Power Foods

by Matt on January 25, 2011

You’d never know by looking at my chubby exterior, but during the week we focus on a variety of healthy meals at home in an effort to balance the overindulgence, tastings, and big dinners that usually fill our weekends. And even if it weren’t for this health focus, if anything it’s to give my palate a rest from overactivity. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy sacrificing flavor because I do not; I need meals that incorporate great tastes as well as make me feel fantastic.  When I read that the editors of Whole Living Magazine were compiling their best recipes that feature the healthiest ingredients possible I knew I’d be in for a treat. And Power Foods doesn’t fail.

The book contains recipes that incorporate key ingredients that are not only delicious but good for you — things like berries, tomatoes and nuts. These foods have a tremendous impact on our health but none of that means a thing if you can’t find ways to actually prepare them and like them, a key to maintaining a successful diet. Power Foods gives you hundreds of ideas, but a favorite thing for me is the inclusion of the book’s Golden Rules, a collection of best practices for shopping and the kitchen.

The book begins as a guide to these foods, providing a visual glossary as well as information on buying, storing and eating these healthy ingredients. From there the book is packed with recipes and so much valuable information. And it covers almost anything you’d be looking for, from breakfast and soups & stews to main dishes and desserts.

I had a few minutes to chat with Alex Postman, Whole Living Editor-In-Chief, about Power Foods, some of her favorite recipes from the book as well as our mutual love of kale.  Thank you, Alex!

Matt: What are your favorite recipes from the book?

Alex: One recipe I love is for breakfast: the egg, kale, and ricotta on toast (p. 82). It’s a delicious, nutritious way to start off the day with vegetables, especially one that can be a bit challenging to incorporate beyond dinner!

Staple you’re eating this winter:

Lentil, carrot, and lemon soup with fresh dill (p. 152)
It works for me because it’s only five ingredients, it takes just 30 minutes, it gets its fresh flavor from lemon juice and dill—so healthy! And fiber-rich lentils lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. You can make a double batch and freeze it. My kids eat it too.

Winter salad: oranges with olives and parsley (p. 174)
It’s so easy to make and the surprising combination of oranges, olives, and paprika gives citrus a whole new level of taste.

dinner: roasted salmon and parsnips with ginger (p. 208)
I rarely cook fish but this one is so easy and versatile, as are many of our dressing, sauce, and marinade recipes. This one’s tamari-ginger dressing is great to have on hand for fish, vegetables, and tofu.

Any specific power foods you love?

Well, again, I love kale. I didn’t always love it, but now I know how to cook it right. It’s low in calories and super dense in nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, and K, and fiber, iron, and calcium. It’s also versatile: you can bake it and make chips, eat it raw shredded in a winter salad, blend it in a smoothie, saute it as a side. The options are endless.


I must admit that I wasn’t always a fan of kale. During my early years cashiering at Whole Foods I kept my distance from it, it seemed too tough and leafy. But like you I know how to cook it properly and do love it! What else?

Quinoa is my new favorite. Believe it or not, quinoa is one of the most highly searched terms on Wholeliving.com—I think this seed (it’s not a grain) is having a bit of a moment! It’s the only plant-based complete protein, and it’s high in vitamin B and magnesium, two nutrients that can help reduce the frequency of migraines. Plus, one cup packs more than 5 grams of fiber. And it’s gluten-free since it’s technically not a grain.

Any that you weren’t eating enough of but now incorporate into your diet?

Quinoa (benefits above). I’ve also found that it’s a great food for any time of the day, especially breakfast when you can cook it like oatmeal: Simmer the quinoa with milk and top it whatever fruit you have, and then sprinkle with cinnamon, nuts, and honey.

These power foods are all nutritional superstars, yet the book never once feels like a “health” book. How do the editors create recipes that seem so obviously flavor-driven yet good for you?

Our philosophy lies in creating balanced recipes comprised of whole, nutritious ingredients. Once you stop focusing on low-calorie this and zero-sugar that, and start eating real, unprocessed foods, you can let the recipes speak for themselves. Plus we wanted to make the photography really mouthwatering.


Amen to that! What is the best way to incorporate these key power items into everyone’s daily diet?

The beginning of the book lists “the golden rules” for wholesome eating. (Download, print, and post them on your fridge: http://www.wholeliving.com/photogallery/power-foods-book#slide_20.) These are what the editors see as the ten pillars of maintaining a healthy and conscious diet, including when to insist on organic, buy grains in bulk, and think of fruits and vegetables in terms of the rainbow—and eat them often!

The book is right up my alley, I love to cook and I love every single incredient (there’s nothing Power Foods that I do not want to eat!)  However, what do you say to those who proclaim that they’re too busy to cook, to make the recipes in the book? Any advice to get them into the kitchen?

It all starts with meal planning. If someone gets off work and still has to schlep to the grocery store before she can make dinner, ordering takeout is probably the more appealing option. Find recipes in the book that you’ll actually want to cook (not hard!) and shop for a week’s worth of meals. Once you have everything you need, many of our recipes take 40 minutes or less in the kitchen. And new cooks won’t feel intimidated by lengthy, exotic ingredient lists; our recipes typically call for easy-to-find pantry staples.

We just said goodbye to 2010 and all those crazy holiday meals. Going forward, what is the best way to enjoy Power Foods and make sure we are cooking and eating the right stuff when the holidays want us to overindulge?

All of our healthy recipes emphasize fresh ingredients that are naturally detoxifying—low in sugar and full of fiber and antioxidants—and are therefore a good option to balance the gluttonous holiday months. We need to learn that feeling “full” doesn’t need to feel like being stuffed, and that we don’t always need sugar at the end of the meal. Use the months before the holidays to build a strong habit of cooking and eating healthy ingredients. Your body and mind will feel so good that you won’t even be tempted by that second slice of apple pie at Thanksgiving—or, even better, you won’t feel guilty about it if you’ve been eating well all year.

Thank you Alex!

Papaya, Endive, and Crabmeat Salad from Power Foods. Serves 4

Matt says: I love the combination of sweet and crunchy with seafood, and this salad hits the spot. I also love how the sweet crabmeat tempers the slight bitter note of endive’s flavor. There’s no cooking and it’s simple to prepare, you’ll only need to slice-n-chop a little bit. I probably don’t need to mention the health benefits like vitamin C and beta-carotene, right? This salad uses grapeseed oil for its dressing, known for its vitamin E and flavonoids. Score.

1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
coarse salt
1/2 large papaya (Mexican or Solo, about 1 pound), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Belgian endive, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into matchsticks (about 3 cups)
1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
3/4 cup jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over and rinsed

Whisk together ginger, lime juice, grapeseed oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add diced papaya, endive, cucumber, and crabmeat; gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Reprinted from the book Power Foods from the editors of Whole Living.  Copyright © 2010 by the editors of Whole Living.  Photographs copyright © 2010 by Romulo Yanes.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.