Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Two Paradigms of Healthy Eating

March 31st, 2009 · 10 Comments · KS lifestyle, Science of Nutrition, Upgraded Nutrition

Two Paradigms of Healthy Eating

Ask not what you can take out of your food, but what your food can put into you.

Eating “Healthy”

The way I see it, there are basically two philosophies on how to eat “healthy”.  The first involves eating less: low-cal, low-fat, low-carb, low cholesterol, low salt…the list goes on and on.  The second is about getting more out of what you eat:  Nourishing Traditions, Super Foods, locavores, Slow Food, and I’m sure there are other terms and non-termed eating styles.

I’ve been a party member of both in my time, so you understand I’m only pointing fingers at someone I can entirely identify with. The cultural trend is certainly the former: we are told around every medical corner what we need to avoid and take OUT of our diets.  I had a conversation with a dinner guest recently that epitomized the avoidance paradigm perfectly.  The topic was canned spinach (Blech.  Seriously.) which the guests all actually liked.  (Blech.  Can I say that again?)  I’ve tried it, and it was a primary player in the only meal I’ve ever thrown out lock, stock and barrel before it hit the dinner plates.  Beyond my personal distaste for canned spinach, I pointed out that canned veggies have no nutrients left, so why bother eating something “healthy” if you’re not going to get anything out of it. My guest argued, “But it’s tasty AND low-cal!”  I let the topic fall by the wayside, but I was thinking, “Yes, but fewer calories of what?”

My Philosophy on Eating

I’ve recently been seeing the beauty of simply making sure the food you eat (and enjoy!) counts nutritionally for your body and is as efficient as possible in giving good health, as food should.  If I’m going to eat something that’s not delicious (like canned spinach!), it had better be nourishing to my system and providing well-being to my family.  If not, why bother?  Fresh spinach is incredibly healthy, and lightly cooked is even better.  Knocking all the nutrients out of a super food like spinach (in the canning process) possibly even knocks it right off the food pyramid into the realm of diet sodas and other non-foods that you pay money for and put into your mouth.  I, for one, am not going to eat a vegetable if I can’t count it for my 5-a-day.

I can remember being just the opposite though.  I would tell people my banana trifle dessert was “healthy” just because it was fat free and had bananas in it.  But what else?  Lots of high fructose corn syrup and fillers, I can guarantee that!  I was all about cutting the fat and reducing the calories in anything.  Now I worry much more about what IS in my food than what isn’t.

I’ll still tell you about things to avoid sometimes here at Kitchen Stewardship – mainly:  don’t eat stuff that’s not food, like margarine, for example.  But instead of just AVOIDing trans fats, let’s learn about what kind of fats we should be eating.  We’ll die without fat in our diet, so don’t just avoid.  Capitalize on the fact that you’re putting something in your mouth that’s going to be incorporated in your system.  It will affect the way you feel, your energy level, and your immune system function for the next day or so…maybe longer…so make it count.

Sorting it all Out

Kitchen Stewardship is all about taking the baby steps, but at the same time making sure each step is a good one.  There’s a lot of controversy out there about what is healthy and what is not. You can find people who say coconut oil is just about the best thing you could possibly consume, and just as easily folks who will say the same thing is going to give you a heart attack.  Seven servings of grains/pasta a day, or low-carb/no-carb?  More meat or less meat?  Or just meat that is eating the proper food itself??  There’s a tangle of nutritional information, and it’s difficult to sort out the fad from the food, the information from the commerce, and the truth from the paid-for-by-the-company-that-will-make-a-profit-from-it.  I’m going to land on the conservative side most of the time, but through prayer and conviction I’ve also come to believe that some of the more revolutionary anti-food-pyramid info is what God is calling my family to.  I’ll be honest about those moments when they happen, and about the times I’m not sure what the right answer is.  I like giving choices to you, too, along with straight facts and their sources.

But some suggestions will be easy:  no one has anything bad to say about vegetables, for example.  Everyone is acknowledging that trans fats will kill you.  I feel confident in echoing those sentiments and teaching you how to eat more vegetables and avoid trans fats.  Certain foods, like salmon and spinach, are exempt from the “don’t eat it” mentality…unless of course it’s farmed salmon or E. coli contaminated spinach.  Yes, even some black and white subjects aren’t so cut and dry anymore.  What’s a wanna-be nutritious chef to do?

Do your best.  Pray that God takes your best effort and makes it whole, that He provides good health for your family both because of AND in spite of what you may end up doing in the kitchen.  Eat your spinach (but lightly cook it first).  Eat your salmon (but find out where it came from).

Super Foods Series

The next 15 weeks at Kitchen Stewardship will be an exploration of so-called “Super Foods” – those foods that really pack a punch, nutritionally.  Foods that will put good things, vitamins, minerals, nutrients, into your body.  Foods no one will ever tell you to avoid (hooray!).  These Super Foods were designated so by Steven Pratt, MD, but I’ve also culled lists of healthy foods from Dr. Sears and SuperFoodsRx to make an “honorable mention” list.  You’ll find both noted at the bottom of some of my recipes.

Each week I’ll introduce you to one Super Food or group of them that you can try to start including in your diet.  I’ll teach you how to purchase it wisely, how to prepare it and give a recipe or two that you can try (when the item goes on sale, of course!).  Some are more difficult than others – making your own yogurt vs. using more walnuts, for example.  On the easy weeks, you’ll have a second Monday Mission that may not even be food-related.  We don’t want to get monotonous, after all!

Ask not what you can take out of your food, but what your food can put into you.

Super Foods

Here’s the list of Super Foods that will put a whole lot of goodness into you, in order of appearance at KS, not of importance:

  1. beans and legumes, especially lentils and chickpeas (mission)
  2. yogurt (mission)
  3. eggs (mission)
  4. tomatoes (ideas
  5. broccoli (and other dark greens like kale, brussel sprouts) (mission)
  6. garlic
  7. onions
  8. red and orange peppers, hot peppers
  9. oranges (and other citrus)
  10. berries
  11. Super Fruits

  12. olive oil (general FFT on monounsaturated fats)
  13. pumpkin and sweet potato

  14. carrots
  15. sunflower seeds
  16. oats
  17. wild salmon
  18. walnuts and almonds (and other nuts and seeds)
  19. turkey

  20. green or black tea
  21. spinach

Honorable Mentions

  1. cauliflower and cabbage
  2. cantaloupe
  3. red grapes
  4. watermelon
  5. kiwi fruit
  6. apples
  7. Super Fruits (includes 2-6)

  8. avocado

  9. natural peanut butter
  10. whole grains
  11. flax
  12. brazil nuts
  13. cranberry juice
  14. pomegranate
  15. artichokes
  16. tofu (fermented)
  17. cinnamon
  18. dark chocolate
  19. honey

    No need to DO anything with this list yet.  You might copy and paste into a text doc and print it up for your fridge.  I have one there.  Pat yourself on the back every time you can include something from this list in your meal planning.  Grab it if you see it on sale (and pat yourself on the back for that, too!).  Other than that, just sit back and let me hold your hand.  Hopefully you’ll get to try something new (often) that won’t overwhelm you (at all) in the next 15 weeks.  Super Foods, up, up and awaaaaaaaayyyyy!

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    For more Real Food Wednesdays, visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

    If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.

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    Welcome!  Meet Katie.

    I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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