Sunday, March 31, 2013

Keeping Healthy Food Simple

One of my brothers recently had a health scare that has prompted him to start eating healthier. As I watch him struggle to figure out dinners, I've been reminded of how hard it can be to change a habit like food. You have to be prepared three to four or five times a day with something good to eat - and if you're not, you're certainly not in your best frame of mind to get something healthy together. After all, you're hungry now, not an hour from now. And, if you're like me, if you let that hunger go too long, you get crabby and sort of sick feeling. And crabby. Oops, mentioned that one twice...

So, you open whatever resource you have guiding you through this healthy food adventure, hoping you can find something to throw together quick, but the ingredient list is full of weird food. Quinoa. Pepitas. Leeks. Kale. Pine nuts. Whew. Even if you had the foresight to shop beforehand, the price tags may have steered you a way from buying. You open the fridge, and there are some of your normal staples: cheese, eggs, bread, chicken, tomatoes. You hesitate to reach for them. After all, if you've read the same health books as me, you've heard bad things about all of those. You close the fridge and turn to the pantry. You find a box of cookies. Yup, you've heard bad things about those, too, but, at this point, you're so frustrated hungry and (did I mention?) crabby, that you give up and pick the cookies. It's not like you've been losing weight anyway, right?

I used a lot of "you" in that little rant, but make no mistake... That's personal experience talking. My weight's been up and down, and I'm not exactly where I want to be, so I guess if you're going to listen to what I have to say, know that I don't have all the answers. (Check with a health expert on what I say!) I do know this: there's a ton of conflicting, frustrating advice out there. The conclusion I'm coming to is that all this advice exists is because, in as many ways as we're all the same, we're also different. Unique.

Same: Some things are poison to all of us. For example, doesn't matter who you are; drinking bleach is a bad idea. What does that equate to in food? Based on my reading, I'm going to say processed foods. This is your white sugar and white flour. Those cookies... Things that are pre-made and pre-packaged.

Different: Some things are bad for just some of us. I just started getting hives when I eat almonds. What a bummer :( But it can be much subtler than that. Caffiene keeps some people from sleeping. Some people have stomach issues for years and then they go vegan and the issues resolve. Some of us eat meat without those issues. So do we all have to go vegan? I'm going to say no. Just like I don't think you should stop eating almonds because I can't eat them. Another example, some people get migraines after eating mustard. Mustard! But need it be banned from all of our burgers for good?

The thing is, a lot of food books and nutrition experts make it sound like, even within the realm of whole foods, we need to avoid the same things they avoid, even if we've never had a problem with them. Sure, if someone seems to have a good point, give it a shot an eliminate what they recommend. See how it goes. Figure out what works for your body. But never let yourself get so bogged down by all the rules that you exasperate yourself. Just pay attention to how you feel after you eat - both immediately after, and in the following days. If you begin to suspect a problem, cut it out and see what happens.

An example: one dessert I loved was Greek yogurt with frozen raspberries and a drizzle of chocolate balsamic vinegar. Yogurt, raspberries, vinegar. Should be all right? But I would always feel oddly full after I ate it. Then I read that some people have trouble with Greek yogurt because it's such a concentrated dairy. I cut it out. Other desserts don't make me feel that way, so, in my case, I'm thinking there's something about how I was reacting to that dessert that just wasn't working for me.

Anyway, back to you, standing at the fridge, looking for something good to eat...

Here are some easy snacks you can stock up on in advance or maybe you'll have the ingredients on-hand already that are probably better for you than those cookies:
Apple with a few almonds (or better yet, one of my old favories, apple slices with almond butter that's been drizzled with maple syrup!)
Whole wheat toast with butter (yes, butter) and some whole fruit spread
Carrot sticks with hummus
Coconut date rolls (Okay, these might qualify as one of those weird foods, but they're my favorite cookie stand-in. I buy a bunch and then keep them in the freezer for when I need something sweet and chewy.)
Oatmeal sweetened with applesauce and a little dried fruit
Cottage cheese with a dollop of fruit spread and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Are these foods universally healthy? Maybe not. I can't eat almonds, after all. But they're a start. Take it one step, one snack, one meal at a time. Don't wear yourself out trying to follow everyone's rules all the time.

Your Sister


  1. Ummm chocolate vinegar??? That's just weird enough I would try it! Where does one get such a thing?

  2. Try and olive oil specialty store. The one near me has all kinds of vinegars, too.