… and how I cook, and ultimately I guess, how we live.
During our recent trip I spent a lot of time answering questions, and in some cases defending our choices, about food. Being that I have signed the October Unprocessed pledge and then did a guest post there [!!] I figured that this was as good of a time as any to spell it out for all to see. You may think we are bat-sh*t crazy or amazingly brilliant, or both, or neither. I am kind of past caring what other people think!
It all began back in the end of last year with a visit to a naturopath
We walked out slightly shell-shocked yet determined to get healthy and give it all a go for a bit – what started as a detox has ultimately turned into a way of life. It is not about denial or the evil ‘diet’ word on any level – lets get that straight right away. I still love cake, we eat pizza at least once a week, we go out to restaurants. I am all about finding substitutions for things we want, it is about changing what we eat and how we see food, not living in a cave to do it.
Being more aware means we can go out with friends for dinner and make better choices from the menu, or catch brunch on the weekends without issue, and I certainly don’t miss eating junk just because it’s there to be had. I feel better each day, have more energy, and I am considerably thinner than I have ever been in my life, although that was more a pleasant side effect than the original aim.
So here are ‘the rules’ as we do them….
- 90 percent. If you try for 100% you will hit 90 most of the time, and that’s pretty darn good.
- Go for food that doesn’t have a label. No, not because it is some dodgy discount store brand, but because it is natural and doesn’t need one. If it does have a label, read it carefully, and if things on that label require any translation, explanation or laboratory equipment, put it down slowly and walk away.
- Organic. Organic, organic, organic when ever possible.
- Lean protein, eggs and fish; seeds, nuts and beans, pulses and whole grains; non-cow dairy, lots of veggies, a bit of fruit, water and tea.
- No Sugar – none. Stop making excuses, your body doesn’t need it and yes, your propensity for a ‘sweet tooth’ is in your head not your DNA. Even the natural sweeteners you can go without once all your nutrients are balanced. Sugar, especially the processed stuff, reeks havoc on your glucose levels, and your organs and your moods. We limit to a piece or two of fruit a day and try to keep juices to a minimum. Dried fruit is out. I bake using apple juice concentrate or fruit puree, if anything at all.
During the first 2 weeks of the diet change someone who will remain nameless, but may or may not go by the initials RJ, was sugar-angry – don’t do this when changing jobs or while in-laws are visiting – but it passes. After the first month the irritation is gone and by the 3 month mark it is just habit and your taste buds begin to change, I can pick added sugar in pretty much anything now and appreciate both sour and bitter flavours more. FYI – fake sugars like those in diet sodas are even worse for you than the real stuff – not only are there even more chemicals but it tricks your body into needing more sweet. Just go cold turkey, you’ll get over it, I promise.
- No White/Refined Flours. No, not no carbs, just no white carbs. Whole flours, brown rice, whole grains are the go. The white stuff can leach nutrients out of your system and they tend to be really high-GI so you are hungry again quite quickly. We do have white basmati rice occasionally because it is in the lo-GI category, and a potato or two make an appearance every now and then but that’s about it.
- No Cow’s Dairy. Dairy in general is pretty hard on your system, Cow dairy even more so. We have limited amounts of Goat and Sheep products. We buy goat and sheep’s cheese and have found everything from hard parmesan style to perfect melting semi-hard to traditional soft spreadable chevre and fetta, from both species.
The exception for cow products is yogurt – real yogurt. I mention ‘real yogurt’ in my recipes quite a bit, so what does that mean? The real stuff is made from milk cultured with good bacteria like Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus acidophilus. The culturing changes the enzymes and makes it easier to digest. The cheap/fake stuff is set with gelatin and other thickening agents – additives plus a complete loss of the benefits of eating yogurt in the first place! We won’t even go into the sugar content here. Read the labels on this one – you will work out pretty quickly what is good and what isn’t.
- No Soy. And not just the obvious stuff like Tofu and Soy Sauce. This is a tough one because is it added as a filler to most everything these days. Most likely your bread, sauces, chocolate and chips all have some kind of soy in them. Now most of these things we aren’t eating anyway, and others we have found ‘unprocessed’ brands or make from scratch at home but soy comes up in the oddest of places. Too much soy throws your hormones out of whack pretty quickly, especially since it is so processed and so prevalent. The exception on this one? Here come the cultures again – things like miso and tamari and tempeh are ok in small amounts.
- Very limited red meat. And then only the good lean bits. Anything that is not fish or chicken is considered red meat. ‘The other white meat’ is a lovely advertising campaign but that’s about it. Since I don’t eat meat this is not an issue, and RJ has cut down considerably. I won’t go on a rant about how the benefits of red meat are far outweighed by the negatives, you can research it yourself if you are that interested but red meat has some huge health implications for many people. FYI, my not eating it has nothing to do with animal rights and everything to do with texture, it’s just a thing, it’s been 15 years, if I ever went back the first item I would have is sausage and American bacon simply due to the fact that they smell amazing, but I digress. Sausage and bacon are out due to the next item anyway!
- No saturated fat. Nothing fried is the basic one here. As the meat and dairy is already limited they just get re-enforced really. Fats in vegetable and nut products are fine and oils, especially cold pressed ones are highly encouraged. We are by no means Low-Fat eaters anymore. If you are buying something that promotes itself as low-fat it is probably just loaded with extra sugar – back away slowly.
- We also have cut out alcohol and caffeine. RJ’s every few days soda habit is already out due to the no sugar thing. Luckily neither of us drank coffee, and green tea is on the really good for you list so my sanity has remained intact even without red wine.
Phew, that’s about it for now! I’ll add to this as we continue down the path – feel free to join in and let us know how it’s going!