a fresh approach to health

I went to the grocery store today - something I don't need to do anymore on a weekly basis now that I order my produce box online - to stock up on basics for my pantry and freezer. As I filled my cart with fruits, veggies and beans, whole grains, spices and baking ingredients, lean dairy and meats, I watched many others fill theirs with boxed and frozen meals, fake cheeses, packaged cookies, chips, candy, artifically flavored and sweetened snacks and other junk. In many cases, I didn't see so much as a single piece of fresh produce in their carts. Not surprisingly, the majority of these people were overweight and generally looked unhealthy, despite the fact that their carts also contained 100-calorie snack packs, meal-replacement shakes, diet sodas, "lite" breads, and other supposed weight-loss products. Part frustrated and part sad, I thought about what the problem is all the way home.

It seems as if people have gotten confused about and have forgotten what they are supposed to eat. Even the government's food pyramid is so complicated that no one can understand it. If we would all just take a deep breath and think about what generations have been eating for centuries it becomes obvious: we should be eating fresh food. Generations before us ate what was in season. They ate what grew in their window sills and backyards. They ate until they were full. They drank water and savored sweet foods, even fruit. In fact, my grandfather used to jump for joy at the oranges left in his Christmas stocking!

Our original snacks - fresh produce, nuts, yogurts and cheeses - have been replaced with processed food products. As we add in chips and soda and cookies, we eat less and less of the fresh, simple foods that contain naturally occuring vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Instead, we buy processed foods that have these things added in by a food scientist. Why? When did an apple stop being delicious and satisfying?

This shift in eating is the obvious and the not-so-obvious link to our alarming obesity and cancer epidemics.  Because of this, I feel compelled to tell you how I - an average chained-to-my-desk-for-eight-hours-a-day person - manages to feel full and satisfied, generally sickness-free, and at a healthy weight each and every day. It's so easy, there's nothing really to remember. It's all based on good, old common sense. In fact, you might remember your mom telling you half of it when you were a kid.
  • Get enough sleep and rest when you're tired.
  • Keep fruit and veggies in your kitchen and fridge for easy grabbing (I try to keep a fresh fruit salad in my fridge, like the one shown above, most of the time).
  • Breakfast should include fruit, a whole grain, and/or a healthy source of fat (like peanut butter) everyday.
  • Skip the sugar or artificial sweetener and add honey or agave to your coffee.
  • Eat a produce-based mid-morning snack.
  • Bring a water bottle with you to work and keep it full, fresh and within reach.
  • Eat fresh and filling foods for lunch - salads with beans, chicken, veggies, and cheese; a healthy sandwich on whole-grain bread or leftovers from a healthy dinner the night before. Eat fruit with your lunch.
  • SNACK frequently and pair fiber and a low-fat protein together to keep you full. Good proteins include a handful of nuts or a smear of nut butter, cheese, a boiled egg, dairy. Good sources of fiber include fruit and vegetables, whole-grain bread or naturally low-sugar cereal. (So, think an apple and peanut butter, a cheese stick and whole-grain crackers, a hard-boiled egg and a peach, or a bowl of naturally high-fiber, low-sugar cereal and skim milk.)
  • Exercise almost everyday, but vary the intensity and activity to keep it interesting, let your body heal and prevent injury. (My "off days" still usually include a one to two mile dog walk.)
  • Eat a dinner that's made up of mostly vegetables and lean protein. Add a whole-grain side only if you haven't eaten many grain-based foods that day. Grains are important, but keep them in check, always shoot for whole-grain foods, and fill up on the fruit and veggies first.
  • Watch your portions.
  • If you must have dessert, keep it small and try to add fruit to it. Dark chocolate, chocolate soymilk, and frozen yogurt are good choices in moderation.
That's it. By the end of the day, I promise that you will be full and satisfied. You'll get sick less often. You'll lose weight slowly and steadily if you have it to lose. Overall, you'll feel better. Remember, this isn't a diet - this is the way we are supposed to live. Think of this as a lifestyle commitment. And when you have a bad day, forgive yourself and start over the next day. Bottom line: love your body in this way, and it will love you back.

Like this rambling? Check out:

1 comment:

  1. I so agree with you on checking out other people's grocery carts. It blows my mind when I see not a single fresh food item. I think, damn, what do these people eat? And then I think, ew, their digestive systems must be really angry.