LIVE LONG, LIVE WELL by Jodi Cornelio: Think lean with cool food

By Jodi Cornelio

Summertime in Maine is such a good time to think lean in what you do and what you eat.
The days are longer and warmer, so you can get more activity in during the day. Walks after or before work are much more easily accomplished with the extended daylight hours.

Even a round of golf or a bike ride can be squeezed into a long day. Not only can we get lean through extra exercise, but also hot weather tends to make us reach for cool foods.
More fruit, vegetables and salads can result in lean eating. It is a lot easier to think plants first when the fresh garden vegetables are on display at many vegetable stands and grocery stores. Perhaps you have your own garden, too, which is a wonderful way to remind yourself of the importance and luxury of eating fresh vegetables and fruits. You can’t go wrong relying on plant foods for the majority of your daily food source. Vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans contain far fewer calories and are high in nutrients, iron, fiber and protein. What more do you need? Iron alone helps with energy and fights fatigue, which is much needed when you are burning the candle at both ends of the stick trying to get it all in this summer. Great sources of iron are found in spinach, broccoli, green peas, kidney beans and chick peas.
Because Maine summers are short and always so jam-packed, I try to make food prep fast and simple by keeping the following ingredients in my pantry or refrigerator to speed it up and spice it up.

Grains and beans: I always keep quinoa and a couple of healthy types of rice and oats on hand. They are quick and simple for any meal. Beans keep well in dried or canned form and are great when combined with rice for a complete high-fiber, low-fat, high-protein, high-energy meal.

Fresh Herbs and spices: I plant several pots of a combination of mint, rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley and scallions. These I set alongside my barbecue grill making it easy to grab a handful when cooking outdoors and preparing summer salad dishes. My spice cabinet is filled with different types of spices, as I would rather flavor with spices verses butter or fats.

Olive Oil: Olive oil is a main staple in my pantry and the only form of fat found in the kitchen. It’s less expensive if you buy it in bulk — about $10 a liter. Some other types of oils are fine, but just make sure they are cold pressed and not chemically extracted. Read the label.

Eggs: Must have eggs. Eggs are a whole protein, great food source and easy to prepare in any form.
Fruit and nuts: I keep dried fruits and nuts handy in my pantry, in my car and at work in my desk for a quick snack. This helps prevent the urge to grab junk food or a power bar when you need a pick me up.

Vegetable: When it comes to vegetables, I try to shop for those that keep well. Carrots, celery, romaine lettuce and a lot of frozen veggies pack my freezer.

I hope you find these basic food sources in your kitchen to remind you to think lean. Enjoy your summer!