Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An Easier Way to Organize Your Meals and Improve Your Health

NOTE: this article is a part of Real food Wednesdays, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

An easy Chinese-style breakfast

I recently went back to trying out the structure of China's meals. With hundreds of years or more of meal planning, and China's emphasis on balance, I found a system that lets you make a healthier and more organized structure. The key here, after all, is to work smarter, not harder; the more organized your meals are, the less work there is. On top of that you will learn how to eat healthier without the clichéd stereotype of depriving yourself of food and enjoyment.

This article will teach the principles of how China's people organize their meals. Not only is it efficient—sometimes more so than our way of cooking—but you will make an enjoyable meal that improves your health.

I have done my research on planning a meal in China.The impression I got was that the Chinese like communal-style meals and a rich diversity of food. I will get to that part later.

Firstly Chinese meals are like communal gatherings—everyone is gathered together at a table with the food laid out in front of them. Each main dish is meant to be shared among the people at the table. So they do in China what we only do at "get-togethers"! The ancient practice eating with your family is still strong there, if I am not mistaken.

How the Meals are Arranged

Chinese meals start with a bowl of soup, which is the "beverage". Everyone has their own private soup to drink from. It's basically their answer to a glass of water. It is interesting but odd from my own perspective. People have their own soup and bowl of rice, which serves a complementary role in China.

Following the soup are appetizers; and following that are the main dishes. These are the foods that define the meal. Are you having fish tonight with steamed vegetables and dumplings, or just yams and, annually, bread like in the non-fiction novel Mao's Last Dance?

In Chinese cuisine cooks never serve the same thing twice in one meal—in other words, no two dishes with beef in it; and no two spicy dishes, either. They do this to balance out the flavors and textures of food. Balance is a key word in Chinese philosophy for those who don't know. That means spicy foods are often paired with bland.

To support this fact, one man theorized that the five tastes are linked with the five major organ systems; hence, the belief that all flavors should be harmoniously combined in one meal.

What kind of food is served at a Chinese meal? Grains and vegetables make up most of the diet there in China, with animal-based foods(meat, seafood, etc.) playing a secondary role. If you're wondering about tea, China's national drink, they sip it down before or after a meal to aid digestion. Read more about tea's health benefits here.

How much food should be served at a meal? The number should be roughly equal to the number of people at your table. So for example, if you have four hungry people, serve the following: one vegetable dish, one meat dish and one poultry dish; one bowl of rice, and some soup.

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