A list of five areas of your food lyfe you can change, if you want.
Before I pick up where I left off, I’d like to start with a little backstage look at the way I imagined converting my first draft of a book into an email newsletter. My thought process went something like
“I’ll just open this here file and copy/paste it into the Internet and ah, la voilà it is now a real thing.”
After posting or publishing or sending or…whatever…a couple of these, it’s clear to me that there needs to be some light re-contextualizing of the original words into something that makes sense inside your inbox. To make the message fit the medium, I suppose. Not full-blown content strategy (ew) but definitely more intention is necessary than I originally thought (and as evidenced above there really wasn’t much thought originally so this is unsurprising).
A note about the schedule: I intend on sending these out weekly, midweek. Ideally on Wednesday evenings, since I like to think someone might read these while relaxing after a delicious meal in celebration of a week mostly won. This one is going to hit your inbox while you are asleep. Sorry.
Now, housekeeping aside, onward.
A Peer Review Study of Food Concerns
Based on a completely insufficient and half-assed poll of people I’m friends with on Facebook, I’ve concluded that there are five key areas of concern when it comes to making better food choices.
#1: Portion Control
The overly simplistic view is that if you are trying to lose weight, you should eat less calories than you burn. You can probably maintain weight by eating less calories than you burn a few days a week. But counting calories is the worst; you’ll get close enough if you estimate, but what a chore. And in case you didn’t know, calorie counts on your food packages are already estimates anyway, so why bother?
A more sustainable approach is portion control. That’s a difficult habit to form if you’re prone to overeat, like me. If I’m honest though, there is a point in every enjoyable meal where I know I’ve had enough to eat; meaning, my body sends a very weak signal to my brain saying ‘we’re good here’ and then my brain says NO MOAR I LOVE IT SO SPICY AND YUM and then I continue shoveling food into my face. Portion control, for me, is learning to hear the weak and annoying body voice and quieting the loud and unruly brain voice. If you can’t hear the body voice at all, you can start with building a plate that seems visually reasonable.
One example I’ve heard of a visually reasonable plate is that the protein/main item takes up a fist-sized portion, and the rest of your plate is vegetables. That’s not a bad place to start, despite its annoying exclusion of starches and, like, a BIG piece of crusty buttery bread but I digress.
Practicing portion control is the only diet that actually works long-term. It isn’t easy, but at least it’s sustainable.
#2. Dining Out Too Often
If you’d like a healthier lifestyle, or if you’d just like to save some money, try to make food for yourself at least once a day. I’m not talking about a big, complicated dinner; scrambled eggs in the morning totally counts. Or make a sandwich for workday lunch, and go eat it outside somewhere. Eating food you prepare puts you in charge of every ingredient, allowing you to be more intentional about what you’re eating (and how much).
#3. Eating Too Much Meat
Americans consume too much meat. That’s not like a weirdo hippie health thing, it’s just a fact. Our obsession with meat causes so much environmental damage; many, many others have written extensively on the subject, so I’ll leave it at that and you can go do your own Googling on the topic.
As a very tiny way of becoming less reliant on having a big chunk of meat with every meal, try going vegetarian for one day each week (not like actual vegetarian, there are too many rules). I try to maintain Meatless Mondays here when I’m meal planning. On Meatless Mondays, breakfast, lunch, and dinner don’t include an animal protein. We’re not super strict about it, and most of the meals still involve animal products; I think it’s still a small step towards more eco-friendly consumption and worth a shot.
A sample Meatless Monday menu could be: oatmeal with fruit and buttered toast for breakfast, trail mix for a snack, salad for lunch, and pesto pasta for dinner (sneak preview: meal planning and grocery shopping will be discussed in later posts).
#4. Food Intolerances
Despite my intolerance for intolerances, I know that everyone reacts to food differently, and (actual allergies not included) you will probably come across a food that doesn’t sit well with you when you eat it. I already mentioned my contentious relationship with dairy, and that my current solution is to try to eat less of the things that make my tummy sad.
If there’s something you eat that consistently makes you feel bad, then it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it. Like most habits associated with food, this is a mental game. You may have an emotional or nostalgic attachment to a certain comfort food that makes you (in Bourdain’s words) “shit like a mink” but if feeling that way is worth it to you, then go for it. But maybe don’t complain about it…just have your cake and eat it too and if cake makes you gassy then bloat up proudly and move on.
#5. “Clean Eating”
I mentioned my choice to start buying Certified Humane eggs earlier; that was a choice I made as part of a bigger effort to clean up my family’s food sourcing. In case you’re looking to make better choices about what food you buy, start with meat.
In the US, you can pick any meat industry and read volumes on the despicable things that happen to animals before you eat them. So, where to start? Pick any meat. Do some research. Find better options. Go buy the better option. Huzzah! You just used your dollar to vote for more sustainable practices in that industry. Now do it again.
But maybe people say they want to practice “clean eating” but aren’t talking about food sources. Maybe it’s a combination of diet culture guilt over eating a fried thing, or a desire to eat healthier foods. I think clean eating is an overused term that doesn’t mean anything. If you primarily consume processed foods, look for less processed foods. If you primarily consume fried foods, try similar foods that are cooked in any one of dozens of other ways. If you eat several pounds of red meat every week, eating several pounds of fish isn’t necessarily a better option. The point is that “clean eating” can’t be a goal in and of itself unless you have a specific problem you’re trying to solve, ie a thing you’re trying to clean. And somehow most of the “clean eating” crew thinks kale is part of the solution, and kale sucks, so that should be enough to convince you that the clean eating crew does not have your best interests at heart.
Next week I’ll do some more background, mainly in terms of why I’m writing about any of this in the first place. I’ll answer questions no one asked like “why do you care about any of this” and “why are you such a snob”. We’ll briefly discuss magic bean water aka coffee, I’ll give you a recipe for a drunken college kid’s idea of a home-cooked meal, and if there’s space I’ll dedicate a few paragraphs to making fun of the Paleo diet.
Image Credit: Cheesiest Pizza - Epic Meal Time