I don’t know about you but I am just about sick to death of trying to figure out what to eat!! It shouldn’t be so difficult.
I read books about people in different times and places and they didn’t stress about whether the white potato was going to contribute to their brain fog or make them fat, or whether Grandma’s apple streusel was something to say “No” to.
Why has eating become such a monolithic chore? Not only is choosing the wrong eating path detrimental to our survival, it has now become a threat to our complete sanity! When we finally figure it all out, it won’t matter because we will have all driven ourselves mad in the process.
Research only makes it worse. After eliminating all the food groups recommended by experts A & B, and then eliminating the food groups recommended by experts C & D, the pickin’s start getting mighty slim. We’re talking green bean phobia here and that just seems strange. And if that isn’t enough, there are 4 or 5 other groups of experts telling us our favorite experts — the ones we were just starting to love and follow — have gotten it ALL WRONG. I have no idea what is even safe anymore, forget desirable.
Where is the obsession coming from? I just want something to eat for lunch and to make my family for dinner that won’t kill us in the long run or make us to feel like crap. All sides claim longevity, increased energy and clarity as well as better digestive health.
It’s important, I know. I totally get that some vegans can’t stomach the idea that meat should be eaten, nor should we put any living creature under the torturous conditions they are found in. I also know first hand how continuing to eat wheat and gluten will simply continue to make me sicker.
I am a huge believer in clean eating and whole foods and I absolutely love paleo cookbooks and recipes because – hey guys – those taste freakin’ amazing. It’s also the reason I love French cookbooks. Great taste, hands down. What really gets me is the way some say fruits and vegetables only, but not “these fruits”, not “these vegetables.” Where is an ordinary mom to turn?
We all want to be healthier, happier and look great. There is no argument here. But when you hear Maria Shriver campaigning for beans, grains and veggies because of the Blue Zones around the world; and you know some of your best friends wouldn’t even be here today if they had not eliminated all the grains from their diets; and others who have regained their health and recovered from diabetes, autoimmune diseases and obesity by re-embracing healthy fats including meat products, it is hard to know where to draw the line with our food choices.
So at the risk of pissing off my vegan son who totally doesn’t get my dilemma, I am going to draw a weensy line in the sand about my own food choices. Some of this is motivated by research. Some of it is motivated by the fact that psychologically, I don’t do so well with ultimatums, ie “don’t eat this” – “ever.” I’ve learned the hard way about this from years of failed yo-yo dieting. But some of it is simply motivated by the fact that I want to enjoy food while spending time with those I love for whatever time I might have left here on earth.
Sure I want to be responsible and reasonable and even work toward improving my health. Call me selfish. Call me hedonistic. I just can’t see obsessing the rest of my life over whether I’m choosing the right carb or not. I just can’t see myself obsessing the rest of my life over finding the holy grail of food selection. Really, I want to do other things.
So here it is, my line in the sand about food choices from everything I have read and learned over the past decade. Take it or leave it. I’m done with arguing, complaining or stressing. It may be completely wrong and more importantly, you might object to this whole-heartedly. I will love and support you anyway.
(Warning: The following tends toward the preachy in me. Forgive me if you will and proceed at your own risk.)
- Eat way more fruits and vegetables, no matter what. I’m talking variety here – try something new always. Keep ‘um coming. Stop policing these, please. How may ears of corn or potatoes can you eat anyway? Variety. Listen to your body. Just do it. Stay in the produce section of your favorite grocery store and be proud of it. Better yet, get out there and find the farmers markets and local food growers. Best would be to start growing your own. As someone who has killed every single plant I have ever owned, including weeding out the green beans accidentally from my own garden – I have to leave this to those who know what they are doing. I know it’s good for you. It’s just not good for my vegetables.
- Be thankful for a variety of protein sources. If you don’t have a problem with eating meat, go for it. Seek out sustainable and humane farmers who don’t abuse their livestock or feed them things they were never meant to eat. This means in most cases organic, grass-fed, pastured, and sustainable. It might also be hunting and killing your own meat if you live in a place that allows that. Here however, in contrast to the veggies and fruit, don’t over do it. A little goes a long way.
- Ah Grains! Grains are carbs. But so are vegetables. You need to experiment to see which grains your body thrives on or can tolerate. It’s not really about “carbs”. It’s about the source of the carbs. My body simply can’t take wheat, though I hate it, I really do. Honestly, I don’t miss it as much as I use to as long as I find a healthy substitute to use in my limited baked goods. I’m not talking about eating cake everyday. But a sandwich can be satisfying, easy and delicious at times. Blue Zones included, there are some grains that have sustained the human race from the beginning. You just have to make sure these don’t make up the bulk of your diet with no veggies whatsoever. Let go of the uber processed and adulterated cheap white flours. Again, variety and not going overboard here is key. If you really can’t tolerate any grains, there is no shame in this. I might find myself here eventually. We’ll see.
