Your perfect day of eating
I was a fat kid. Even before I was verbal, I could spot the Golden Arches. Then I went from a fat baby to a fat kid and fat teenager. And then a skinny teenager, popping diet pills purchased in Florida with an actual street value up here. I remember, in phases, being fat and sad then skinny and hopped-up and presumably happier. Or I was skinny and starving, or skinny and running and cycling endlessly, then fat and depressed again. This yo-yoing has plagued me my entire life. And at 45, it still does.
I don’t believe in dieting anymore. Most of the experts I listen to say the same thing; “Diets don’t work!” So what does?
Well, it’s a whole lifestyle thing. It’s about getting up and moving. Walking instead of driving. Taking the stairs instead of the escalator. Eating when you’re hungry, but eating well. I like the simplicity of In Defense of Food author Michael Pollan’s advice, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Sounds easy enough, right? But what is “food”? Well it’s not that processed junk in bags, boxes, and bottles. Pollan suggests this litmus test: if your grand- or great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, it isn’t food. And she wouldn’t recognize neon yogurt in a tube. Stick to the periphery of the grocery store, that’s where all the unprocessed foods are — the whole foods — the produce, meat, dairy and grains.
Pollan is also a great believer in the Japanese practice of hara hachi bu, eating until the hunger is gone — about 80 per cent full — and not to capacity. If you tune in to Dr. Oz, on TV just about any day of the week, America’s hunky — if slightly too hairy — health guru is giving us the down-low on the latest must-eat super-food. So we got to wondering, besides what we all already know about drinking plenty of water, and avoiding refined sugars, processed and junk foods, what would a perfect day of Dr. Oz and Michael Pollan eating look like?
Never skip breakfast. You need it, and even if you don’t feel hungry, you still need it. Not breaking the fast (that would be your long night’s sleep without food) will wreak havoc with your hormones and blood sugar levels so that by the time coffee break rolls around you’ll find yourself powerless against the pull of the latte and pastry, or worse, you’ll totally pig out at lunch.
Here’s an easy, no-cook, no-excuses breakfast full of immune boosters and antioxidants:
• Pro-biotic yogurt or yogurt drink, organic of course.
• Green tea with a drop of manuka honey. Manuka honey is a proven bacteria-fighter.
• Unsweetened puffed brown rice or whole grain cereal or, if you do have time to cook, oatmeal. Have this with lots of blueberries, a dash of soymilk, real maple syrup, and ground flaxseeds
Yes, you get a nice snack. Eat something packed with protein now — protein is slow to digest, making you feel fuller, longer — and you won’t be tempted to answer the siren song of that burger joint at lunch.
• More tea, green or black
• A handful of raw nuts; almonds for calcium, walnuts for omega-3s, and Brazil nuts for selenium, and a few dried figs which are high in potassium, fibre, and other good stuff.
• A whole fruit: banana, apple, pear, whatever you like.
If nuts aren’t easy to find, have a whole wheat cracker with a slather of peanut butter plus a whole fruit, or a banana with some low fat cottage cheese, or a fruit and a slice of cheese. But be careful of cheese – have one portion only. That’s a slice. The key is to combine protein with a complex carb.
Enjoy your food. There should be no guilt, nothing but pleasure. So, stop eating al desko. Savour every minute and every bite, and if you have a couple of minutes left over, go for a walk or find a quiet room to stretch.
• Salad of organic bitter and dark leafy greens: endive, arugula, spinach, horta (dandelion greens), roasted beet, goat cheese, smoked wild salmon, and raw sunflower seeds, dressed with extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, sea salt, and apple cider vinegar.
• Whole grain nutty bread. Don’t butter it; use it to sop up the last of that good-for-you olive oil.
• Mixed fruit salad of red grapes, dark berries, melon, mango, and papaya to aid in digestion.
• 4 ounces of 100 per cent pure, unsweetened Concord grape, cranberry, or pomegranate juice in a tall glass of sparkling or still water.
Time for a lift! OK, have that coffee if you must, but go easy on the milk or cream and skip the white sugar entirely, and don’t even think about coffee whitener, that stuff will kill you. But you’ve been good, very, very good, and you deserve… chocolate! But only the dark stuff, 70 per cent or darker, and not the whole bar, piggy! Just a few squares, with a few more nuts and figs, some more fresh fruit or fruit salad.
North Americans eat way too much meat. We really only need about 2 ounces of protein a day, and that doesn’t have to come from meat. Legumes such as chickpeas are a fantastic vegetarian substitute, as is tofu, made from soybeans and eggs, don’t forget eggs, free-run and organic. Fermented foods — yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chee, black garlic, miso — are also an important part of a healthy diet. For dinner, we’re going international.
• Miso soup with nori. Fermented and functional, miso is good for your digestive functioning, and nori, that’s seaweed to the uninitiated, is full of thyroid-friendly iodine.
• Chick pea and tofu curry over brown rice. Curry is full of the yellow spice turmeric, a member of the ginger family, and it just might be the silver bullet for whatever ails you, from inflammation to Alzheimer’s. Throw some fresh ginger and garlic in there too and you’re doing wonders for your tummy and heart. Add a splash of plain tomato sauce for the lycopene — major antioxidant — and heat it up with cayenne or fresh chillies for extra benefits, especially for men. Folks who eat a lot of spicy foods have less colon and prostate cancers. A drop of yogurt will cool things down, and brown rice has a ton of fibre and B vitamins.
Dinner was filling, but you’ve just slid in a DVD, put your feet up, and you want a snack, damn it! Popcorn. Go crazy. It’s full of fibre; it’s satisfying, filling, and fun. Pop it dry if you have an air popper. Or, pop it on the stove with a bit of olive oil. Dress it with garlic powder, sea salt, (go easy) and a wee drizzle of extra virgin olive, flax, or hemp seed oil, and never, ever, eat that microwave stuff. Oh, and here’s more good news: Enjoy one drink a day. Folks who imbibe on a daily basis — one glass of wine, one shot of whiskey, one flute of Champagne should you be that glamorous — are happier, healthier, and live longer lives. I’ve been known to pair a lovely, chilled chardonnay with my popcorn.
Eat up and you will find that like me, you will grow to love good, natural food. Better yet, you will enjoy it shamelessly.
Visit Signe’s scrumptious blog, The Eater’s Digest
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Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Thomas Perkins