Eat Right: My Healthy Life

From p. 28 of the June/July 2008 Issue of Healthy Cooking

Dawn Bryant

Dawn Bryant

For Dawn Bryant's family in Thedford, Nebraska, eating a balanced diet doesn't always come easily. "My son, Aidan, who's a toddler, loves fruit and vegetables so much we call him 'fruit fly,'" Dawn says jokingly. "But my husband, Ross and our 5-year-old daughter, Ariel, really struggle with my meal plans. They're what I call 'starchies,' they love anything starchy and light colored."

That doesn't stop this stay-at-home mom and freelance journalist/artist from whipping up nutritious meals—it's too important to her. "I was slender until I hit 30 and my metabolism bottomed out. Then I met my husband, who's struggled with his weight all his life," she says. "I always tried to cook nutritious lower-fat meals, but his eating habits were different, so I tried to cook to his taste without artery-clogging fats. Once the children were born, I really began a healthy-eating kick."

To stay active, and keep the kids from "becoming lumps in front of the television," Dawn and her family head outside and enjoy fishing, boating and camping. "The children and I also get exercise searching for geocaches (treasure hunting using the global positioning system), since they're often hidden in places that require a hike to get to. Or we take long walks around our small town."

Dawn's also employed a variety of techniques for making menus healthy. "Creativity is paramount when introducing new foods. I grate vegetables and hide them in foods they like and take recipes they enjoy and cut down on the cheese, cream and butter. I used herbs and garlic sparingly at first, but I've added more as their palates adjust to the flavors," she says. The menu she shares here showcases her skills in lightening dishes while keeping great flavor.

Dawn's Tips for a Healthy Life:

  • "I read labels when shopping and don't generally buy items labeled 'low-fat' because often the fat has been replaced with corn syrup or some other filler. I try to avoid artificial colors and flavors as well as preservatives."
  • "I cook a lot of poultry and fish, as well as wild game to cut down on the fats in our meat."
  • "There's a hard-and-fast rule in our home that any fruit juice has to be 100% juice. I also serve juices that are blended with vegetables to help get the five daily servings in."
  • "I generally have my daughter eat her meat and vegetables before she can have a starchy food. Otherwise she fills up on the starches and won't eat the rest of her meal."
  • "I do a lot of poaching and steaming and serve vegetables without cream sauces or tons of butter."
  • "For salads, I make my own vinaigrettes and replace half the oil with water. If I want a creamy dressing, I thin it with water so it covers better and I don’t need to use as much."
  • "I often use reduced-fat cream cheese to add flavor and protein to foods."

Fresh and Light

"Chicken Provolone, though one of my simplest recipes, is also one of my husband's favorites," says Dawn. "It looks elegant served on a dark plate with a garnish of fresh parsley or basil."

The menu only gets better with a side of Dawn's Mediterranean Summer Squash. "I came up with the recipe when my garden was producing like crazy and I had lots of fresh zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes. I combined the three, added herbs, garlic and feta and came up with a colorful dish that I really love. My son just eats it up!"

­­Fruit Cup with Honey-Lime Syrup is a refreshing way to end the meal. "I often experiment with fresh fruit for desserts. This is a nice cool treat for summer afternoons," says Dawn.

Grocery List:

Print a copy of this list before you head out to the supermarket. It offers all of the ingredients you need to prepare Dawn Bryant’s Chicken Provolone, Mediterranean Summer Squash and ­­Fruit Cup with Honey-Lime Syrup.

Kitchen Staples
dried oregano
olive oil
1 garlic clove
Butter-flavored cooking spray

1 plum tomato
1 small yellow summer squash
1 small zucchini
1 small onion
1/2 pound green grapes
1/2 pound red grapes
1 small cantaloupe
1 large lime
1 package (2/3 ounce) fresh basil

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
4 thin slices prosciutto or deli ham

1 package (8 ounces) provolone cheese slices
1 container (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1 bottle (750 ml) white wine