it’s all about the food

So, after a thousand beginnings to this post, I came back to a very simple thought.

I just feel so much better when I eat healthy food.

I’ll start at the beginning, because that’s only fair.

So, as anyone knows who uses an app to track calories, some things are just so difficult to add because it’s not in the app’s database, you don’t know the serving size, or the ingredients,  or … well, anything except it tasted good and you enjoyed it (before trying to add it to your app).  That was one of the first times I actually thought twice before eating things … when I first began using “My Fitness Pal.” Just the tedium of trying to add something to my log (that was usually not uber healthy anyway) made skipping it a far superior alternative.  I also loved the idea that any kind of quantifiable exercise gave me the freedom to eat more.  It definitely inspired a Type-A person like myself to hit the trails or hot yoga every day of the week.

So – it all kind of started there a few years ago (when I was more ‘pleasantly plump’ than I wanted to be).

And then all the really fun MS stuff started, and so much information existed about how diet could be a huge factor in controlling and overcoming flares that just eating food I could describe became green juice, and smoothies and a noticeable move in our diet from things we know how to cook/liked to eat/were easy to prep after a long day of work to veggies/fish/gluten-free/low sugar/all-natural … and the list goes on.

As I mentioned, I’m Type A, so I like rules, and charts and schedules … plans and routines and things that feel familiar and comfortable.

My husband is definitely not Type A and he appreciates spur of the moment, throw it together, let’s-just-do-it surprises.  I think it makes us a good partnership.

Food trends are actually fascinating (the benefits/drawbacks of eggs goes a little like the joke “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” – on Monday, they help alleviate stress, on Tuesday they have too much cholesterol – you get the idea) and you can learn so much it feels totally overwhelming.  Eat vegetables, a lot of them, but try to steer clear of nightshade vegetables.  Drink a lot of water, but not carbonated water.  Eat fruits, but not a lot because they contain a lot of sugar.  And for goodness sake, don’t cook your veggies! All nutritional value is lost! 

Oy.

Essentially everything I really loved was (not surprisingly) on the bad list. In fact, I just heard on the radio that my favorite fruit has been identified as a fruit that doesn’t actually have much nutritional value.  Poor raspberries! (Doesn’t change my obsession one bit!)

As we navigated the new world of what I like to call ‘responsible eating’ (which, by the way, didn’t seem necessary in our teens or twenties when metabolism was high and bodies were fit and healthy) we definitely hit some land mines.  You would not have wanted to know me the week we tried to eat a raw vegan diet as a cleanse.  I made it to Wednesday night before completely imploding.  We love juicing but who (with a job, who values and understand the necessity of sleep) has time to make fresh juice every day? (Fresh juice apparently loses all value after three hours.  What.a.bummer.)  And make sure you’re rotating your leafy greens.  God forbid you juice spinach too many days in row.  Now, your juice isn’t as effectively nutritious.

It can be incredibly discouraging.

And yet, nearly two years after the raw vegan cleanse debacle, years of smoothies and juices and the slow evolution of our diet, here I am, staring in my fridge at a ton of veggies, a couple cuts of fish and a big bowl of strawberries.  I even used my kitchen scale making dinner tonight (to properly portion the fish into 3 oz servings) before cooking my old failsafe of salmon and asparagus.

Seriously, who am I?

I mean, who had even really  heard of quinoa before the gluten-free trend?  Or sorghum? Or millet?  I’d at least heard of buckwheat but had never purchased it, let alone cooked with it.

And now, not only do the man and I cook a lot of quinoa, but we love it. