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When healthy meals become family matter

February 7, 2012

My dad’s new year’s resolution was to lose some weight, and I am extraordinarily proud of him for keeping his promise. By eating lean meats and fresh vegetables, and with the help of my very supportive stepmother, dad has dropped about 30 pounds and the weight is continuing to fall away. He looks great, which is comforting to me because as his only daughter, I have a vested interest in him living a long and healthy life.
My dad is a diabetic, and his mother was as well. I know I am genetically predisposed to the disease, but fortunately since we started eating wheat bread and drinking un-sweet tea when my dad was diagnosed and I was 10 years old, I’ve been used to making smarter food choices from an early age and now actually prefer wheat over white and Diet Coke to real Coke. I substitute Splenda for sugar wherever I can. I’m hoping these measures will help safeguard me against developing diabetes, and fortunately I have yet to show any signs of it.
But lately, my dad has inspired me to try even harder to eat better. Usually, when I went for lunch, I’d get a coffee and a bagel or some frozen yogurt. While none of that is fried or, at least in moderation, that high in calories, none of it contributes to a well-balanced, nutritional diet. They may not give me heartburn or indigestion, but they provide virtually no health benefits beyond keeping me from starving to death.
I’ve lately been eating salads instead of bagels and making a serious attempt to cook my own dinners, even when I think I’m too busy. I can tell a difference in how I feel throughout the day, which is worth the extra effort and the willpower.
On Super Bowl Sunday, I had to work until well into the second quarter and had thus turned down all party invitations. Since I knew I’d be alone, I initially figured I’d grab a pizza. But on the way, a voice that sounded eerily like my dad’s said, “No. Go to the grocery store; cook something healthy.”
I pulled up a recipe of my mom’s I had saved on my phone for a clam primavera sauce for pasta. I’d never made it before, but it featured tons of fresh vegetables and no cream. I also knew I could use whole wheat pasta.
I was pleased with how the dish turned out. I felt satisfied and full but in no way miserable, and considering I ate it on a real plate instead of paper, at the table with a glass of wine, I satisfied my need for a little Super Bowl special indulgence.
From school to work and now in matters of health, my dad is still showing me ways to be better than myself.

Clam Primavera Pasta

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, pressed
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
2 zucchinis, sliced
4 green onions, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms (or to taste), any variety, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
3 T. fresh parsley
1/4 cup white wine
2 (6.5 oz each) cans chopped clams with juice
Dash salt
Dash pepper
1 lb. pasta, any variety (I used whole-wheat linguine)
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large saucepan and saute vegetables until cooked through. Add clams with juice, wine, and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer on medium heat. Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta as directed. Drain and rinse pasta; place in large serving bowl. Add vegetables and toss well. Top with Parmesan to taste. Serve.

Kate Salter is a lecturer at Mississippi State University. Email her at

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