Breakfast leads the way
“To me, breakfast sets the intention for the day,” James said. “The problem is that people are not mixing up their food enough to get a lot of different nutrients.”
For the first meal of the day, James often eats eggs with some kind of vegetable from the farmers market, such as spinach, baby bok choy, broccoli or red pepper.
She also likes to mix it up with steel-cut or old-fashioned oats with yogurt and berries or a bowl of yogurt with nuts, seeds and berries. If you have a multigrain loaf of bread handy, smear on a protein-filled spread such as tahini or almond butter.
Her favorite snacks include celery sticks with hummus or apple slices with a nut butter. Berries, nuts and seeds also can tide you over between meals.
For lunch, James often eats a salad of veggies she’s already prepped and some kind of healthy protein, like tuna, salmon or leftover chicken, also ready to go.
“I’m a big believer in prepping,” she said. “I bring out all my glass containers full of lettuce, beans and the salmon I already poached, and I whip up a salad for lunch.”
One of her favorite salads is a Mediterranean Tuna Salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar rather than mayonnaise. Tuna is a cold-water fish with lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. James prefers to buy line-caught canned tuna, which is more expensive but more sustainable.
Beans like garbanzo or cannellini are another of her go-to protein sources for salads, along with hard-boiled eggs. Rather than a ready-made dressing, she prefers to make a simple vinaigrette from scratch.
“I just throw it all in a jar and shake it,” she said. “It’s healthier and has less packaging. You just wash the jar and use it again.”
Easy dinner ideas
Like her mom, James likes to make a low-fat Turkey Meatloaf with a barbecue sauce slathered on top that incorporates various veggies and rolled oats rather than breadcrumbs for extra fiber.
“I put the veggies in raw,” she said. “You can get home, throw it in the oven with some baby new potatoes, then serve some steamed broccoli on the side.”
Another recipe that makes for a satisfying supper is her Minestrone Soup with Farro, a high-fiber, high-protein whole-grain wheat. You can serve it with a crusty loaf of artisan bread or a salad on the side.
“It’s easy to make, and it’s so good,” she said. “The farro and beans give it fiber as well as the veggies. … I purée it just a little bit, so it’s got a bit of smoothness.”
For something a little more upscale for entertaining, she suggests Salmon en Papillote, a French technique that allows the fish and vegetables to steam gently in parchment-paper packets.
“I put asparagus down on the paper, then salmon on top and sprinkle with herbs,” she said. “You could throw the packages on a cookie sheet in the morning, then it’s ready to bake for dinner.”
Her newest project
As the chief innovation officer for Foogal, a startup that aims to get people on the road to healthier lives, James continues to research eating well and taking care of the environment.
“It started out tackling food waste,” she said. “We’re building a recipe database from cultures all over the world. … We have a big focus on helping SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients and underserved populations.”
At home, James enjoys introducing her three grandchildren to the cuisines of the world by cooking dishes like Moroccan tagines.
“They learn geography, and it’s my own version of the peace plate,” she said. “When you cook from other cultures, it keeps your taste buds fresh.”
Although there are many ways to get kids to eat more vegetables, especially if you involve them in growing and cooking the veggies, she doesn’t believe in offering children a special menu.
“There is no kids’ menu in my world,” she said. “I don’t believe in hiding vegetables or sneaking them in.”
The following recipes are from “More Vegetables, Please!” by Patty James and Dr. Elson Haas. To serve, place lettuce leaves on a plate and mound the tuna salad on top, or stuff the salad into a pita bread pocket or inside a slightly hollowed-out tomato.
Mediterranean Tuna Salad
2 cans (6 ounces each) tuna, drained
Half of a 14-ounce can of water-packed artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
¼ cup sliced kalamata olives
¼ cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, stems removed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano or 1½ teaspoons fresh oregano
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup mayonnaise (optional)