Ok, let’s face it. There is NO chance I am ever going to stop eating persian food. No..No..No. However, am I open to learning how I can make it healthier? YES! And so, I was excited to have recently received an introduction to Taji Mortazavi, the founder of We’re Talking About Food. Devoted to democratizing health, Taji believes that anyone CAN live a healthy lifestyle regardless of medical condition, career, budget or other secondary factors. Excited to share her guest post with you below!
Greetings! Let me start off by thanking Shirin for letting me guest post on her blog. I’m super excited to share a few tips and tricks with everyone about making Iranian food healthier. Although I’m only half-Iranian, I have a full love for Persian cuisine. I’ve noticed it’s not so much the ingredients that are unique, but rather the innovative and delicious flavor combinations that intrigue me. As much as I love this traditional cuisine, I’ll admit it doesn’t always go hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle. When I first started caring more about my diet and exercise habits, I naturally steered away from Iranian food such as the white rice or the fattening stews or any of the decadent sweets customary to Persian cooking. But a whopping seven years later, and I’ve finally developed a few ways to work Iranian food into my healthy life.
1. Eat Brown Basmati Rice Instead of White. It’s not so much the khoreshts (Persian stews) that can mess up a healthy diet (those are actually loaded with protein and veggies), but rather the rice. White rice is essentially the death of Persian food if you ask me. Consuming as little as half a cup can create a huge spike in blood sugar, which can take your body hours to rebalance. I highly recommend eating Persian stews and soups with brown rice instead of the traditional white. It might take a little getting used to, but I guarantee the brown rice’s added fiber will keep you fuller and slimmer.
2. Splurge on the Plain Yogurt. Surely you’ve heard about the buzz going on with yogurt and probiotics. We usually attribute this phenomenon to the Greeks (hence ‘Greek yogurt’). But did you know that yogurt was probably invented in Iran? Nutritionists and food historians alike believe yogurt was most likely discovered on accident when a villager was traveling the Middle Eastern deserts and realized the milk he was carrying had fermented. It’s no surprise that plain yogurt is a staple of Iranian cuisine. Besides being rich in probiotics, yogurt is also loaded with protein and calcium, two essential nutrients we all need. Adding a few tablespoons of yogurt to each Persian meal is a great way to boost nutrients and get your daily dose of probiotics.
3. Load Up on Fruits and Vegetables. Although the Iranian diet gets a bad rap for its white rice, often we forget how rich this cuisine is in fruits and vegetables. When I was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for my grandmother to habitually feed me apples, oranges, pears, cucumbers, and all sorts of other fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Iranians realize the importance of these foods in a healthy diet, and they constantly include them in their dishes. People often don’t realize that vegetables are the base for many dishes like Khoreshteh Karafs (Persian stew with celery), Khoreshteh havij (Persian stew with carrots), or Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian lamb stew with herbs and beans). All of these savory dishes are loaded with antioxidants, so eat up!
4. Swap White Flour for Whole Grains. Are you the kind of person that can’t get their day started without some barbari and chai? By no means am I telling you to give up your beloved bread. Instead, try eating a whole grain variety. Many Iranian grocery stores already carry whole grain lavash, barbari, and other Iranian breads that we all treasure. Like brown rice, eating whole grain bread is another great way to get fiber in your diet. Starting your day with a fiber rich food like whole grain bread is a fantastic example of eating the Persian food you love and still sticking to a healthy diet.
5. Reduce Your Portion Size. Can’t resist that piece of tadigh or that slice of roulette? Not a problem. I realize that everyone is human, and sometimes that saffron-infused ice cream is going to be irresistible. If you see a dish at a party that you love, by all means have some. Just be sure to keep the portion small. A few bites of rice or cake aren’t going to steer you off track; habitual overeating of these foods will. So have a few bites and remember, there’s always going to be another Iranian occasion to indulge.
Follow these tips the next time you eat some Persian food. I assure you that you can still enjoy every bite while adhering to a healthy lifestyle!
Besides contributing to The Saffron Life, Taji has been published for her health and fitness advice in journals like Thought Catalog and Lean It Up. Taji has been supported by numerous health and fitness companies such as Navitas Naturals, Glutino, and Holystic Hut. Support Taji by visiting her site and finding her on Facebook and Twitter.