- I share the opinion of some that fats have gotten an erroneous and very bad rap. Healthy fats in abundance are necessary for improved brain function and healthy body systems. I agree that trans-fats and hydrogenated oils – as in Crisco – need to go, period. After pretty much eliminating all of my gall bladder attacks by switching to only real butter, coconut oil, ghee and occasionally extra-virgin olive oil along with some animal fats plus some more plant fats such as olives, avocados, nuts, etc., I am a fat believer. I don’t think fat is the culprit. I think cheap adulterated vegetable oils and low-fat versions of fat, that are used pretty much in every restaurant I know of and in all processed foods out there, are the problem. This is simply what I have experienced. There are still plenty around who will disagree whole-heartedly with me. Does that mean I never use something like grape seed oil – ever? No, I do eat out and I do have some recipes on this site that use grape seed oil. That’s mainly because I haven’t gotten around to adapting the recipe more than anything. But I simply don’t purchase the options I grew up with like margarine, spreads, corn oil, canola oil, Wesson oil, soybean, peanut and vegetable oils.
- Sugar. Sugar is the villain of the day for sure. I’m not convinced it is kin to drinking kerosine or taking arsenic but I do think we consume way too much of it. Here’s where I stand today. Eating sugar inside a fruit or veggie, I’m totally fine with it. I never substitute with an artificial sugar substitute and I don’t buy into the alcohol sugars popular today as Xylitol is toxic to dogs. Probably makes no difference here, but it’s just a thing with me. Stevia unfortunately makes me feel bad. I do know that maple syrup, honey and raw cane sugar are all still sugars but given the choice of no sugar at all, I’ll take the real stuff every time. I would however say that if you are going to the trouble to cook with and make something from scratch using sugar, the way your great-great grandmother and her sister did, God love you. That takes a lot of time, effort and love. And heck yes, I’m probably going to eat it. But only if I am hungry and really want it and only as much as I truly desire. If I am eating well, that usually means a cookie or two. A small muffin or several bites of cake, not the whole pan of brownies. I discovered this once by telling myself I could have the whole pan if I really wanted it. I ate only a small bite. That was really all I wanted. Psychologically for me, it works. If I can have something in abundance, I usually stop when I’ve had only what I need and no more. Tell me never to eat sugar again and I am sunk – entirely believing I can’t live without it. Which is not true I know, but motivates me to enjoy this only when I really want it and not as a stress eliminator and habitual addiction – which it can be for sure.
- Dairy is something I am still undecided about for several reasons. I may or may not react poorly to it and I do know those who do react poorly to it. They simply can’t tolerate it in any form. Whether the cause is the way it is processed, the way the cows are feed and raised, or the actual proteins and hormones found in it naturally, I have no idea. In an ideal world where raw and unpasteurized is safe and available, I would probably go for it. I do believe you really need to buy organic and if available organic milk from grass-fed pasture-raised humanely treated cows or goats. I personally love the taste of raw unpasteurized milk, but get a bit skittish since I don’t have my own cow and I don’t know exactly where the milk’s been or exactly where it is coming from. Because of this, I do opt for pasteurized organic when I use it, though I am trying to get use to shaking the cream back into the bottle each time – a mere inconvenience rather than a thing I think is bad. Dairy is a personal choice and for the time being, I seem to be okay with it in limited amounts. Whole-fat plain yogurt, various raw and real cheeses seem to work out best for me.
That still leaves a lot of options after you have weeded out the msg in all its forms and myriad disguises and additives including chemicals put in our food for who knows what reason.
The Remaining Food Principles
Here are a few additional principles I think add up to a healthier and happier time here together.
- You just have to cook. There’s no way really to achieve the above without some cooking. Unfortunately, there are few places to get your food elsewhere on a regular basis. Everywhere else is cutting corners somewhere, and has been for years. I do eat out, but find I run into unexpected gluten or feel bad or swell up in a way I don’t do at home when preparing my own meals.
- Eat sensible meals at fairly regular times. Sit down and treat your food and your eating time with respect. Enjoy each bite and stop eating when you stop enjoying it. Mindless eating is doing no one any favors and is the number one reason the French have a distinct advantage over Americans in their eating habits. They truly savor what they eat and eat what they love and what is good for them. The French also take their time and linger over meals, especially when eating with others. It’s a habit worth emulating.
- Don’t freak out if you choose to miss a meal or have to wait a bit to eat again. There is enough evidence that indicates this is not going to immediately put pounds on you and may help you burn unwanted stored fat.
- Drink plenty of filtered or tested spring water. Most of us run in dehydration mode and don’t even realize it. Drinking more is better, but don’t stress if you are not guzzling gallons of it a day. Just try to drink plenty of water when you are thirsty, drink it throughout the day, and with meals. Add black, green and herbal organic teas; coffee if you like and on occasion wine, beer or an alcoholic beverage or two. I’m not talking about several six packs every single weeknight or even on the weekends, but you can live well and drink a small amount of alcohol if you enjoy it. You could also give it up entirely and be better off in the long run.
- Walk everywhere, just for the fun of it. Parking in the furthest parking spot keeps me from stressing over finding a close one and allows me to walk more often.
- Get some sunlight each day that you are able.
- Read the ingredients on EVERYTHING. Try to buy only items with real foods listed as ingredients and in as natural a state as possible. Less is truly more! Stay away from additives. Seek out better organic brands. Cook with and use Celtic Sea Salt from a reliable source as much as possible. Regular salt, stripped of naturally occurring minerals combined with flow agents and preservatives, is really not good for you. Natural sea salt and Himalayan salt is fine.
Whoa!! Could I talk your ears off more than this? Of course, but I’ll leave it at this for now. I would dearly love to hear your take on how you have made peace with your food choices below. One thing is for sure — I am always learning!