So, this is what I think, and—stop me if you’ve heard this before—but, food can be both good for you and incredibly delicious. Mia, has of course, known this for some time, but I’m a recent convert.
Some of the best meals I’ve had in the last couple of years have been simply-prepared whole foods. And now, as we read more and learn and think about these things, the more we want to do what’s best for ourselves: especially now that we have a little one to take care of.
And so here are some rules and guidelines we’ll try to keep in mind as we stock our kitchen and prepare meals for our family. If pressed, no, we probably can’t back all of this up with irrefutable scientific evidence, but we’re also probably not too off-base, or at least not going to do ourselves any harm eating this way.
Nutrition Science is Hard, Yo!
…is much nicer than saying, “Nutrition science is bunk.”
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you’ve played along at home. “Eat less X!” “Eat more Y!” “Oops, people are dying faster. Reverse it!” Food is sufficiently complex that scientific reductionism (testing 1 variable at a time) breaks down when trying to study it. The total universally agreed sum of human knowledge on nutrition basically breaks down to this:
Eating a lot of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains is probably really good for you. At least, it’s not going to hurt you. On the flip side, eating a little meat and dairy isn’t going to hurt, and is probably actually pretty good. At some point however, eating too much of that stuff will probably kill you. Finally, sand, rocks, and various ores are probably really hard on your teeth, so you shouldn’t eat them outside of their natural occurrence in plants and animals.
We’re not going vegan. Or vegetarian. Or anything-else-etarian. You may choose to eat a different way for moral or health reasons, and that’s cool. Really. That’s just not us. We’re omnivores, and we’re going to eat like it.
Eat like a hippie
Not a stoner hippie with the brownies and chips and what-not, but more of the save-the-planet variety; eat local, organic, pastured, grass-fed, antibiotic-free everything (or as much as we can).
Now, I’m incredibly skeptical of the belief that reducing food-miles reduces the carbon footprint of that food. Just like our nutrition scientists, when you look at the system as a whole, it’s much more complicated than we’d like to think.
However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat locally. In fact, the food we can get near us is often riper, more recently harvested, and thereby tastier (except in winter when it’s all squashes and tubers for a thousand miles). Also, it gives us a great feeling of smugness. The jury’s still out as to whether sustain-ably/organically grown food (as much locally/small-farm grown food is) is more nutritious than its conventional counterparts, but given the problems we’ve seen in the industrial food supply, ranging from terrible diseases to unknown antibiotics and hormones to pink slime and other adulterants, we certainly feel safer eating local and organic when possible.
Count Senses, Not Calories
Put a bunch of different things on your plate. We’re omnivores, so be omnivorous. Choosing different colors, textures, sounds, tastes, and smells makes for a more interesting plate. The bonus is that you’re getting a bunch of different foods with different chemical makeups, so some nutrient that’s missing in one thing is probably loaded up in another.
The extra secret double bonus is that you’re going to probably end up with a lot more plants on your plate, which are naturally lower in calories AND more filling from all the fiber, assuming that they’re not processed to oblivion (remember: WHOLE foods). So go ahead: load up.
Cooking with Whole Ingredients is More Fun
Splitting a whole side of salmon into at least three different methods of preparation is pretty cool. Learning to cut that mango without it shooting out of your hand like a bar of soap is oddly satisfying. It’s all far more interesting than pouring processed starch straight from a box into a pot and then dumping that into your bowl for dinner.
Of course, this takes more time. But have fun with it: make it family/friends time.
In All Things: Moderation
This applies to everything from portion sizes to vehemence in sticking to this plan. Sure, we’re going to eat other things on occasion, and even over eat, but we’re going to do so knowing we could have made a better choice. It’s not about militant dogmas, but more about doing better for ourselves than we were doing before.
And so we begin. Or continue.
Throughout all of this, we will strive to keep in mind that we’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to eat this way. We live in a place and time where we have this option. We are in a financial position to pay more for our food, and so can be choosier. We’re lucky, but we also hope to highlight ways anybody can make a better choice. Because as a country (planet?), we’re spending a smaller percentage of our income on food and groceries than anytime in the past. When it comes down to it, we can put down that re-re-re-released DVD of The Big Lebowski and buy pastured eggs for the next month. In another way of looking at it, we can pay more for food now, or we can pay more on our medical bills later, so let’s just load up on delicious food now.