My husband and I got married two weeks before we moved to the little island of Grenada for him to start medical school. Because of college living and the job I had before we got married, I wasn’t in the habit of cooking at all. I could boil water, you know, but I really didn’t know my way around a kitchen or a recipe.
Almost three years later I certainly feel like I’ve come into my own style of cooking and eating. I think I’ve done something right because my husband has lost 55 lbs. since we got married and I brought my cholesterol down 65 points in two and a half years. It was a bit high for my age, and now it’s in a normal range. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished, so I’d like to share my food philosophy with you.
My Food Philosophy
First, I must tell you that I have no formal education in dietetics. I’m not a certified nutritionist. I just care deeply about my husband’s and my lifestyle. I’m of the mind that our health is really all we have, and to some extent, have control over. I believe that the way we take care of our bodies now will have a direct impact on our quality of life in our golden years. Yes, stuff happens; I know the saying. But I envision my husband and I being active and adventurous for a long time to come, so I’ve got to keep us healthy until then!
Here’s the other thing: I love making food, I love eating food, and I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Food is my favorite part of traveling. I think. Gosh, that’s a hard one. I love shows like Top Chef. The first thing I look up when traveling outside my home radius is recommended restaurants. So, my interest in healthy eating isn’t about deprivation or all natural products. My outlook is more about moderation and upping our veggie intake. I love indulgent, rich foods and I almost love dark chocolate as much as life itself, so I have to keep myself in check with things like kale and lentils. Fortunately for me, I like the healthy foods, too.
It’s All About Variety
One way I achieve our food goals is through variety. In a given week, I strive to alternate vegetarian and meat meals for dinner. I do this because I think we struggle to eat the daily recommended servings of vegetables, but it’s a lot easier when veggies are the star of your meal. I buy fresh vegetables usually, but I also use frozen and canned – whatever it takes to get those veggies in. We eat the rainbow, so to speak, meaning I buy vegetables of various colors. The different colors help you intake different vitamins and nutrients. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a list that categorizes vegetables by their nutritional properties. Every week I try to use some from each category, and I like to try unfamiliar vegetables when the opportunity arises. By the way, the same color principle applies to fruits.
For our carnivorous meals, red meat, white meat, and seafood all have their place in the rotation. I choose leaner cuts when I can. The standard for bacon is turkey, but we eat the real thing, too.
I also rotate through grains and starches. In seven days we might have potatoes, rice, pasta or couscous, bulgur, quinoa, barley, and cornmeal or polenta. As easy and tasty as pasta is, I won’t make it more than once a week. I almost always make whole grains. Brown or wild rice and wheat pasta make me feel good about our carbohydrate intake. There’s only whole wheat bread in this house, except when I spring for the French baguette.
Make What You Can
Another aspect of my food philosophy is make what you can instead of buying it. This is something I attribute to Grenada living. Near the beginning of our time there I was craving pesto and was disappointed to find it so expensive in the store. Someone suggested making it myself, and honestly, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. I looked up some recipes and have been making it ever since. I now know that there can be a lot of unknown ingredients in pre-made products, and they can be insanely high in sodium. Whenever possible, I make my own pasta sauces, enchilada sauce, salsa, salad dressing, stock and broth, granola bars, pizza crust, seasoning mixes, and more. It’s not always possible to make everything from scratch, but there are a lot of ways to make food in big batches to freeze and use later. Then they’re sort of like convenience items, only homemade by you in the past.
This really isn’t the whole picture, but more of a snapshot of my food philosophy. There is a lot more that goes into a healthy lifestyle. These are just a couple ideas that I think are pretty easy for anyone to incorporate into their life. When I plan meals that follow these guidelines, I feel better about the stuff we do splurge on. I make desserts. Sometimes we eat things that are fried. We like adult beverages. We love fancy-schmancy restaurant food. We can partake in these (sometimes guilty) pleasures without harming our overall health because of how we eat day to day. Moderation, my friends. It’s a good thing.
I’d love to hear other tips because I know I always have room for improvement! Whatcha got for me?