There’s no one way to eat food, and no one way to prepare it. Food is the essential human truth – we all need it to survive, to sustain ourselves, and we can all delight in the ways that we fuel our bodies. Sadly, the idea of food as fuel has been perverted, shifting from whole foods and the primal delicacies that our bodies are genetically programmed to enjoy and focusing instead on how many ways we can deep fry a Twinkie (or an Oreo, or bacon, or whatever).
Humans are bound to crave fats and sugars because when we were living in caves those things were hard to find. We are literally programmed to gravitate towards those foods because they provide us with energy, both in the short-term and the long-term, giving us a better chance to survive through tomorrow. But guess what? Fast food is actually hurting your chances to survive. Something that’s processed beyond being recognizable as its original form will never be good for your body. So why would we fill our bodies with this processed crap?
Part of it is, as I mentioned, the primal instinct to reach for fats and sugars to fuel ourselves – these things used to be rare. But nowwe have margarine (a fake oil product designed to mimic butter), canola oil (a genetically modified organism that is processed from rapeseed oil), and high fructose corn syrup (basically the devil itself and also makes your stomach fat. No, really.)
Part of it is the amount of advertising we’re subjected to, yes, but that’s a matter of self-control and impulse control. It’s also an issue of the sped-up life – the idea that faster is ALWAYS better, and a meal for four from the drive through is quicker (and therefore better) than a meal for four prepared from fresh, whole ingredients at home.
So how can you make this better? Reach for whole foods – things that came out of the ground, or off an animal or a tree. Things that you can point to where they exist in nature. There’s no high fructose corn syrup tree. Chickens aren’t normally shaped like nuggets.
Here are some basic guidelines for eating clean (that is, choosing the least processed foods for the best possible nutrient absorption):
- Vibrant veggies are better. Reach for brightly colored vegetables like carrots, kale, beets, bell peppers, squash, and broccoli – they’re better for you than white, starchy vegetables like potatoes.
- Eat fish and lean meats more – or go veg! The less meat you can eat, the better – but if you do choose to eat meat, focus on eating lean meat like chicken, turkey, and bison. Fish is a great way to get vital nutrients, and fish oil is great for your health.
- Cut out commercial dairy. Commercial, non-organic dairy products are full of growth hormones that neither cows nor humans are meant to be subjected to. If you wouldn’t put a growth hormone straight into your body, why would you accept it in your food? If you choose to eat dairy, eat organic dairy.
- Avoid anything where you can’t pronounce the ingredients. This is a basic test, but if you don’t know what one of the ingredients in a product actually is, chances are it’s not awesome – so maybe don’t eat that!
- Avoid anything with an expiration date farther than a month away. This is a flawed rule (things like honey never expire, and canned food is a totally legit way to save money) but think about it – do you ever see an expiration date on fresh fruits and vegetables? Eating things with expiration dates brings your expiration date closer.
Want ways to get more veggies into your diet? Try making a veggie stirfry and top it with shrimp or another healthy protein!