Eating healthy has become overly complicated. This, I think, is why many people just throw up their hands and head for the drive-through. Well, that and convenience, of course. It’s true that we are all busier than ever and cooking does take time, but it doesn’t have to take that much time.
Here are a few simple guidelines about eating healthy and a few quick suggestions for quick and easy ways to implement them:
- Eat real food. Anyone familiar with the work of Michael Pollan will get this right away. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, or if it’s got too many ingredients, it’s probably not real food. Real food grows in the ground, on trees, or spent some time running around before it was food.
- Eat the rainbow. Try to eat a wide variety of food. One simple rule I like is to try and eat lots of colors. Red, yellow, green, blue, purple: eat the whole rainbow. This doesn’t all have to come in one meal, but throughout the day would be great. That will give you access to a wide variety of different nutrients. In Chinese Medicine, we have the five flavors and the five colors associated with the Five Phases that describe the energetic composition of foods. We try to eat a balance of these to keep us in good health.
- Fewer carbs, more fat and protein. As a society, we eat way too many carbs (sugar). Yes, carbs are sugar. Of course, natural carbs like vegetables and fruits are great. They also happen to be real food and full of fiber and nutrients. Processed carbs like flour, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup do not have those benefits. All they are good for, generally speaking, is raising your blood sugar and causing your insulin levels to spike, in turn causing your body to store them as fat. It’s a complicated subject, but that’s the gist of it. If you eat fewer carbs, that leaves more fat and protein in your diet. Some of my favorite healthy fats are avocados, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, and eggs. Eggs are a great source of healthy fats and protein, as are sardines. Otherwise, for ocean fish go with wild-caught varieties, and for anything that used to walk, look for organic or at least “natural” hormone-free varieties, and grass-fed for beef and dairy products. For veggie protein sources, I’d vote for lentils, quinoa and tempeh. Soy can have some issues, so if you’re going for soy, a traditionally fermented preparation like tempeh is a good way to go.
So what to do now that we’ve got these rules? Here are three of my favorite quick ways to put these ideas into action:
- Salads. No brainer right? Get your greens, some berries, nuts, fruits, favorite oils, good protein of some sort, toss it all in there and go to town. It takes no time at all. For variety, cold weather, and keeping your digestive system happy according to Chinese medicine, try a warm salad with some hardier greens like kale, chard or spinach.
- Smoothies. It’s hard to get much simpler than tossing things in a blender. I prefer smoothies over juicing, as you retain the fiber from the fruits and veggies you put in. Chinese medicine cautions against too much cold food, so don’t go overboard with these. I don’t generally add any ice to my smoothies, though my wife prefers them that way. If you’re going to use protein powders (real food? maybe), I’d go for something organic, if possible. Hemp powders are good, or if you go with whey protein, look for grass-fed.
- Frittatas. This could also be an omelette or scrambled eggs. I’ve been cooking these a lot lately, as they are quick and easy, and a great way to incorporate leftovers you may have into a new meal. One of the more unusual combinations I’ve tried was leftover Pad Thai Frittata (surprisingly good with Sriracha on top). Much like the salad and the smoothie, you can basically just toss stuff in there, and the possibilities are endless.