It's no wonder that my generation has grown up with a confusing idea of what a healthy diet is supposed to be. Thinking back to the bagged lunches of my childhood, I cringe when I remember the hostess cupcakes, the white bread sandwiches with processed lunchmeat and American "cheese", and the yogurt cups sweetened with aspartame. My mom is still convinced to this day that this combination made up a healthy meal. Looking back, I am dismayed to think about those so-called meals from the past. Of course, I sincerely appreciate the fact that my mom bothered to fix my lunch. And I can't blame her for the content of those bags. It seems that most of my friends' parents had the same idea of what they thought was health food back then.
What's so sad is that, when it comes to food, things have only gotten worse over the years. Granted, people have become more aware of what goes into mass-produced foods. Unfortunately, mass marketing, factory farming, genetic modification and chemical engineering have only increased the amount of poor food choices while limiting the healthy ones. So what's a self-professed health "foodie" like me to do amidst all of the confusion and junk?
I've always been interested in and aware of healthy food choices. I haven't always made them, but over time, my fascination with the food-health connection has grown and caused me to look at my diet from a different perspective. I began to view food as not just "yummy in my tummy", but as most of what makes my body do the things it does. For example, I used to get chronic stomach aches after I ate. For the longest time, I just thought something was wrong with my stomach. Now, I've come to realize that the pains were likely a direct result of what I was eating. The probable culprit was the grains I was filling up on. Knowing what I know now, it makes sense that the gluten in those items was causing digestive problems. Today, I take probiotics and limit my gluten intake to maybe once per week. My stomach problems have entirely vanished.
While some foods cause health problems, others can be soothing and curative. I've noticed that when my joints get sore from working out especially hard, a few days of eating foods high in omega 3's can help out a great deal. And while I can't pounds of salmon and avocados, I can supplement with fish oil and flax seeds.
Nature has a truly amazing way of providing our bodies with what they need. We just need to take the time to listen to ourselves and recognize the signs we are being given. This past Saturday, I was fortunate enough to spend the day at one of the most beautiful farms I have ever seen. One of my deli customers, Cheryl, invited me to give her a hand in the kitchen when she hosted a cooking class. The class was a part of her Women's Wellness Weekend, which also included yoga, massage, and an herbal workshop. To my delight, I not only learned how to make some insanely delicious and healthy meals, but I also learned more about how food can tell us what it gives to our bodies. For example, walnuts look like brains, and they are very high in omega fatty acids which are great for brain function. The leaves of swiss chard look like lungs, and they happen to contain high amounts of vitamin A, which assists in lung health.
As Cheryl led the group past the gorgeous displays of fresh vegetables and explained the benefits of each, I could see the questions in the ladies' eyes. "How can something so good for you possibly be made to taste good?" Most of us think it's impossible to do so, and this is a major problem when trying to begin a healthier eating lifestyle. But as the group quickly learned, it is absolutely possible to enjoy the season's freshest and healthiest bounties and still have your mouth watering by the time you sit down to your meal. Just the aromas we created that night were enough to send even the pickiest critic into sensory overdrive. I am not lying when I tell you that I have never eaten so well. Both taste and health-wise. On that note, I would like to leave you with a recipe I learned from that evening. I hope that everyone will give it a try, and then try some more. The key is to pick what's in season, and learn how to make it rock on your plate (and your palate). When it comes to cooking, believe me, if you can read, you can create a beautiful, healthy meal.
Heat some oil such as coconut or canola in a pan, on medium low heat.
Add a handful of pine nuts and a handful of cranberries to the pan, and sauté until the berries are soft (careful not to burn the nuts).
Add bite sized pieces of greens such as kale, collards and swiss chard (remove stems first). Sautee with the nuts and berries until the greens slightly wilt. Sprinkle with some tamari (a wheat-free soy sauce) and some herbal sea salt, and enjoy. If you would like to add meat, first sauté some organic chicken apple sausage and add to the greens before serving. Cheers!
Published On: April 19, 2010