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I’m proud to say (without passing judgment on anyone else) that I never ever eat from fast food chains. Back in high school, I used to love the .89 cent chicken nugget days at McDonalds, and on a few college road trips I definitely ate some fast food when there was no other choice. But it’s probably been years since I’ve visited a McD’s, Wendy’s, etc.
However, I have recently discovered the pleasure of a local fast food delicacy known as the Vietnam Sandwich, or “Banh Mi.” With my classes at Tufts Med School located in Chinatown, and the need for moderately healthy in between class and work, I’ve done a little research into the treasures of the neighborhood. There are definitely many good options – pho soups from Pho Pasteur, classic steamed veggies and rice from pretty much any Chinese restaurant – but when you’re looking for something fast and inexpensive, nothing beats the Banh Mi. For $3 (yes, $3) you’ll get a choice of tofu, chicken, or beef on a crusty baguette with flavorful pickled carrots, cucumber, and daikon radishes, spicy sauces, topped with cilantro. My favorite place so far is the New Saigon Sandwich, a tiny little place on Washington Street. Don’t be fooled by the modest appearance – their sandwiches are seriously delicious and very filling! Today I ordered the tofu sandwich with extra vegetables and no mayo, perfect for a quick lunch to eat on a bench in the nearby Boston Common. They also have packaged fresh rolls (vegetables and tofu or shrimp wrapped in rice paper) ready to go, again priced at a reasonable $3. If you’re in the area, or looking to explore a new neighborhood, I highly recommend. Has anyone else found any “hidden neighborhood treasures” for quick and healthy lunches?
Happy Hump Day! For a sweet mid-week tip, I wanted to let you all know about a giveaway contest that another blogger, Elena, from Healthy and Sane, is running right now. On one of her latest posts is an awesome sounding “oikos over banana chia pudding with raw cocoa nibs and dried cherries” breakfast recipe that I am dying to try out. And she’s offering a package filled with sweet treats like a coupon for a free Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate Bar, 2 coupons for Chocolate and Caramel Oikos multipacks, and a bunch of other yummy chocolate-related samples. Check out her post and leave a comment if you want a chance to win!
And now, on a completely different note…Since my new life as a Health Communications graduate student has been taking over most of my spare time, and the things I’m reading about pertain directly to health, I figured I might share some of the new information I’ve been learning, with the hopes that it will benefit you readers, as well!
Among my many reading assignments, are chapters from the Merck Medical Manual for my Intro to Clinical Medicine class at Tufts. This week, I read a lot about the biology of the human heart. I have truly been blown away by how amazing our bodies are, and fascinated with getting a deeper understanding of how things like our hearts actually work. I also read a good deal about heart and blood vessel disorders. I love that I actually know now what it means to have a triple bypass surgery (It involves taking a vein or artery from somewhere else on your body, and attaching it from the aorta to the coronary artery, so that blood can bypass clogged arteries.) There’s also a procedure called Percutaneous Coronary Intervention that involves working a tiny balloon-tipped catheter into the narrowed coronary artery, and expanding the balloon so that it can puff open the blockage. I am amazed and humbled by all of these things that modern medicine allows doctors to do in order to “fix” problems in our bodies.
But here’s catch – I don’t know about you, but I never ever want to have to get to the state where someone needs to inflate a balloon in my vein in order to allow my heart to pump and function as it should. Surgery is complicated and scary (to me) and a lot of time, it’s used to remedy conditions that came about because of people’s lifestyle choices. They are, of course, the “usual suspects” that include: obesity, smoking, eating a high fat diet, and inactivity. If you’re new to working out at Healthworks, or if you’ve been working on a healthy lifestyle already, please take this “to heart” and know that you are doing incredible things for yourself and helping to avoid all kinds of health issues down the line!
I’m starting off this week wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt as the temperature starts to reflect the end of Summer and start of Fall. Last week went by for me in a total whirlwind. I had a great Labor Day weekend visiting my best friend in Durham, NC, where I watched some minor league Durham Bulls baseball, walked around the campuses of Duke and UNC, and ate some amazing food. I was very impressed with the local food in Durham – it seemed that every restaurant I went to specifically named the farms that their meat and produce came from. Awesome! We officially said farewell to summer with a few rounds of sweet tea vodka mixed with lemonade.
I returned to Boston and dove right into my new graduate student life, with classes on Wednesday and Thursday nights. This is in addition to my full-time job. Whoa. I felt extremely overwhelmed right off the bat with the amount of reading and with the length of the classes – 4 hours on Weds. night! Which means I don’t get home until around 10:45 pm. Then I go to sleep, and leave my house at 7:30 am the next day for work. Repeat. Remember that “Back to School” enthusiasm I was feeling a few weeks ago? This is the reality check. I’m feeling daunted but hoping that I will adjust to the new routine. Managing my time and planning ahead for working out and eating healthy meals is going to be much more difficult now, but I’m hoping to find ways to make it work.
I’m starting off this week a little more prepared. I devoted some time on Sunday for planning out some meals, grocery shopping, and doing my cooking in advance. I now have a refrigerator full of salad supplies, healthy high-fiber homemade muffins, and the best secret weapon I have, a giant pot of black bean soup. Why is this soup my secret weapon? It’s cheap – probably costing $5-10 on ingredients; the recipe makes an enormous batch that will feed me and my boyfriend for at least a week and a half; it tastes great; and it’s full of healthy ingredients like the black beans that supply fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Perfect for a hot lunch or dinner on these cooler Fall days. The recipe is below. Do you have any secret weapons for staying healthy while you’re busy? I’d love to hear your input!
Black Bean Soup
6 cups cooked black beans
2 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, chopped
1-2 red bell peppers, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups frozen corn
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
Sautee the onion and olive oil in a large soup pot for a few minutes, then add the spices and coat. Add peppers and carrots and sautee a few more minutes. Then add the black beans, about 3 cups of water, the tomatoes with their liquid, and the frozen corn. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Then add the vinegar. Also good with some chopped cilantro!
Another heat wave has descended upon Boston! It’s been quite a summer and I’ve struggled with finding healthy no-cooking-required meals to eat when the temperature is high. I realized that I’ve been overlooking the possibilities of the good old-fashioned sandwich, all this time. For yesterday’s dinner, I made up a sandwich inspired by the delicious picnic supplied by Whole Foods at the last Blogger picnic. I toasted two pieces of sprouted grain bread, and sliced up a ripe avocado and an heirloom tomato from the farmers’ market. As a side not – I do believe that this was actually the best tomato I’ve ever eaten! This is the season, get them now while they are amazing…Baby spinach greens and a smear of Whole Foods’ lemon garlic chive hummus also went into the sandwich. I dare say it was perfection. I love letting avocado take the center stage as the protein – it really lets the creamy texture and flavor stand out and they are very filling, with a hearty serving of healthy monounsaturated fats. Yum!
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the heat to break and for Hurricane Earl to stay out at sea and not disrupt Labor Day weekend fun!