For the past several months, I've been trying to define what health and healthy eating means. And I am starting to realize that eating food in it's most natural state is the best way to go, but I don't think it's always easy to understand why or to always follow through with it. Part of the problem stems from the fact that (and I speak for my 20-something generation) we've had pretty bad information about healthy eating. What has been defined as 'healthy' has been designated by companies with clever marketing campaigns. Counting calories as a means to weight loss and health was always the (most recent) preferred method to measure health success, and it was easy for companies to exploit the calorie outlet. 100 Calorie Packs -- you little demons. For years, you convinced me to eat a pack or two of you a day. I greedily scarfed down those buttery Lorna Doones and those Mister Salty chocolate covered pretzels. Chocolate + salt + carb = magic, I thought. These little guys were the key to my health and happiness, and would make me thin. It was the best of both worlds -- I could eat crap and still look great! Blessed Nabisco for such a great product.
Gosh, I was so ignorant and ill-informed. I counted calories, bought packaged products, trusted things like Smart Choices labels, believed I was doing the "right thing," and never saw much permanent change in my body. And I certainly didn't feel any different. Check out the nutrition information for Lorna Doones here. Quite honestly, I'm not really sure I know what's in Lorna Doones, but I still ate them. Was I healthy? What does healthy mean?
Through everything I now read (I owe everyone some major Michael Pollan blogging!) and the more time I spend musing about my health, it's clear to me that humans are intended to eat foods found in nature. Wonder Bread came into existence in 1924 and Lucky Charms was first marketed in 1964, and while I might not have my dates right, it seems like people were able to eat before the inception of such food products. Like, a long, long time before. So, why should I think there is something wrong with the foods that people ate earlier, before the creation of McDonalds? Why should I get my vitamins and minerals from fortified Lucky Charms when I could get it from something like, I don't know, spinach and apples?
When I decided to attempt to cut gluten out of my life, I really don't know if I could tell you why I did it. And yes, there are days when I think I want nothing more than a fudgy brownie. But should I replace processed gluten-filled foods with processed non-gluten foods? I really don't think that's the best answer. I think my beef with gluten is less about gluten than it is about processed foods. And let's face it, most foods with gluten are highly, highly processed (and yes, pasta counts as highly processed). And right now, I don't feel a need to eat barley and oats. It's getting off the Oreos that's hard, but not impossible, and actually quite rewarding. Study after study proves that no matter how you package it or size it, processed foods are not the answer to health. So, that takes me back to my original point: getting to be healthy is about eating food that looks and tastes like natural food. And that's my goal.
(recipe for this butternut squash is below!)
And with that said, the more and more I think about food, the more my perspective on what constitutes good, delicious food had changed. I am forced to consider food purchasing and preparation more carefully and have had to broaden my food horizons to keep my taste buds interested. And through all of it, I find that I'm definitely more of a foodie than just someone who eats Hot Pockets because it's the convenient package in the freezer. I'm redefining "fast food." And, through it all, I'm starting to enjoy food a whole lot more. But more on this to come.
Musings: check out this link from the Summer Tomato about Whole Grains vs. Intact Grains. I found it informative and helpful, and it solidifies my belief that processed foods are no good for our us.
Secondly, my husband and I have finally decided to make eating grass-fed meats and farmers' markets produce a part of our food lives and are musing with the idea of starting our own herb and vegetable garden. More to come!
And finally, this new lifestyle has forced me to be much more creative. Last night, I made butternut squash that we had purchased at the Winter Farmers Market. To make it, I used what I had on hand: olive oil, sea salt, ginger, and cinnamon. After peeling and dicing the squash, I put it in a bowl, coated it with olive oil, sprinkled on cinnamon and ginger (mostly cinnamon, although I wish I had had more ginger), popped it on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes, took it out, sprinkled it with sea salt, and voila! Veggies for dinner were done.
Alright, I've been mostly known to kill plants, not get them to grow. But what foods and herbs should my husband and I try to grow in our tiny backyard garden?