Talking about my own health history and patterns with food was an eye opening experience. It helped me to realize that I have had a relatively easy time incorporating whole and healthy foods into my life once they make sense to me. Over the years of my adult life, I've looked at certain foods as fun projects in an attempt to integrate them into my life and actually enjoy them. Once I got excited about the nutrients in a specific food and how they could help create balance and well being in my body, it was almost effortless to incorporate these foods into my diet. Some past examples include lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans, dark green leafy vegetables, bok choy, sweet potatoes, brown rice, millet, raw pumpkin seeds, almonds and even drinking more water.
I, like many people, struggle most with sugar. When I was a kid, my parents called me "Junkfood Junkie". My ambivalence about whether that was the result or cause of my ensuing sweet tooth aside, the fact remains that I still have it, but now have the tools to eliminate those cravings more often. My diet growing up was dichotomous to say the least. On one hand, I was fed a fair share of spaghetti dinners in front of the tv, waffles with peanut butter and syrup, gooey salads oozing with heavy mayonnaise based dressings over iceberg lettuce, chicken-a-la-king over white rice. However, the same people who prepared these meals for me also sent me off to school with a brown bag carrying a sandwich on pumpernickel bread and a piece of fruit.
When I was about ten, I remember that my mom announced that she would no longer be buying soda. She belonged to a CSA, took foraging classes, made sumac tea instead of kool-aid, sauteed lambs quarters from the garden, served salads with dandelion greens and twigs (I swear). She was not especially talented in the art of flavoring, but she gave me a foundation from which to draw upon and an awareness of organic foods, whole grains like millet, lentils, tofu, kale... Granted, she had a hard time getting me to eat more than one bite of some of those, but I realize now that she was extremely progressive in her awareness of whole foods. As a side note, we also had a cabinet full of tinctures that she'd made herself from herbs or roots.
Every summer she brought amazing foods into the house that I still enjoy seasonally to this day. Things like steamed artichokes with a lemon-butter dip, cucumber dill salad with yogurt instead of mayonnaise, gazpacho, watermelon and other seasonal fruits. I'd like to talk specifically about gazpacho. People seem pretty aware of the health benefits of lycopene, which is found in tomatoes. Partly this due to the marketing of products that usually also contain too much sodium as well as high fructose corn syrup**. Gazpacho is a great way to incorporate this fantastic synergy of nutrients from whole vegetables with incredible health benefits. The following is my favorite recipe so far for a quick and delicious warm weather meal.
In a food processor, combine the following:
3 organic tomatoes cut into chunks
1 clove organic garlic, peeled
1/2 organic sweet yellow onion
2 Tbs. organic extra virgin olive oil
1/2 organic cucumber, peeled
1 organic green pepper
pinch of sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
puree until contents flow like liquid but are still a bit chunky
slowly add 32 oz. of tomato or veggie juice of your choice (I use this because it's easily available at my farmer's market - if you can find any organic tomato or vegetable juice with lower sodium, that's preferable)
Chill and serve cold.
My own personal preference is to chop up organic cucumber and organic red, orange or yellow bell pepper and add to the soup with some whole grain croutons that you can make yourself from high fiber bread.
This meal is much more filling and satisfying than you may think if you've never tried it. You can even make it more filling by adding garbanzo beans either whole to the soup or in the food processing phase which adds more fiber per serving.
** I did a quick google search for lycopene and the fifth search result was Heinz. Apparently Heinz realizes it is in everyone's best interest to appeal to the growing "green" market. I think that's great. While it does matter to me whether large corporations make these changes for profit or from pure philanthropic intent, the former is better than nothing, but it seems to me that deeper change would result from the latter. I'm a little confused. On the HeinzSeed page, it says that their proprietary tomato seeds are grown "using traditional breeding techniques (no genetic modification)". However, on this site, it appears that Heinz is affiliated with Monsanto.
Because there is not any regulation where genetically modified food must be labeled as such, whenever possible, I buy organic produce, I never buy conventional produce on the dirty dozen list, and when buying packaged foods, whenever possible, I buy organic, non-GMO and always read the ingredients and nutrition information. For more about Monsanto, please watch The Future of Food for free on Hulu. It is an eye opening documentary. Also, check out this link for some information on why genetically modified foods may be dangerous.