Healthy eating is not a new concept: like any major religious movement, it has merely undergone a revival. Inspired by this month’s subtitled reference to the “newly converted,” I’ve exploited religious metaphors to illuminate a path to healthful shopping.
Despite my advanced years, I am yet a callow fledging in the area of healthy eating. I offer the vantage point of a fellow novice — an initiate –in recommending that newcomers observe the following guidelines:
- Give up the shoulds. Don’t punish yourself by succumbing to the “tyranny of the should.” When I set out to buy all the foods I should be eating, I wind up in more trouble than when I began. Raw kale is highly nutritive, but in salads, it tastes like Christmas trees with ranch dressing. Buy what you love, but strive for additive-free, non-GMO, organic foods.
- Think traditionally. Shop at stores that emphasize healthy fare. Resist the temptation to return to familiar grocery franchises that only “deign” to carry organic foods: they may discount but fail to understand the volatile shelf life of non-chemically preserved foods. You’ll often find a single token aisle replete with dusty lids and browning vegetables. These stores don’t really hype health food, because to do so threatens the profits garnered by selling cheaper, poisonous food from conglomerate suppliers.
- Follow in the footsteps of the devout. Let’s face it: we newbies need all the instruction we can get. It’s best to follow on the heels of ardent and (forgive the pun) well-seasoned foodies. I tend to stalk (at a respectable distance) the 30-something women at Trader Joe’s who shop together. They comment incessantly upon their arcane food preferences. On one particularly auspicious visit, I overheard a thin, radiantly healthy blonde say to her equally fit brown-eyed companion, “Oh! Oh! Here it is. This is the BEST organic butter. This is the only one I buy. NO animal fats, lasts forever, and it tastes SO good.” Thank them in your hearts for the endorsement and then stealthily swoop in to grab the object of their adulation.
- Mimic those of the cloth. All neophytes need mentoring. Those of us raised in the age of TV dinners and processed foods have learned some rather dastardly eating habits. To overcome this dilemma, try sampling foods from truly organic chefs in restaurants like The Good Earth in Edina, or Braza Rotisserie in St. Paul. Read menu descriptions, and shop for those ingredients and with those limitations in mind. Emulate the culinary clerics initially, later adding your own flair to the dish.
- Become as a child. You’ve heard of this teaching from various spiritual walks. To enter holistic heaven, one must come as a child. Today’s offspring include Indigoes, Crystals and Earth Angels. The Crystals, especially, have very defined preferences. Their helicoptering parents are happy, as long as the kids choose healthy items. These clever young ones know that anything in the health food aisle will instantly have their parents’ stamp of approval, and that frees them to select the most fun and flavorful foods in the lot. I discretely follow parents pushing carts containing 3-5 year olds and watch what the kids reach for. Fruit strips and Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies seem in vogue. By incorporating the child’s eye view, you will ultimately open the door to a heavenly cupboard of healthy snacks.
- Treat the body as the Temple. A hot-air balloon is not a comfortable home for the Soul. Even if one has not lived gluten-free in the past, it’s helpful to try out the products so labeled. Skeptics often discover that a meal without gluten is a meal without after-bloat. It’s truly wonderful to be able to feast without afterward feeling sluggish, puffy and awful. That is the greatest built-in reward for sensible healthy food shopping.
In writing this article, I have taken the first step on a journey of a thousand miles toward sensible food selection. I may have donned only the habit of the novice, but I am bound and determined to walk the talk, or eat the walk, or something more natural and discerning in my relationship with the food that nourishes and sustains me. Amen!