More On Healthy Eating

4 Apr

Some months ago, I prepared a post with a suggested approach to healthy eating.  This month, I guest wrote the monthly newsletter for The Dragontree, a beautiful holistic day spa in Portland, Oregon, that expands on this quite a bit.  You can read the newsletter here or below.  I hope you find it useful!

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It’s About Food: Healthy Eating Principles From A Foodie

I first visited The Dragontree in 2007, while on vacation in Portland.  Since then, I have traveled to Portland on a number of occasions – each time, I reserve several hours to bask in the quiet and calm of The Dragontree.  For me, time spent at The Dragtontree is invaluable.

However, The Dragontree is a marked diversion from my everyday life.  And, while the mission of The Dragontree profoundly impacts me in the moment, it is admittedly difficult to preserve centeredness and peace when the context of The Dragontree space is gone (that is, when I am back in Chicago and it is freezing and I am participating in an endless cattle-call of public transportation and I sit behind a computer for too many hours and wear compromising heels).  Still, what I take away from The Dragontree is that some effort must be made, no matter how imperfect, to carry the residual benefits with you into daily life.  This is not easy, but it is worth the effort, certainly.

In recent years, I have thought a lot about this – how to capitalize on health and contentment not only in erratic doses (luxurious vacation, special night out, etc.) but daily.  I have resolved that for me, it’s about food.  My mother is from Rome and my sisters and I grew up in the kitchen.  My mother prepared traditional Roman dishes, renewed by the amazing fresh fruits and vegetables that are available year-round in Southern California, where we grew up.  This is, undoubtedly, the foundation for my love of good food.  It is certainly the foundation for my philosophy that healthful eating and enjoying food (in other words, eating well) are one and the same.  And I am pleased to share some ideas about healthful, delicious food with you in this newsletter.

I would like to begin with a simple list of rules to live by (this newsletter does not specifically take into account allergies or gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan or other dietary restrictions – please make adjustments accordingly).  Then, we will implement these rules in an easy, healthful menu for every day.

10 Food Rules To Live By

(1) Enjoy caffeine, if at all, in moderation.  Caffeine is a stimulant and, while I am not a doctor or a rehab counselor, a life-long addiction to a stimulant does not seem like a good idea.  If you must have caffeine, consider green tea as an alternative to coffee.  Studies suggest that green tea has anti-oxidative and anti-carcinogenic properties and a cup of green tea contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee.  If it is the ritual of tea or coffee that you enjoy in the morning, herbal teas such as mint or chamomile are satisfying, warm-beverage caffeine alternatives.

(2) Incorporate healthful fats into your diet daily.  Examples of foods that contain healthful fats include olive oil, avocado, walnuts and (wild caught) salmon.  In no event should you eliminate fat from your diet entirely.

(3) Incorporate some whole grains and whole wheat in your diet.  More specifically, when possible, choose whole grains and whole wheat over white and bleached options.  In moderation, whole grains and whole wheat promote a number of not-insignificant health benefits, including digestive benefits, insulin regulation (you will feel full longer) and reduction in factors associated with heart disease.

(4) Be mindful of protein.  Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat-lover, you should be mindful of your protein intake.  It is important to consume a moderate amount of protein regularly – ideally, via lean meats, nuts, rice and beans (together), tofu or reduced-fat dairy.  After all, protein supports life.

(5) Eat vegetables.  Lots of them.  Daily.  This is not negotiable.

(6) Eat dairy in moderation.  If you are not lactose intolerant, a moderate daily intake of reduced fat dairy (try reduced fat Greek yogurt; Cabot low-fat cheeses; 1% or skim milk) is a healthy addition to any diet.

(7) No soda (diet or otherwise – in fact, diet is arguably worse).

(8) No high fructose corn syrup.  Ever.  Read the labels on everything.  Avoid products that contain high fructose corn syrup, which is sugar, plain and simple.  In this vein, agave syrup should be avoided, as well.  It is essentially the same product.  Sweeten with honey, if at all.

(9) No processed snacks.  Snack creatively instead.  Make popcorn on the stove (use coconut oil for a rich, indulgent flavor) or eat apples slices with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter.

(10) Drink alcohol, if at all, in moderation.  While there are some arguably redeeming qualities when alcohol is consumed in moderation, there is no benefit to heavy or binge drinking.  As an additional incentive, while this article is not about weight (but rather, about health) too much alcohol will likely add unwanted pounds.

Healthful Daily Menu Inspired By The 10 Food Rules

7:30 a.m. – Mint tea with almond milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

8:30 a.m. – Poached egg (it is best to cook eggs in water, rather than exposed in air; my favorite egg recipes are in The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker) on plain whole grain toast.  A cup of Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of sour cream, a handful of sliced strawberries, two tablespoons of fresh chopped basil or mint, one teaspoon of orange zest and a tablespoon of honey.

12:00 p.m. – Spinach salad with roasted asparagus, roasted bell peppers, corn, avocado, tomatoes, a cup of cous cous or farro and a handful of chopped walnuts.  For dressing, try a simple olive oil and vinegar mixture.  (Tip: roast lots of vegetables and cook cous cous or farro on the weekend.  Assemble the salad (dressing aside) in the mornings throughout the week before work.)

3:00 p.m. – Apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter.  Two to three one-inch cubes of reduced-fat cheese.

6:00 p.m – Broccoli soup.  (Prepare the soup simply.  Chop two broccoli crowns, including stems, into small pieces.  Boil until tender.  Carefully blend broccoli, two cups of cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon of Brie cheese (no rind), and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.)  Grilled wild caught salmon.  (Marinate the salmon for 15 minutes before grilling with a touch of olive oil, the juice from half a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.)  Red beets (steamed, then cooled) with orange supremes and a tablespoon of goat cheese.

9:00 p.m. – Chamomile tea.  A square of pure dark chocolate.  Lovely day.

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Since I do love food, I feel I must mention, as an aside, that healthful eating on a regular basis affords you the right to indulge in richer foods from time to time.  Eating well is a fluid thing.  It requires discipline and flexibility, in equal parts.  You should be discerning, but not absolute.  Above all, enjoy food.  This (in Italian culture, anyway) is akin to saying, enjoy life.

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One Response to “More On Healthy Eating”

  1. Alison April 6, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    I love your post and the Dragontree!

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