Has the self-righteousness of the all-too-plentiful food philosophies left a bad taste in your mouth worse than fermented cod liver oil? If so, you aren’t alone. In fact, I have a feeling that you and I are a growing breed that’s sick of being told we’re sick and tired of trying every new development in nutritional research or supplementation that social media and blogs tell us we should.
What really got me thinking of this was a tongue-in-cheek remark by a friend of mine on our blog’s Facebook page. We’d reposted a recipe from one of the popular food/mommy blogs for something like “Paleo Chocolate Funnel Cake.” Our friend responded by saying something to the effect of “Awesome! Now I can eat chocolate funnel cake just like my hunter-gatherer ancestors!” I lolled. But I also got to thinking about where we, and the renaissance of interest in good-quality, healthful culinaria that is the Food Movement had gone so wrong.
I think the answer really lies in (forgive the pun) the desire for us to have our cake and eat it too. We want to be thin and healthy, while continuing to gorge on sugar and plopping down on the couch. It’s not entirely our fault. You can’t get pissed at your own lack of willpower or you’ll never get anywhere. A lot of the problem is cultural, especially in America. Our lifestyle is both sedentary and hectic. Combine this with decades worth of programming by the government and commercialism to eat starchy, fake crap and a lot of it. Add a dash of industrial toxins to screw with your hormones. And you have a recipe for disaster that is sure to spoil even the best of intentions, including the food movement.
So let’s get realistic for a second. We know that “Grok” didn’t eat avocado pudding. In fact, we don’t really know what he ate. We can approximate, but we also know that he lived a very different lifestyle than us. Should we strive to build the stronger local communities that supported him and try to increase the amount of meaningful, physical work that kept him fit in our own lives? Of course. But we can also look to our great-grandmothers’ diets for an example here. And although our lifestyles certainly are different from hers, they’re a lot closer than they are to Grok–and we know more about what she ate to stay healthy.
In short, we have centuries–heck, millennia–worth of culinary traditions from around the world that have nourished entire civilizations at our fingertips. We don’t need to settle for primal pumpkin squares or gluten-free spaghetti and meatballs. We just need Real Food.
Now, I can already hear the backlash from some of our readers (and maybe co-authors). What about people with neurological disorders that could benefit from special diets like GAPS? What about people that have auto-immune diseases? What about people that are morbidly obese? What about people with food allergies? What about… What about…?
Okay. Some of our readers may very well be sick, and they may very well need a specialized diet for a time. As I said, we live in a world with industrial waste products and xenoestrogens and parents that thought they were keeping us healthy by feeding us toast with margarine for breakfast when we were growing up. So sure, some of us–maybe even many of us–are sick. But my recommendation is to first try to eat a completely Real Foods diet. If that doesn’t make you lose weight, reduce inflammation, etc. after a year, try one of the many specialized diets out there.
Real Food Recommendations
Okay, so at this point some of you may want to know what I mean by Real Foods. I’m going to try to keep this very succinct and limit the amount of labels I use, because quite frankly, they’re obnoxious and many of them are marketing ploys. So here goes:
- Eat small portions. If you struggle with this, get smaller dishes. Experiment as you need to, but keep in mind that calories matter, and most traditional foods are high in fat, which is nourishing, but has a lot of calories. Eat to enjoy the taste of the food, not the sensation of it sliding down your gullet. If you eat slowly and mindfully, with friends and family and with the TV off, you’ll start to realize that you’re full with less food.
- Learn to Cook. Literally just get a good, old-fashioned cookbook and learn what flavors go well together, the average time things need to cook, different techniques, etc. Nourishing Traditions is a great start, but so is Julia Child and many of the traditional ethnic cuisine books. If your food isn’t tasty, you’re going to feel like your on a diet. If it’s tasty, there’s no need to cheat.
- Don’t Eat Anything Fake. If you look at the ingredients and it has 400 words you can’t pronounce, don’t eat it. Try to make most things at home with the time you have, and then buy the best of what you cannot.
- Eat Vegetables. Just do it. Too many Real Foodies are either sceptical or just lazy (or they use the former to justify the latter). But in any event, they’re good for you, and there are a ton of ways to prepare them. You don’t need your meals to be split up between vegetables, a starch, and a protein. These aren’t army rations. Cook your Brussels sprouts with bacon or make a spinach quiche.
- Balance your Meals. I want to be careful here not to fall into the macronutrient trap, but basically, you want your meals to be mostly fat, some protein, some carbs. Here’s a good example of a breakfast: 2 eggs cooked in butter, 1 sour dough cracker, 1 teaspoon of sourcream to be spread on said cracker, sprinkling of dill over the whole thing. Small cup of coffee with cream on the side. Boom. Power breakfast.
- Buy Good Meat. I don’t know how else to say it since there are 500+ modifiers these days that come before beef, poultry, and pork. Yeah, make sure they’re raised on grass. Make sure the birds and pigs are given tubers and grains that weren’t grown with chemicals (cows shouldn’t eat grains). Obviously, you want to make sure the animals are treated well too (vegans take note), but the best way for this to happen is for the farmer to raise the animals the way nature intended and the way our ancestors raised them before the industrial revolution–which, as a happy bi-product, also yields the tastiest, healthiest meat. When it comes to preserved meats, don’t buy anything with chemicals. Better yet, make your own. And don’t neglect organ meat, it’s very good for you and tasty when cooked right.
- Eat Good Dairy & Eggs. Not much difference here from what I said above about meat. Cows and chickens should be raised on pasture, they shouldn’t be given drugs or chemicals, and the cows shouldn’t eat grains. Raw milk is better than pasteurized milk so long as its a reputable source, and from this, you can make all manner of diary products at home like yoghurt and buttermilk if you followed Step 2. If you don’t have time to make your own dairy products, just drink the raw milk and buy good quality cheeses, butters, etc. from cows raised the right way.
- Get Wild Caught Fish. If you can find a supplier that farms fish in a natural way, have at it. But if you can’t, just look for deep, cold water fish from clean waters. Smaller fish like mackerel and sardines are cheaper and have less heavy metals, so learn to cook with those. They can be very tasty done right. Good quality shellfish are also very healthy.
- Limit Sweets. This is how it’s always been. They’re called “treats” for a reason. There’s nothing wrong with having a scoop of wholesome ice cream after dinner. There is something wrong with having 3 cups of “low-carb sorbet” drizzled with honey. Just make the real stuff and have a small amount of it. It tastes better anyway.
- Eat Some Fermented Foods. Don’t over do it, but sure, pair your sausage with some lacto-fermented sauerkraut. Have a little yoghurt with breakfast. Above all, don’t stress about this. Just eat them and don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have a raging Candida infection. Is your tongue coated in white sludge? Good, you’re fine.
Just Keep it Simple
So there you have it. 10 recommendations for eating well and not having a panic attack over it. I could go on, but we can expound upon these in future posts if need be (perhaps a little bit on modern grains vs. older varieties is in order). But my goal here is to keep it simple.
Now, will you need to take a little more time in the kitchen? Yes. Can you still eat out on occasion? Sure, just try to find restaurants/dishes that match the above recommendations. Above all, use your common sense, sticking with what feels most natural. And don’t get caught up in every new supplement that comes out or flashy new diet that is supposed to rid you of every ache or hiccup. And please, no more paleo lava cake.