Written by: Denise Stegall, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
What is the one thing that you think of every day? Several times a day, perhaps. You wake up thinking about it, daydream about it. You even plan shopping trips and take vacations to find it. You spend hours planning and preparing for it. What is this one thing that has our minds so preoccupied? Good food!
Good food is one thing that we think of constantly. Maybe not minute by minute, but certainly more often than you even realize. How many times, just after breakfast, have you asked your spouse, "What do you want for dinner?"
Nothing brings us together the way "good food" does. We gather around tables at home, with friends, in restaurants surrounded by the people we love. It fills our bellies and warms our souls.
The good food you eat (foods that are good for you) nurtures your body and gives it what it needs to function optimally. It sharpens your mind, increases energy, keeps you feeling great! It'll even help you maintain a healthy weight or, if need be, lose weight, too!
Bookstores are filled with cookbooks on good food, and the internet is loaded with recipes for good food, yet the term "Good Food" means something different to everyone. I recently polled my family, and some of their answers surprised me. Overwhelmingly, their "good foods" included mashed potatoes, pasta, pizza, tacos, burritos, and ribs: comfort foods or easy foods.
It seems that comfort foods are mainly thought of as good food—heavy foods, smothered with butter, cream, cheese, tons of calories that lack nutrition.
When you think of good food, does an image of a bowl full of greens with pomegranates, tomatoes, and chickpeas pop into your mind? Probably not.
Why do so many of us think that foods that are good for us: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legume, nuts seed, fatty fish, and lean meats don't taste good?
The answer to that is multifactorial. The foods you ate growing up can dictate your likes and dislikes. Where you live, family background, and income level play a role. If, as a child, you weren't encouraged to try new foods like fish, Brussel sprouts, or even grapefruit, your palate never had the opportunity to acquire a taste for them.
When my nephew was little, he would not eat a vegetable, any vegetable. His dad didn't eat vegetables either, which made a poor case for "veggies being good for you," a true challenge for my sister. As an adult in his 20's, he still isn't keen on vegetables but will eat them smothered with cheese or Ranch dressing. Which, BTW, defeats the point of the wholesomeness of the veggies. But, at least it's a start. Interestingly, the same nephew loves sushi rolls so. Maybe there is still hope for his taste buds.
Another factor that plays a role in us believing that foods that are good for us don't taste good is how they are prepared. Most of us home cooks have basic cooking skills like frying, baking, or boiling. We have never learned the advanced techniques (advanced, not difficult) that can transform a boring leek into a creamy, delicious, and satisfying soup or a basket of mushrooms into a sweet and sassy topping for steak. Instead, we boil or fry them into oblivion with tons of butter and oil. Not that butter and oil are bad, they absolutely have their place in cooking, just not so much or so often.
The finesse of using herbs and spices mystifies many of us. Go into any household, and I can bet you'll find a salt and pepper shaker in the kitchen. Maybe a few random spice jars are hidden in the back of a cabinet, probably past their prime. Herbs and spices are an afterthought instead of part of the planning and cooking process. With herbs and spices, you can take a head of lettuce and turn it into a scrumptious meal. That olive oil I mentioned earlier will come in handy here!
Condiments and sauces in the United States are pretty benign. Mayo, mustard, and ketchup are the most popular and, let's be honest, the most boring! I am encouraged, however, by the influx of international condiments found in the local supermarkets. Sriracha anyone?
Growing up in New York, I thought the sauce was red, thick, and took hours to cook on the stove. It was not until I was in college that I expanded my culinary skills and began experimenting with sauces like beurre blanc, chimichurri, and pesto. They may sound complicated and exotic, but I assure you if an 18-year-old college kid could master them in 10 minutes, you can too!
Our food choices have always dictated how we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally and determine our overall health and wellness. In this time of uncertainty, it's never been more important!
The sad truth is that many of us are not living a healthy, happy, fulfilling life. Heart disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes are wreaking havoc on so many of us, 13.7, and that number grows as we age. It's time to focus on good food- real food! The foods that lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, help us lose and maintain a healthy weight, and feel vibrant?
So, what is real food? They are whole foods that are mostly unprocessed, free of chemical additives, and rich in nutrients. These are the foods our grandparents ate before the 20th century when processed, packaged, and ready-to-eat meals became the bulk of the western diet.
Eat Real Food's basic premise is consuming foods the way nature intended them (or as close as possible). It's a lifestyle philosophy, not a diet.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, lean meat, poultry, and fish are the staples of a healthy diet of real food. Depending on who you ask, Dairy is always a controversial topic with health experts. Milk is a whole food. Processed cheese (the stuff that comes in a can or a big orange block) is not. Regular cheese and yogurt are minimally processed, with the "processing" caused mainly by bacteria and molds. Some people find dairy difficult to digest. So, listen to your gut- literally. If minimally processed dairy works for you, then great. Just make sure you are not overindulging; dairy products are high in fat and calories.
I know, I know. You think that these are the foods that don't taste good. I assure you that they do. Your taste buds don't realize it. After years of eating processed foods with added artificial flavors, sugars, HFCS, canola/vegetable oil, and chemical additives, your taste buds are numb! Anything you eat that isn't super sugary and salty seems to lack flavor. The wonderful, natural flavor is there, but you can't taste it.
As soon as you stop eating processed foods, you notice carrots' sweetness, and strawberries no longer need to be sprinkled with sugar or drowned in whipped cream. You'll find that a little bit of good quality olive oil has an amazing flavor and that a little goes a long way.
The question now is how will you incorporate real food into your diet? To begin, don't try to make a complete switch at once. You will feel overwhelmed and quit before you really get started. You're aiming for better, not perfect!
Pay attention to the number of empty carbohydrates you eat, like white bread, pasta, cakes, and cookies. Oh, and sugary drinks, too. Then replace half of them with something else (that is healthier) that you enjoy.
Size does matter! Learn proper portion sizes for carbohydrates, fats, proteins. Learn more about portion control on my podcast, The Crooked Climb with Suzanne and Denise, and here is a helpful visual guide.
Finally, focus on Eating Real Foods 80% of the time, and your life will change. You will feel better, think more clearly, your joints are less stiff, and you have more energy to do the things you enjoy and live the life you love!
Healthy Living, Happy Life,
CEO & Curator, Living Healthy List
Denise Stegall, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Denise Stegall is the CEO and curator of Living Healthy List.com. As an inspirational thought leader, she is determined to provide Living Healthy List readers with honest, reliable, research-backed information in health, wellness, personal development, and fun that can be implemented in real life.
Denise began her career with a bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant, business management with a focus on nutrition.
She’s condensed 25 years of experience and study in nutrition, cooking, exercise, and coaching to help women find a happy, healthy, lifestyle that works for them.
Her experience in cooking and nutrition delivers a unique perspective on what works (and doesn’t work) for most people. Her philosophy revolves around three fundamentals: Eat Real Food, Make Good Decisions, and Be Accountable.