& Why I Eat Real Food
If you’ve just stumbled on this blog, you saw something about ‘meal planning’, cooking everything from scratch, and something about homemade bread. You might be thinking I’m a crazy person. If you read the “About Me” page, you may have noticed that I said I follow a loose interpretation of the Weston A Price Foundations diet…and I do mean loose. I don’t agree with everything the Foundation says, but I love their premise and their founding tenants. What does that mean exactly?
WHAT KIND OF A CRAZY PERSON AM I?
Who Was Weston Price?
Weston A Price was a dentist who explored the diets and tooth decay of a bunch of indigenous populations. He found that sugar and white flour seemed to be implicated in tooth decay and chronic diseases, and that many isolated populations all over the world had avoided these diseases until the introduction of a Western diet. He interviewed lots of elderly members of these groups and what their traditional diets looked like. All the diets were unique, but they universally included non-processed foods. Some folks lived on mostly fat (Eskimos), some on almost entirely milk and blood (the Masai tribe in Africa) and others on an almost vegetarian diet (Bantu tribe in Africa). They were all chronic disease free, until Western diets (sugar, white flour, vegetable oil) put them on par with everyone else in terms of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.
Of course, they probably still died a lot from childbirth, diphtheria, and injuries. Yay, modern medicine! I like modern medicine. But I don’t like modern food, modern chronic disease, or modern obesity.
My takeaway from Weston Price: Processed food and lots of sugar is bad for you. Lots of foods can be good for you – meats, grains, dairy, and more. Learning about traditional foods from all over the world is really cool. Also, ethnic food is delicious. Please-give-me-more-kimchi.
I would like to note that I’ve never been overweight or had any significant health concerns (except for this one time when I got e. Coli from lettuce and was miserable for MONTHS), and so I’ve never followed an actual diet, nor do I have any medical eating restrictions. In fact, I’m not a big fan of diets. They tend to have too many rules, they’re hard to follow, and they seem arbitrary. Will you really get fat if you eat one calorie more than you’re supposed to? Can entire food groups (meat, dairy, carbs, whatever) really be universally bad? Isn’t it sort of ridiculous to claim that all people need the same dietary regimen even though people have eaten a wide variety of food since the beginning of time with no problems?
Basically, if it’s Food, I give myself permission to eat it, at least in moderation
But a lot of the stuff in the grocery store isn’t food.
Things I Won’t Eat:
VEGETABLE OILS. This is becoming more popular in the media (at least in other countries that aren’t the USA), but vegetable oils are bad for you. And they are definitely not food. They started as a byproduct of cotton production that some idiot decided to bleach, deodorize, and otherwise chemically alter, and market as cooking oil. Basically, the fats in the oils become damaged when heated (i.e. during production) and even more damaged when you cook with them, and wreak havoc on your body. I could write a whole post on these alone, but here’s a list of the ones I don’t eat:
- Soy Oil
- Canola Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Corn Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Ricebran Oil
- Refined Palm Oil
- Hydrogenated Oil
- “Fake Butter” anything
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Lot of studies have shown that this stuff is horrible for you. In fact, I’ve met someone who had a reaction to aspartame that was so bad it landed him in the hospital, and their long-term effects on all people are AWFUL. Besides, they taste like garbage.
ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS: Unnamed, random chemicals in my food seem like a bad idea.
ARTIFICIAL COLORS: Noticing a theme here? Artificial colors have been linked to behavior problems in children, such as ADHD among other issues. Plus, why are we spending the energy/money to add COLORS to food? I mean, seriously, grow up and eat your vaguely-brownish-yellow mac and cheese because that’s what MAC N CHEESE FREAKING LOOKS LIKE.
Things I Eat in Moderation:
SUGAR: I try to opt for more natural sugars, such as honey, maple syrup, and sucanat/rapadura, but I also have regular sugar on hand and I use it in a lot of my family recipes for baked goods. I just don’t eat these baked goods very often, and I enjoy experimenting with lower sugar versions.
GRAINS. I don’t have a problem with gluten (THANK GOODNESS! I LOVE BREAD!) and I’m not convinced that gluten is necessarily a problem for everyone – more on that to come later. However, I do keep my grain consumption limited, because I think they are really only good for you in moderation – you need vegetables, fats, and proteins more than you need grains.
FRUIT. Fruit is, technically, full sugar and I am one of these people who could sit down and eat a whole pineapple in one sitting. So while I do have fruit every day – usually more than once – I stop myself from devouring 30 servings of fruit in one day. That said, once in awhile I eat a whole pineapple and consider it a dessert.
NUTS. I have a weakness for peanut butter, and I love nuts of all kinds. Nuts are good for you, and they are nutrient dense, but I restrain myself a bit since a) they can be hard to digest, b) they are super high in calories/fat and although I firmly believe that fat is good for you I don’t want THAT MUCH, and c) they are EXPENSIVE!
