Michael Pollan’s oft-quoted line from In Defense of Food is a good place to start. I try to:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
It wasn’t that long ago that I wouldn’t make this claim for myself. While I spurned “fast-food nation” except for the occasional visit to KFC, many of my meals were composed of food items made by someone else, at a place somewhere else, and at sometime in past. It wasn’t that easy to look at a dish and identify it’s pieces. I was all about throw-it-together quickly from the freezer.
Slowly over the past two years I’ve been moving back to the idea of eating the way I did when I was child. When you bought simple foods and ingredients from a grocery store: carrots, cabbage, apples, pork chops. When you then took these simple ingredients home and prepared them to be eaten. They were peeled, sliced, chopped, steamed, broiled, baked. In the summertime, they were grilled.
My food doesn’t come with a nutrition label. It typically has one ingredient and you can identify that for yourself: carrot, mango, lettuce, brown rice.
That what I’m moving to do now. Today I try to eat:
Vegetables. Fresh and whole when available, frozen for greater seasonal variety. The only canned item in this section would be diced tomatoes.
Fruit. Fresh, whole and in season. Frozen berries to supplement since their season is so short. Canned applesauce occasionally.
Whole Grains. Brown rice, red quinoa, bulgur wheat, polenta, steel-cut oats. Grains that come in small bags or boxes. Grains that you cook with water. You can look at a small pile of these on a plate and know what kind of grain it is. Occasionally I eat a processed grain (a flour product) such as a whole grain slice of bread, tortilla, or pasta. Maybe some cereal. But these products make up about 1 serving/day.
Legumes and nuts. Cooked dried beans (since we are a small household, I do usually go for the canned varieties), dry roasted nuts or nuts in the shell. The beans give me a lot of my protein and the nuts provide quality types of fat.
Fats. Olive oil and canola oil are my fats of choice. A little butter every once in a while, but I try to limit my consumption of saturated and animal based fats.
Meat/Fish/Poultry. About 3-4 days a week I might eat one serving of animal protein. Fish, turkey, chicken and occasionally beef. I try to be strict about only eating this on days I push heavy weights.
Protein powder supplements. I tried for a while simply eating more lean proteins. I found that I was returning to my old way of cooking and eating and was gaining back several of the pounds I’d fought hard to lose. I also could not control my fat intake the way I wanted. My “toning way” wasn’t leaning anymore, though I seem to be building muscles. For a temporary period of time (I’m not sure how long), I will supplement my whole, pure foods with a powder to get the protein I need.
I have a deal with myself. I have permission to eat what I want when I want without guilt. So I can choose to stop at KFC and eat a 3 piece snack box and order an extra biscuit with fake butter and honey. I can choose to have cake or pie or cookies if I want them. Nine times out of ten, when I ask myself if I want these items, the answer is “No.” So I leave them for another day.
I am not giving up eating good tasting food. If you ever tasted my grilled veggies with balsamic vinegar, you’d know that I eat for taste.
I am not giving up anything.
I am eating differently than most of my friends and most of the United States. Some might say I am depriving myself of something. But what?