With Thanksgiving around the corner, my mind turns to feasting. Of course, it doesn’t take a holiday for my mind to wander over to food – it’s pretty much a daily event, because, like most human beings, I like to eat. It’s not only essential, it’s tasty.
Food is not, however, an all-consuming thought for me – and to that end, I feel it’s a fairly healthy view, which I’ll share with you here – because, well, my mind is on food all of a sudden, as I already explained.
Caveat – This is not about diets or struggle. If that’s what you were expecting, feel free to stop reading; I won’t be offended. It is about getting back to basics, as it seems that as a society we’re straying off the path, some to one extreme, some to another. That said, my own open attitude and, by some standards, relaxed regard for what my body consumes has served me well, and barring special conditions, might possibly serve others. (To me, much of this falls under the “common sense” category, but who knows, so…) Besides, food is fun.
Some simple guidelines.
1. Know thyself. Sometimes my body screams out for protein. Sometimes it wants to feel coddled by carbohydrates. Sometimes it says, damn it, give me some more salad, will you! Sometimes it wants a treat. I try to be respectful towards all these requests.
2. Listen. I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t when I’m not ~ unless my body tells me, “hun, you may not feel hungry, but you need to give me something or I’ll make you feel real tired and ornery later”. When that happens, something light will usually soothe the savage beast.
3. Variety is the spice of life. I like all the food groups. If you haven’t discovered a taste for vegetables, you should, they’re fabulous. If you don’t like fish or meat for whatever reason, please be smart about getting enough protein. Fruits are not my personal favorite, but when in season they can be a joy. Chocolate is a daily supplement. (I don’t know why chocolate is always left off the food pyramid, but otherwise, the food pyramid is a good place to look for tips on balanced eating.) Mother Earth has provided for us bountifully; reaping those benefits are one of the graces of being human.
4. Moderation in all things. Fats are not the devil (in fact, we need them) and sweets are not evil. A pat of butter and a pinch of salt on your spinach will not kill you. Pasta, bread, potatoes all have a place on my table. A slice or two of bacon with your eggs is nice. On the other hand, if, bacon is your full source of sustenance, there’s probably a problem. Come to think of it, if your entire diet consists of broccoli, that could be a problem too. Moderation is key.
5. Be real. I admit guilt to a boxed product now and then, but 90% of the time it’s real food for me. Growing your own, even better. Cooking isn’t that hard, nor does it have to be overly time-consuming. Working with food can even be a therapeutic activity, especially in an increasingly electronically-driven world.
6. Beware of label obsession. All that is labeled such-and-such is not necessarily golden. Sadly, you can’t believe everything you read. I also personally feel you can find healthy food at the regular grocery store and it usually costs a lot less than fancy-healthy food at fancy-organic-grocers.
7. Waste not want not. Yes, this is a layover from childhood, being told about the starving children in Biafra, as well as being a product of a father who survived the Depression and a mother with a penchant for Scottish phrases. But really, why toss out perfectly good food? Not to mention the money you paid for it. Leftovers are great, and sure trim down prep time.
8. Know thyself, Part 2. Know when to stop. Sometimes easier said than done, especially when raised to “finish one’s plate”. But if your belly is full, honor that. Save the rest for #7.
9. Avoid soda (or pop, as some people call it), unless with popcorn while at the movies.
10. Please the senses. Food is essential, but what a blessing it is to satisfy our sense of taste. If you use colorful food or make your plate attractive, you’re ahead of the game for visual satisfaction. Different textures please our sense of touch. If it smells good, our olfactory is happy. Even the sounds of cooking can be fun – steaming, popping, crackling, sizzling.
11. Don’t fret. Unless you get a real kick from counting and cataloguing, don’t fret every calorie or ingredient (again, barring special circumstances). You’ll be miserable, and the potential for psychically defeating the purpose of serving the temple that is your body rises exponentially if viewed as punishment. Attitude matters.
12. Be grateful. Give thanks. Enjoy your meal.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I’ve worked up an appetite, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a hot fudge sundae while you digest all this.