My Plate

I’m embarrassed to admit that I missed the memo from the US government.  The one saying they had eliminated the Food Pyramid and were replacing it with MyPlate. Apparently the old one was too complicated.   
According to Michelle Obama, “When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”
Whatever it takes.  The new plate graphic is a cool idea, and it’s probably more relevant when it comes to eating, but does it really address the larger problem?   Yes, sensible food choices are critical – but what about those enormous food portions and the size of the plate?  And, what about those times when there is no plate?  Does that count? 
America’s fascination with an easy taco, a quick burger, or any other overly processed foods is a clear indicator that we are governed by our impulses.  We are looking for a fast fix to fill that empty void.  Sadly, that need is not long satisfied by plowing through a half-pounder, a side of fries, and washing it down with a Big Gulp.
Admittedly, my eating habits have gotten out of hand too, so I’m taking this summer to re-visit them and get a grip.  For the past couple of years or so, my excuse has been that I’m adjusting to a cooler climate and I’ve naturally gravitated to eating heavier meals.  Also, with longer days away from home, I’ve rationalized quick energy snacks and the need for more “brain food.”  Wow, how handy for the trail mix, the peanut butter, and perhaps some more of that chocolate for good measure. 
Which brings me back to the My Pyramid Tracker, likely now obsolete and incorporated in the new MyPlate site.  I’ve used this site for monitoring daily intake and usage. It has improved over the past year and  seems to have many of the earlier kinks worked out for tracking meals, searching for nutritional values, sorting out food requirements and much more.   Another site worth checking out for their exercise component is My Fitness Pal, I use their Recipe section to enter personal recipes for nutritional analysis breakdown.   
With my new eating regimen, I’ve noticed that the focus on whole grains, beans and pulses really does work.  I find I am not hungry as often and my energy stays at a higher more consistent level.  Still, this is all pretty new to me, so I’m spending more time in the advance prep stage.  But once prepared, I don’t mind having a repeat of the same dish, and my freezer is filling up nicely with meals for later.  Another plus beyond feeling better, is that a visit to the bulk food section of my market is far less expensive than a walk down the meat aisle. 
Here’s a lentil dish I especially enjoyed in the early stages of my Meat Reduction Program.  At the time, the addition of a limited amount of grilled turkey Polish sausage seemed like a big enough sacrifice.  As time has gone on, and I’ve increased the pulses, whole grains and beans, I’ve noticed my need for meat has greatly diminished. But, then again, there’s nothing like a great burger…
Lentils, Kale and Sausage 
Inspired by EatingWell magazine

Ingredients:
·         1 tbsp. olive oil, divided
·         12 oz. precooked turkey sausage, such as kielbasa
·         1 large onion
·         2-3 cloves garlic
·         ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
·         ½ tsp. thyme
·         1 bay leaf
·         2 tbsp. celery leaves (from celery below)
·         1 carrot, peeled, chopped
·         1 cup green lentils, rinsed
·         2 stalks celery
·         1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
·         5 cups chicken stock, or part water/bouillon
·         12 cups kale, cleaned, stripped from stalk and chopped
·         ½ tsp. salt and pepper each
Directions
1.       Heat a deep pot over medium heat, coat with about 2 tsp. olive oil and brown the sausage on all side.  Remove the sausage and let cool.
2.       Add the remaining oil and onion to the pot to soften, then add the garlic and toss until aromatic.  Add the red pepper and spices, then the celery leaves, carrot, and pepper.  Deglaze the pot with stock, and bring all to a simmer.
3.       Add the lentils and simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes, or until nearly tender.   Stir in the kale and simmer 10-15 minutes longer.  Taste for seasoning and top with sliced sausage.  Serves 6. 

Delicious topped with Baby Tomatoes marinated in Sherry Vinegar. 
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