Alan, a man in his 40s, came to us with a unique request- “Help me lose the excess weight but please don’t make me give up my junk food!” At first we thought he was kidding, but after we heard about his eating habits, we realized he couldn’t be more serious 🙂
It turns out that Alan’s daily menu was based mostly on fast food, of the deep-fried kind. Grabbing fast food for lunch was his idea of fun- it’s cheap, it’s always available, and it’s tasty- what more can you ask for? How about a whole list of this-is-bad-for-you ingredients: excess oils, saturated fats, sodium, sugar, starches, flavor enhancers, and preservatives, and a whole lot of calories.
After learning about Alan’s diet, and realizing he wasn’t doing any exercise whatsoever, neither of us were surprised by his blood test results or by the fact that he was overweight.
As we know, when it comes to eating, there’s typically a psychological component on top of the physical one. We don’t just eat and digest, simply for survival. So before we started working with Alan on his menu we tried to figure out if there may be an emotional or nutritional deficit that this fried food routine was filling.
No matter who’s the client or what their issues are, we always aspire to achieve nutritional balance, in a way that doesn’t make them feel deprived. If you set too many rules, cut out too many familiar foods and expect drastic changes, this could lead to resentment, at first and later result in resorting back to old habits.
Moderation is the key- It allows both body and mind to adjust and react.
If we want to make a real difference and help people alter their habits into a healthy routine, we need to do it in small steps, and in a way that is easy to maintain. And we also must be realistic about the choices we expect our clients to make. Many small steps put together create a leap of a difference.
True, Alan’s case was a tough nut to crack in terms of moderation. It was obvious we couldn’t let him keep his daily deep-fried treats, but on the other hand we couldn’t take it away from him completely. We needed to find some healthier alternatives that would help him have the best of both worlds.
Come to think of it, not all street food is necessarily unhealthy! Take for example Falafel- there is nothing unhealthy in the ingredients- chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lots of greens and seasonings alongside a salad with some tahini on top- basically, with the exception of the deep frying, bad quality oil, and maybe the pita bread, it’s an excellent nutritious dish.
Our goal was to make him a healthier version of one of his favorite and too often eaten fast foods.
This variation on a favorite Israeli street food has many benefits over the fast-food variety:
- It is made from whole food ingredients like chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, and garlic.
- It is baked instead of fried.
- It has less oil and of a better quality.
- It does not include any flavor enhancers (like MSG) or preservatives (made of processed starches) which are oftentimes added to ingredients falafel stands use.
- It can be made healthier and even gluten free, just by the choice of breadcrumbs: whole wheat, regular, or gluten free.
Same rule applies for your choice of pita bread (if you like).
- It gives you the taste and crunch of falafel with all the nutrition and without the unhealthy ingredients and added calories.
2 cups of frozen chickpeas
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (any kind you like)
1 cup parsley
1 cup cilantro
4 garlic cloves
1 flat tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp baking soda
Place all the ingredients in the food processor EXCEPT THE BAKING SODA and blend until it’s combined into one “dough”.
Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Add the baking soda to the mixture and mix well.
Line a baking tray with a baking sheet and spray it with some oil.
Create balls or flatten evenly on the baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated oven (200? C/ 400? F) for 20-30 minutes.
If you choose to make the crumble instead of the balls, take the pan out of the oven once it’s browned and crumble over some grilled tomatoes or a fresh salad.
If you choose to eat your falafel balls in a pita bread, add some finely chopped salad.
Some Tahini with garlic and lemon drizzled on top is always a good addition.