This is probably the last of the installments on this subject, but I just have one more topic to cover about the failing American diet. I doubt many people would argue this point with me, but basically, Americans don't eat enough vegetables. I know people often eat a salad with their dinner, or maybe a serving of canned vegetables. This doesn't come even close to being enough! When you look at the food pyramid that is suggested for healthy nutrition, they recommend that each person get 4-6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. I would guess that most Americans get maybe 2-3 per day.
Let me give you a picture of most American's dinner plate. One one side of the plate is some kind of main dish, that usually involves a piece of meat. On another side of the plate will be a serving of some kind of carbohydrate; potatoes, pasta, rice, or bread. Americans eat huge amounts of carbs and meat. On the last side of the plate will be a serving of vegetables. Some might say, "Well there you go, they have one of each food group!" But wait just a minute, let me tell you about the Chinese diet.
This is how things are laid out on a Chinese table: first of all, there is no plate, only a rice bowl. I think having only a rice bowl probably makes us eat less than if we had a huge plate that we fill with food. In the center of the table are laid several dishes of food. Each person is given a portion of rice, noodles, or bread, and then they all share the dishes of food from the center of the table. What might those dishes be? I would say about 80% of what is served is vegetables. There will be some meat, but it is used very sparingly. It is used more to flavor the vegetables. Even if you order a meat dish, it usually has vegetables in it. Chinese eat so many different varieties of vegetables, some of which aren't even sold in the United States, but are thrown away. In particular, the Chinese eat many greens, or tops of vegetables, that Americans feed to livestock instead or throw out. One time I was eating out with a Chinese woman, and I asked her which she preferred: rice, noodles, or bread. She answered that she preferred vegetables. She doesn't even like to eat much of the carbs. In the Chinese diet, carbs are to fill you up after you have eaten all of the vegetables. Quite often they don't even serve the rice until the end of the meal. I like to eat rice with my vegetables, so I have to ask the waitresses to specially bring the rice at the beginning of the meal. They always look at me kind of funny when I ask them to do that.
Another interesting thing about the Chinese diet is that they often eat vegetables for breakfast. I surprise Chinese people when I tell them that Americans never eat vegetables for breakfast. Living in Asia, I have eaten vegetables for breakfast, and they actually really do taste good, even that early in the morning.
Some people might argue that the Chinese coat their vegetables in oil, thereby making them unhealthy. But you have to understand that the oil used to stir fry is some of the only fat they get in their diet. And most of the oil used isn't consumed during the meal.
Sometimes I toy with the idea of becoming vegetarian. Maybe I should focus on being a "modified" vegetarian. I don't like to eat a lot of meat anyway. But really, you can make vegetables that taste better than meat, and it is so much healthier! Sometimes in the summer, I try to see if I can cook vegetarian for an entire week. My family actually likes it, and I feel better when we eat that way. No, I won't become a strict vegetarian any time soon, but I do enjoy eating that way often.
"I don't like vegetables!" you might tell me. I don't like them either when they are prepared the American way. Americans tend to either boil or steam their vegetables and eat them with a little salt. Bleck. If you don't really like vegetables, try making them the Chinese way. Heat up a pan and when it's hot, add a little vegetable oil. Stir it to coat the pan, then add your vegetable. Stir fry until it is tender, then add a little chopped garlic and a sprinkle of salt. You will be amazed at how much better it tastes than just boiling or steaming it! This simple stir fry method works for almost all leafy greens. Try this with fresh snow peas, green beans, zuchinni, or spinach. If you are feeling really daring, you can add a splash of soy sauce. But it doesn't need to be complicated to be good. Seriously, eat your vegetables.