Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Three Tips for Healthy Eating

We recently joined a CSA. If you're unfamiliar with this particular acronym, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You buy a share in a CSA. Share holders pay a lump sum and receive a box of produce straight off the farm every week. It's fun! A host of new and different veggies! Our CSA is also certified organic, and costs much less than you would pay at the farmer's market... or any market. As I said over on Instagram, we're going to be consuming so many micro nutrients, we're going to shine like the sun. (Follow me @momsatthebarre on Instagram for more on what I'm doing with the #CSAhaul.)
Yesterday's haul

The nice thing about the CSA is trying new recipes to use up some of the different ingredients that arrive in the box. The first thing I made with all those tomatoes was ratatouille--Julia Child's recipe, which is, as is customary for Julia, quite labor-intensive. But the result was divine!

As I was cooking, the three-year-old said, 'Mommy, what's for dinner?' 

I replied, 'Ratatouille!'

He said, 'Oh, like the show?' 
That was me yesterday--minus the rat. Image: Disney

Anyhoo, the bevy of healthiness exploding out of my kitchen reminded me of some comments readers made over on Facebook about a recent post. I had written about cultivating an exercise habit, and several readers mentioned they struggled far more with healthy eating than exercise.

WORD. That's historically been my struggle, too. I love to exercise, but tend to slip up on the eating. However, I have recently enjoyed some progress in this area, and so I humbly propose the following suggestions, should they be helpful:

Write it down
A lot of people suggest keeping a food diary. It's been proven quite successful for many who struggle with weight or food issues. Even without calculating calories or macro nutrients, the simple act of recording what you are eating holds you accountable. You find yourself thinking, I could tuck into that brownie, but then I'd have to write it down... though, I'd sometimes just eat the brownie and not write it down. 

And that's why I've never been a huge fan of keeping a food diary. That and for me, it just felt weird and obsess-y to write down everything I'm eating. However, it remains a very useful diagnostic tool. When I feel like I've sort of gone off the rails, I'll write things down for a few days. 

I did this a few months ago and it highlighted something I always knew to be true: I'd eat very healthfully and moderately until the afternoon, then I would tend to go off the rails. I'd start foraging and pretty much hoover anything that wasn't nailed down.

What I learned from my 'food diary', which on this occasion was recorded on the back of an envelope, was that I really wasn't consuming enough earlier in the day. I was eating quite a healthy-but-spartan breakfast and lunch, and my body was compensating for it in the afternoon... and evening... and sometimes, into the night.

So I shifted more of my food intake to the morning and mid-day. I started taking breaks instead of eating on the fly. Now I make sure to eat more. More protein and I....

Eat More Fat
The fat-phobic 1990's taught us (erroneously) to fear fat. The idea was not without logic--fat contains 9 calories per gram, versus the 4 calories per gram found in protein and carbohydrates. The theory went that eating more fat meant consuming more total calories and that would, in turn, make us fat. 

But our bodies are far more complex than a simple mathematical equation. 

Fat is necessary for absorption of certain nutrients. It's also filling--and yummy! I'm just more satisfied when I eat a meal with some good fat. And I don't mean just a tiny drizzle of olive oil. 

I'm not suggesting we eat margarine or Crisco--nasty trans fats are... well, nasty. But fat that occurs naturally in real food is not bad for us. Now I eat lots of avocados and crispy chicken skin. I chew the fat on bacon. I don't skimp on delicious, grass-fed butter. I also don't binge on these things--I don't want to. I enjoy them. Then I am full and move on with my day.

A big part of the reason the fat-free movement has been such a disaster is that when we take fat out of food, it just doesn't taste good, so food manufacturers replace fat with sugar. We're now eating more sugar than ever before, which leads me to my next and final point:

Eat Less Sugar--WAY LESS
I've written about the sugar fast I did earlier this year. It was a little extreme for the first couple of weeks--absolutely no sweet--not even fruit. But it completely reoriented my sense of taste. I just don't like a super-sweetness anymore. I'm back to enjoying fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup on my (full-fat) yogurt, but more than that just tastes yucky to me, and I don't crave it like I used to. 

It's also trickled down to the family. I didn't 'require' it of the Darling Husband or Sons, but since I do the cooking, everyone's been eating less sugar. DH recently had one of those 'made with real fruit and loads of sugar' popsicles. It was 'only 60 calories!' but it gave him a headache.

Best part? We're noticing sweetness in all kinds of foods I used to consider savory. A couple of weeks ago I made sweet potato fries from scratch and we had them for dessert. They've always liked them, but I've never quite marketed them as 'dessert' before. The small people gobbled them up and were thoroughly delighted with sweet potato fries as a treat. They may have thought a nutrient-dense, classic Provencal dish was a Disney movie, but if they'll take a vegetable for dessert, then I'm satisfied.


  1. Your CSA looks amazing! I love love love eating fresh fruits and veggies from local farms! It's especially great this time of year! Your tips are really good too. I know that I could eat way less sugar!

    1. Thanks, Britt! Yes, sugar is a mad demon. But the best part of giving it up is now needing way less of the stuff! I'll be posting more on sugar detoxes soon, so stay tuned!