Noun: any form of nourishment that allows one to maintain life and grow.
Food is a part of everyone’s (and every living thing’s) life. It’s crucial for life to keep going. Something so simple, so vital…it shouldn’t be complicated, right? But humans often make it more complicated than it needs to be.
First, take the modern food industry. All kinds of messed up. Millions are starving, while millions of others are overfed, yet undernourished. In many ways, we’re so far from our ancestor’s way of living and eating. Not always a bad thing, but it can be. Especially in the western world, we’ve been told to buy the cheapest food possible, in massive quantities, usually consisting of some blend of fat, refined carbs and excess protein. No wonder we’re becoming unhealthier. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Choosing whole, real foods from the earth can and should be the basis of everyone’s way of eating, and it doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be boring or bland. What’s boring about nature-hued veggies? Or bland about juicy berries? I believe that everyone can find healthy foods that please both their bodies and minds, and if they just take some time to get used to them, they can form a new lifestyle around them. A healthier, more vibrant lifestyle that gets one more in tune with nature.
That being said, there isn’t one right way of eating for everyone. I’ve been a plant-strong vegan for 2 years, but some people thrive eating a paleo-style diet, or more omnivorous with lean protein and plenty of produce. Or low-carb, fruit-based raw vegans. Or mostly plant-eating vegetarians. The options are nearly endless…you’ve just gotta choose the right one for you. Just make sure you base your diet around things that come from the earth (or if you eat animal products, from the most naturally-raised animals) and you’ll be fine!
Second, our relationships with food can become distorted. As I mentioned in my Real. section, I’ve struggled with an eating disorder. Diagnosed anorexia, self-diagnosed orthorexia. These are issues I still deal with on a daily basis. They may always cloud my perception of food. But I don’t let them control me, or make me too obsessive. Many others struggle with the same disorders, or bulimia, or EDNOS, or binge eating disorder. Or even just disordered eating. Food becomes the object we choose to control for a myriad of reasons, so instead of looking at food as nourishment and a source of life, we may deem it as the enemy, or as a sole source of comfort. It can be hard to just see food as food, especially in our food-centric world, but the only way we can heal is if we take food off its pedestal and just appreciate it for what it does for us without obsessing over it. Easier said than done, but it’s key. Food is great, and keeps us at our best, but it doesn’t have to be strictly controlled. It doesn’t have to be overused, or underused. I truly believe you can eat healthy while also not letting it become an eating disorder, or letting it feed into a current ED.
Enough with the boring stuff, let’s talk food! What are some of the things I enjoy on a daily (or not-so-daily) basis? Well…
- produce. I eat some with every meal, every snack (speaking of which, I tend to eat 5 small meals a day which works for me). Favorites at the moment include romaine, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, eggplant, zucchini, berries (other than blackberries), fresh figs, bananas, watermelon, mango, pineapple.
- protein. As a vegan who eats mostly real foods, I have some go-to plant-based proteins, like garbanzo/black/pinto/navy beans, lentils, tempeh (on occasion) and hemp seeds. I also regularly supplement with Garden of Life raw vegan protein powder, simply because I like to have a bit more protein to fuel my workouts and also because I have a sweet tooth, and
sometimesusually I prefer sweet things over protein-y things, so having a mostly-clean protein powder I love is essential. Don’t feel like you need it though, especially if you eat meat, fish or eggs regularly.
- fats. I’m finally embracing the healthy fats after shunning them through my ED (and even into my recent recovery) and it feels so good. Plant-based fats are nothing to shy away from–they’re incredibly healthy! I love coconut oil (extra virgin), olives, raw nuts/seeds and avocados.
- carbs. I’ve gone through cycles with these guys, and while I keep my carbs in the 50% range (generally I have a 50-20-30 diet of carbs to protein to fat), I prefer my carbs from fruit sources. Yes, this boosts my sugar intake but natural sugars (from fruit) are good for you! I eat gluten-free grains (generally pseudograins) on occasion, once or twice a week at most–things like sprouted organic corn tortillas, buckwheat and quinoa. I’ve significantly cut back on gluten-filled products and only eat them if I’m eating out and I feel okay with the restaurant’s healthfulness in general and I really want the item. If I’m at a place that serves authentic Neapolitan pizza, for example, I’ll splurge and eat some cheeseless, veggie-filled real pizza. To me, eating gluten just because isn’t worth it to me anymore because I just feel better without it. Basically, I’m grain-free a lot of the time and if I do eat grains, they’re mostly gluten-free and ancient grain style.
- treats. I believe treating yourself to things you really love is perfectly fine if done on occasion. That being said, I stick with healthier ‘treats’ for daily eating. Things like Larabars (the PB chocolate chip is my faaaaavorite!), homemade raw desserts and raw dark chocolate happen more frequently, because they’re still fairly healthy and I enjoy them. If I go out to a vegan restaurant though, you better believe I’m ordering one of their desserts because I never get decadent vegan desserts any other time! Like I said, I’m a sweet-o-holic, but for savory ‘treats’, it’s generally certain restaurant meals. I rarely get to go to truly vegan restaurants so when I do, I’m sure as heck not ordering a salad unless it really appeals to me! I have no problem trying some of my sister’s vegan nachos or getting some really good and fresh cheeseless pizza because I don’t eat out a ton and when I do, I want to enjoy it! Generally, I eat out at mostly fast casual and healthier type places (like Chipotle, Qdoba, etc.) when I do go out, and then I always stick with my delicious salads. It really is all about balance!
I know everyone has a different philosophy when it comes to food, but that’s mine and it works for me so that’s all that matters!