I am passionate about food. And I am passionate about how food affects our body. One of the most influential quotes in my life is from about 2,500 years ago by the famed Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This really resonates with me as I believe that what we put into our body directly correlates to how we feel, how sharp our mind is, how well our body operates, and how easily we get sick or stay healthy through flu season. This passion is exactly why I am studying to be a dietitian. I believe what Hippocrates said two and a half millennia ago. And I believe it is even more relevant today than it has ever been.
Every compound we ingest directly affects the processes our bodies go through to keep us alive, and depending on what types of compounds they are, directly affect the quality of our health (i.e., life). Therefore, I believe it is the responsibility of each person to understand the choices they have available, not only at the grocery store, but at fast food joints, restaurants, and the local 7Eleven.
If you put junk into your body you’re going to feel like junk. Simple as that.
So, how do I eat? Well, not well during finals at school, that’s for sure. But even during times of stress (or perhaps even more importantly during times of stress) I really TRY to eat well – lots of veggies, the best cuts of meat I can afford, good healthy fat (even *gasp* saturated fat) and I try to limit as many refined carbohydrates (donuts!) as possible.
I believe that eating whole food is really where it’s at; where you get the best bang for your buck. Yes, admittedly whole, quality foods are more expensive than refined or sub-par foods (I mean, as of today, Wegmans grass-fed sirloin steak is $13.69/lb, while Wegmans brand who-knows-how-it-was-treated sirloin steak is $9.29/lb, and a bag of King Arthur 100% Whole Wheat flour is $3.99 compared to Pillsbury Best All Purpose bleached, enriched white flour at $2.99) the actual price tag can seem, well, pricey. However, the way you feel, and the leaps and bounds your body will improve in its general operation are astronomical.
Now I’m sure you’re saying “Is the price tag really worth it?!?” Yes and no. In an ideal world I would be buying grass-fed straight-from-the-farm beef, and eating 100% pesticide-free, non-GMO, un-fiddled with veggies… But this is not the ideal world, and I am a student living in a single[and a half]-income home with bills, budgets, and home improvement plans, not to mention family that lives far, far away from me whom I like to visit at least once a year, and a healthy appreciation for good craft beer. So, sadly I don’t always get the ideal.
While that may be the case, there are a few things I do to ensure I fuel myself in the best possible way. First of all, I cook. That is the single most important way to a) understand food, and b) know what you’re eating. Second, I buy the best when it’s on sale, and if it’s not on sale, I buy what is. I cut the fat off of meat, and cook it with ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil to add back in good fats. I eat fruits and veggies that are in season. And I try NOT to eat donuts (which are a serious weakness of mine during finals). If I eat a sandwich, I ask for whole wheat bread. If I’m at a BBQ, I head for the veggie tray instead of the chip bowl. I take lunch to school (usually consisting of left-overs from the night before). And I carefully plan the weeks menu to include some interesting, more difficult meals, and some easy, I-don’t-feel-like-cooking-tonight meals. I also try my best to adhere to a “Paleo/Primal” diet with varying levels of success (I strive for 80%. Therefore, I still eat pizza when Hub’s makes homemade dough – so yum! I partake in homemade pie when I bake, and when I’m out I make the best possible choice, but don’t go out of my way to avoid bread/pasta/grains).
Selecting the best from the choices you have available to you in the price range you can afford is the most important way to improve your health.
My good friend Jess, over at A Real Appetite has a fantastic list of “Good, Better, Best” options to help cut out refined, processed foods. Please check it out. It’s full of great ideas on how to improve the quality of your diet (and she’s just fun to read!).