Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Do Unto Others...

Basil Chickpea Burger

Scenario One: One of my clients is a very sweet lady who enjoys cooking, and is really very good at making her own healthy food. Whether she's eating our packaged meals or cooking for herself, she loses weight steadily. Until her brother comes to town. And since he's in town about every other week, this is a major problem. Why? Because she cooks all his meals, and unlike when she's cooking for herself, when she cooks for him she doesn't bother trying to be healthy.

Scenario Two: I'm at the scale with one of my clients, and he tells me how much willpower he had the other day when he took his daughters to McDonald's. "I didn't eat anything there!" he boasts.

Scenario Three: My client's having trouble because her boss always brings gift baskets filled with chocolates and pastries to the office for her workers. Try as she might, she can't resist the wafting scent of chocolate eclairs.

What do these three clients have in common? The first two are showing their love and appreciation for others by feeding them unhealthy food. The third is on the receiving end of that appreciation. I'm guilty of this myself, so I can put myself right into the same group. How often do we all do this? It's genuinely out of love, yet without thinking about it, we can sabotage someone's efforts to take care of themselves. Sometimes we even know that someone's on a diet or trying to eat healthier, and we still shower them with food that we know might make them feel guilty. Or we take our kids to McDonald's or Burger King and buy them food that we know isn't good for them.


Because food comforts us. It makes us feel good, and so we want to give that feeling to others. Growing up, food was a reward, a gift, a punishment (if you don't eat your vegetables, you won't get dessert...), a security blanket. Food was powerful. And now, as adults, it's the soother we turn to when we're happy, sad, anxious, angry, frustrated...

Food is still powerful. And why shouldn't it be? It sustains us, gives us energy and the nutrients we need to live. But what kind of energy do we want to give to those we love? Food that brings them down, that makes them feel sluggish and guilty? Or food that makes them thrive, that lightens their spirit and puts a zing in their step?

Don't get me wrong. There are times when a splurge is a wonderful thing. Like on Christmas morning when I savor my mom's amazing cinnamon rolls. I wouldn't give that up for anything. But when one of my clients gave me some chocolate one day, I politely said, "Thank you," then turned around and gave it to someone else.

So my challenge for you is to think about how you use food when it comes to the people you love. Perhaps the next time you want to treat your grandchildren, you can take them strawberry picking instead of getting ice cream. Or when your friend is having a hard day, you can go for a walk with her rather than bringing her fudge. And if you want to bring something to work for everyone, try a fruit basket instead of doughnuts. If there's one thing I've learned at my job, it's that most people want to eat healthier, and no one will begrudge you for helping them do that.

If you're feeling particularly inspired, then I challenge you to take a favorite comfort food and experiment with turning it into a healthy comfort food. I tried to change my stepdad's delicious macaroni and cheese into a low-fat version and failed miserably. So that's still a work in progress. But I had more success with my own version of a cheeseburger. A basil chickpea burger with low-fat mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and avocado. Personally I like this a lot better than a cheeseburger because I'm not much of a meat-lover. But even my meat-loving boyfriend gave it the thumbs-up. And that's pretty high praise from him for a vegetarian meal.

Basil Chickpea Burger on a gluten free roll -
My boyfriend's burger on a whole wheat bun
is hiding in the background
Print-Friendly Option

Burger Ingredients:
1 scallion, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1 cup canned chickpeas, with the liquid included
1/3 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. coriander
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1 gluten-free waffle (I used Trader Joe's)
1 egg

To assemble you'll need:
Gluten-free burger rolls (Once again I used Trader Joe's - French Rolls)
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced avocado
Low-fat mozzarella cheese


  1. Saute the garlic, scallions, mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini until tender, about 3-5 minutes (I use a low calorie spray for the pan).
  2. In the toaster over, lightly toast the waffle. Put it in the food processor along with the sunflower seeds and process until they've reached a consistency like breadcrumbs. Set aside in a bowl.
  3. Combine the chickpeas with their liquid in the food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the sauteed vegetables. Stir in the spices and basil. Stir in the egg and processed waffle and sunflower seeds. The mixture should be a good consistency to form into patties at this point, but you can always add more sunflower seeds if needed.
  4. Oil your skillet with a low calorie spray to prevent sticking and heat on medium heat. Form patties and cook on each side until golden brown.
  5. While your burgers are cooking, toast the rolls with an ounce of cheese for each burger until the cheese is melted. Add the burger, tomato and avocado slices, and eat up!
Makes about 7 burgers. The leftovers can go in the freezer for another time.

Dietary exchange for burger with Trader Joe's roll, cheese, tomatoes, and avocado
3 1/2 starches, 1 1/2 proteins, 1 vegetable, 3 fats

Dietary exchange for burger alone
1/2 starch, 1/2 protein, 1/2 vegetable, 2 fats

I base my dietary exchanges on the Diabetes Exchange List, and everything is an approximation.

This post is linked to Gluten Free Wednesdays


Micaela said...

I love this post--very insightful. Interesting recipe, too, especially with the waffles. Are they better than bread?

LucindaSarina said...

If I were eating gluten, I would probably use a multi-grain bread like Vermont's since it would be higher in fiber than the waffles. But for gluten-free, waffles seem to make a good bread crumb, and Trader Joe's is cheaper than other brands...

Anonymous said...

I think I'm going to try this recipe. My fiance has been wanting to grill out more since it's been warm and I'm trying to steer clear of burgers. I have been substituting the meat for a turkey burger but even that is more calories than I'd like. I'll let you know how/if my fiance likes it!!! :) P.S. Tell your boyfriend that Danny and I said hi!!!

LucindaSarina said...

If you're going to use a grill rather than a pan, I would suggest maybe a little more bread crumbs to hold it together better. Hope you enjoy the recipe! You'll have to let me know what you think!

healthhappinesshope said...

Great recipe! The chickpeas sound like a fantastic idea! And the waffles are definitely an interesting addition, but I imagine it would be pretty tasty. :)


LucindaSarina said...

Thanks Heather! I have to admit, I got the waffle idea from Karina's Kitchen.

Aubree Cherie said...

Lovely post! I think you're spot on. I actually used to be very guilty of this because I loved to make desserts but I didn't want to eat them all. I actually made 6 batches of cupcakes once and took them into work, just because I wanted to make people smile. But I didn't even eat one of them! I felt pretty guilty actually. (So much for that happy 'I made someone smile' feeling..)

Now I try to feed people what I'm eating. And even though I'm afraid they'll turn their noses up at a dessert without sugar or pizza without cheese, people tend to like what I bring! It's pretty exciting to know that people DO like healthier food if given the option :)

(Although, would sometime please tell my mom to stop pushing food on me? She's the only person who can truly make me fat :P)

Love the recipe too. The next time I try a burger I'm definitely going to add sunflower seeds. What a great idea!

~Aubree Cherie

Linda said...

I love your thoughts on food. It's all so true, and definitely will make me think twice when I want to treat my kids. I'm glad you did the burger challenge. It looks great, and your boyfriend's approval confirms it.

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Great post, Iris. I often give food away. I've stopped feeling guilty about it. The burger looks and sounds great. You know I'm a big fan of chickpeas! BTW, why are you suddenly LucindaSarina? I like the name though. :-)


Iris said...

Hi Shirley,

This is an old post from when I had just started my blog. I used the name LucindaSarina because I wasn't sure if I wanted it to be a "public" blog. But I quickly decided I liked blogging and was happy for people to know about it. Of course, now I tell anyone who will listen to read my blog!


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