Recently I have seen lots of random postings and articles about food, eating, dieting…you name it. I overhear conversations about diets folks are on. My trainer even gives me random tid-bits of advice about nutrition. All of it has made me once again take a look at my views on food and nutrition. My journey is an adventure to get healthy. In the process I expect to lose some weight (a lot of weight, actually) and get much, much more fit than I am. But neither of those things is my end goal. My end goal is to feel good and some crazy diet isn’t going to do that for me. So here’s my take on food:
Buy Local: I don’t take this to any extremes, but I do have a small garden. I shop at the local farmer’s market, and I try to buy foods that come from my state/region if not from right down the road. Does this mean I never buy exotic fruits or veggies that don’t grow around here? Heck no! Some of that stuff is mighty, mighty tasty and I want it.
Organic: Let me be clear – I do not think organic foods are more nutritious than traditionally grown foods (this seems to be the basis for many arguments around organic foods which makes absolutely no sense to me). That being said, I try to buy organic foods when possible to avoid ingesting any more chemicals than I already do. With meats and eggs I try to buy free range and grass-fed. This is where the local farmer’s market comes into play – you can talk to the people who raise the food. Find out what their practices are. Just because they are not certified organic does not mean that they don’t have the same or higher standards. Getting certified is expensive and a general pain and many smaller farms simply can’t or don’t want to go through the process.
Eat Real Food: I have heard variations on this in “diet” form that go to some extremes (paleo diets, eating “clean”, biblical diets, etc.). The gist of all of them, though, is to eat real, whole foods and remove processed “fake” foods. The second part to this is don’t kill your food cooking it. Overcooked food loses nutritional value not to mention it just tastes yucky. I try to avoid fried foods. Again, am I always very good at it? I live in the South…eating fried foods is nearly unavoidable, but I try to keep it to a very bare minimum. (I mean seriously, have you ever had a deep-fried Twinkie??? Nutritional value: zero. Taste value: off the charts!)
General Nutrition: I eat red meat. And I don’t just eat it, I love it! But I also eat a lot of fish and chicken and occasionally pork. With all my meats I try to eat lean cuts and trim almost all the excess fat from them. A note about fish (specifically salmon): I will only eat wild-caught Alaskan/pacific salmon. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list’s best choice items are a good, easy way to find sustainable fish and seafood with healthy populations. I also eat a lot of vegetables. I am even growing some of my own this year (squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, several herbs, and I am trying a watermelon and a cantaloupe). I need to cut back on the amount of butter I use. I drink regular old cow milk (organic, but if I could get it, I would drink raw milk without a doubt!). I try to avoid refined sugars and flours. I eat cheese. I drink boat-loads of water.
Moderation: This is key. Every diet on the face of the planet (and I mean “diet” as in the crazy plans people come up with to shed pounds) relies on cutting calories. If you’re already eating real foods and not fast foods or pre-packaged processed stuff, etc. then it all comes down to portion size. Limit your fats and sugars, up your quantities of veggies, and make sure you get enough protein.
Exercise: Food alone will not make you healthy. You’ve gotta move. And I don’t mean any sort of hard-core regimen. Just move. Walk the dogs. Mow the lawn with a push mower. Go play in the park with the kids. Take your significant other out on a hike. But be and stay active.
So there you have it. I don’t have any goals to win body-building championships or medals for finishing first in a marathon. I don’t need (or want) to look like a runway model or some Hollywood superstar. I don’t want to eat just protein shakes or cabbage soup or some other limiting, boring and unsustainable diet only to gain all the pounds back as soon as I return to eating normally. I just want to be healthy and feel good and maybe live a year or two longer because I worked at it a bit.