stroke, then being diagnosed as pre-diabetic.
A severe headache hit me so bad, it felt like a sharp knife stabbing me, and it had spread to my face. These words frightened me…“You have signs of a stroke,” said my doctor. “Your blood pressure is 130.” My normal blood pressure was under 110. After talking for a while, I calmed down. He took my vitals again, and my blood pressure dropped to 120.
How I got to that point was my fault—rest when I didn’t, eat when I shouldn’t. My habits of indulgence or destruction ranged from consuming too many cookies to chips, ice cream and pastries. I was a compulsive eater, obsessed with sweets. The more sugar I ate, the more I craved it. I also was a sucker for white rice. At the time, we didn’t know about the option of brown rice. I was young then, and I thought I was invincible!
Most people take drugs to curb their high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
My doctor recommended the same for me and I gave myself an ultimatum.
I decided to take the pills for one month, and quit without consulting my doctor. I was determined not to depend on drugs. I realized the risks I was taking. I could have died. What I did was tough, but wise. The first month was hard, I was worrying if it would kill me. After that, it was a no-brainer.
My decision not only saved my life, better eating habits started to emerge.
Immediately, I withdrew from sugar and white rice. After six months, I lost my craving for sugar. Gradually, I ate less and less white rice. Six years ago, we switched to brown rice. We used to eat white rice once a week. Now, we don’t even miss it. I still love desserts, but not if it’s too rich or sugary. If a cookie is too sweet, I stop eating it after one bite. I enjoy natural ingredients. Fresh food is what crave.
Here is the result. With healthy food choices in my diet, I have more energy than ever, and less frequency of catching the flu every year. When I get a cold, I recover quickly. All because I eat healthy 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent, I give myself a break. Let the dragon out of my body—that is, eat whatever I want, so I don’t feel deprived. Since my taste buds have adapted to fresh foods, I miss them after going astray for a while.
If you get hooked on junk food, find other healthy substitutes. My staff members suggest some healthy snack ideas.
Rebecca: “Walnuts boost brain power. Edamame (soybeans) provide protein.
Those snacks make me feel satisfied.” It is simple to make, just boil for three minutes with a piece of ginger and salt.”
Kelly: “Yogurt is great.” She also makes a healthy powder by grinding plain yogurt, chia seeds, flax seeds, and black sesame seeds. Anyone can make their own favorite snack powder and mix with milk.
Xia: “My kids and I have cereals for snacks. Cereals such as bran flakes and wheat, and oatmeal are nutritious and delicious. They are also filling.”
John: “Celery with peanut butter. Nut bars are filling and have lots of protein.”
Nancy seconded nut bars. She constantly snacks on mixed nut bars.
Lei Pei: “Dried fruits like dried mangos, plums, bananas, etc. Fresh fruits are good too.”
Ruth: “Hard boiled eggs and turkey meatballs.” Turkey is a rich source of protein and has less fat than chicken or beef.
Assunta: My list is long. I definitely love walnuts and soybeans. Any nuts are a great source of protein. Try pecan, pistachios, almonds, and cashews. Speaking of peanut butter, I am fond of scooping up two teaspoonfuls of peanut butter once in a while.
Seaweed, especially wakame seaweed from Asian grocery stores — they give me iron and other vitamins. Also, stock your fridge with smoked salmon. Although I don’t drink, I envision my late mom nibbling on smoked salmon with a glass of red wine. That fish is a strong brain food. Definitely, baby tomatoes. A glass of almond coconut milk is my new snack. Miso soup is wonderful. I buy the instant kind. Just mix it with boiling water.
Tomato section at Uwajimaya (Photo by George Liu)A word about chocolate. If you buy dark chocolate, it definitely has less sugar.
Dark chocolate with almonds is irresistible. It also has anti-aging properties. Always have it in your pantry.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.