POTATOES. I don’t limit these because they are bad for you, and I actually eat plenty of potatoes and sweet potatoes. However, I consider them limited because I consciously balance them with other forms of nutrition, including veggies and grains. It’s too easy to fall back on eating potatoes since they are cheap and good. Oh, and a note – leave the skins on potatoes if you want nutritional value.
HEALTHY FATS. Do you remember how I said I don’t eat vegetable oil? Instead, I consume the following fats in moderation:
- Animal fat (lard, tallow, random grease left in my cast iron pan…)
- Avocado Oil (my favorite for roasting things!)
- Olive Oil
- Peanut Oil (for frying!)
- Coconut Oil (baking!)
- Walnut Oil (salad dressing! Don’t cook with it though).
- Sesame Oil (salad dressing, or combined with peanut oil for stir frys. Don’t cook with it without the peanut oil!)
COFFEE. I love coffee – it’s my comfort food/drink. If I’m stressed or upset, I’ve always made myself a cup of coffee. In college I went through a rather unhealthy phase of drinking multiple POTS of coffee in one day, and I have since cut back to just two cups. I’ve read conflicting research on whether coffee is good for you or not, and I’m currently consuming in moderation until I have time to investigate further.
CAFFEINATED TEA. I like teas, and drink herbal teas as much as I want, but caffeinated ones in moderation.
ALCOHOL. I don’t really like most alcohol, and mixed drinks are usually gross and full of sugar, so I don’t consume this often, but I do like a good beer once in awhile. I make a point of
never rarely getting drunk, and I opt for really delicious beer once in a while instead of frequent crummy beer. Alcohol isn’t good for you, but I think it is OK in moderation…although I question the American definition of ‘moderation’. I usually treat an alcoholic drink like a ‘dessert’ in my mind, and might have one INSTEAD of cake.
Things I Eat As Much As I Want:
VEGETABLES. Duh. Everyone knows these are good for you. I also genuinely love my veggies, and I also love finding new ways to cook them.
DAIRY. I love me some milk and cheese. That said, I do think grass-fed dairy does wonders for how good dairy is for you. It also tastes better. My biggest dream is to own my own cow someday…
MEAT. I’m not the type who can eat a 36oz steak in one sitting, nor do I want to, so I don’t limit my meat consumption – I eat it when I want it, and I eat as much as I want. I don’t want tons of it though – if I did, I would put it in my “moderation” category. Interestingly, I find that I crave more meat around my monthly period, whereas mid-cycle I’d happily be vegetarian for a week. Something to do with iron, maybe?
LEGUMES. Beans are delicious. They’re also cheap.
Special Foods I Look For:
Organic flour: Roundup desiccation of wheat has been linked to gluten intolerance and Celiac disease. I like bread more than I like dessert, so I buy organic flour that I can verify hasn’t been sprayed with Roundup. The science isn’t 100% on this yet, but it’s worth the precaution in my mind. Did I mention how much I love bread?
Local Produce: I prize local produce, particularly local no-spray produce. When things are fresh, they taste better and are generally better for you. Also, I don’t like pesticides, but have my doubts about the ‘organic’ label on produce, though I do buy organic when my budget permits.
Grass-fed Meat and Cheese: Grass-fed meat and dairy taste better (I promise). They have have CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) in them, lots of omega-3s, Vitamin D, and other fun stuff that conventional meat and dairy don’t have. Plus, grass-fed meat/dairy have access to pasture, which means they are not confinement cattle…which also means their production is more environmentally sustainable.
Local, Pastured Eggs: I get my eggs from my mom’s neighbor. They aren’t organic and they do eat conventional feed, but they are given access to pasture and spend most of the summer outside. The taste difference and appearance of fresh eggs vs. store ones make them an obvious choice.
Things I’m Currently Investigating:
- Soaking Grains & Sourdough Bread – I’ve heard this makes the nutrients more available and would love to try it. I love sourdough bread, so I’m especially keen to start making that.
- Organ Meats – I like liver, but I don’t know a lot about cooking with it. Since organs are supposed to be really good for you, I’m investigating using them more often.
- Fermenting Food – I already make my own sauerkraut, but I’d like to lacto-ferment more foods, since it’s supposed to be super good for your microbiome (aka gut bacteria).
Basically, I want food from animals that have been treated right, food that is high in nutrition, food without chemicals, and food that tastes better.
Disclaimer: I realize many people have food allergies or sensitivities, and may need a more restricted diet than what I eat. Thankfully, I am blessed to be free of chronic gut issues, diseases, and other issues that may make me unable to eat gluten, sugar of any type, dairy, or certain groups of vegetables. I think it’s very important to be cognizant of what foods may make you not feel good, and not eat those foods. However, I think EVERYBODY can benefit from eliminating processed foods and things that…well…aren’t actually food.
Thanks for reading! I will be sharing more detail about some of these categories in the future.