The one thing that all ‘experts’ on health and eating (whether they’re doctors, nutritionists, or just proponents of the latest fad) seem to agree on is this: colorful, non-starchy veggies are healthy. They go back and forth on everything else, but not that. Of course, most of that back-and-forth could be accounted for if people just used a little common sense—everything in moderation, and the farther removed it is from the kind of diet we were designed for and eating over the last few thousand years, the more you should exercise that moderation. Seems to make sense to me, anyway.
So, yeah: vegetables. Whole grains. Good water. Fruits, whole, not juiced, so they have fiber to slow the blood-sugar spike.
I can’t entirely give up meat and it’s one of those things the ‘experts’ go back and forth on. However, I do recognize that it is a lot harder on the environment than eating a similar amount of vegetables (it takes so much more in the way of resources to produce that meat), and vegetables are better to eat in bulk. So over time I’ve gradually slid into a semi-vegetarian diet. Usually we get a freezer pack of meats from our butcher, which we know are good quality, then once a week or so we take a package out of the freezer, thaw it, and make something with it. Occasionally we have a little deli meat as well, although we’re trying to avoid the ones with preservatives these days where possible. We got some natural turkey breast at the Whole Foods market last weekend, and I was really surprised to discover how much more flavor it had than the stuff from the grocery store. We used one slice at a time in whole wheat wraps with plenty of veggies, so it served as a satisfying bit of flavor.
Although I’m not a vegetarian, I do use vegetarian cookbooks, because they’re a wonderful source of delicious and nutritious vegetable recipes. I particularly enjoyed reviewing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being Vegetarian, Third Edition, which contained a whole lot of fascinating information on nutrition and the like.
I also got a kick out of Food 2.0, by Charlie Ayers, the chef who cooked for Google. It’s got some amazing natural foods recipes in it, including a smoothie recipe that knocked my socks clean off.
Lately I have a new morning routine. While the cats eat their breakfast (which takes a good 10-20 minutes since they eat a raw diet), I leave my meusli to soak. It’s a slight variation on a fantastic recipe from the CIG vegetarian book; I just use dried cranberries instead of raisins (I like the tartness) and plain kefir instead of yogurt (I like the consistency), and I add a squeeze of agave nectar. I do my stretching from Stretching Illustrated or some yoga. I have my meusli, which fills me up better than oatmeal, cereal, eggs, or anything else I’ve tried, and I have some V8. (Yeah, it’s got a lot of sodium, but it’s a start, and it’s better than hot chocolate or OJ.)
I should be better about having veggies for lunch, but I’m lame and often have kefir with agave, more meusli, or leftovers. Sometimes we make a bean salad or something similar ahead of time for our lunches (it’s easy for my husband to pack in a cooler), in which case I might have that. Then there’s dinner, which could be just about anything, but these days is likely to be heavy on whatever produce looks good.
I won’t claim I’m suddenly losing a ton of weight or anything. I still need to get more exercise than I do, as well as eat less (I’m a compulsive over-eater with a wicked sweet tooth). My medications also don’t help—when I got switched from one ADD medication to another a couple of years ago, I suddenly gained more weight than I care to think about, and I have to fight just to keep from gaining more. But at least I have more energy when I eat well, and I know by eating less processed foods and less sugar I’m reducing the chance I’ll develop type II diabetes (which does run in the family) or other, related problems.
Then there are articles like the one that discusses a possible link between chemicals in body products and breast cancer tumors. Chemicals are being found in people’s bodies that probably got there through things they apply to their skin, hair, etc., and those products don’t have to abide by the same strict safety guidelines that foods do. You can’t avoid exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, but you can at least reduce it. I use all natural products when possible (it’s a little tough for me because I’m allergic to aloe, which is in almost everything), buy organic when I can afford it, and don’t use most cosmetics.
I never thought of myself as a health nut, but as I hit my mid-30s I’m kind of becoming one. Maybe I’ve just been made more aware of my health by recent changes in it (like the pains that seemed to be gallbladder problems, but might be ulcers instead). Maybe I’ve just started noticing the quality of life that some of my older friends enjoy, and others don’t, and I’m making some decisions about what I want to be capable of in another ten, twenty, or even forty years.
At any rate, it’s the sort of thing you have to think about sometime, and act on eventually. Otherwise you run out of time.
Today’s book review is of Elizabeth Vaughan’s amazing fantasy-romance Dagger-Star.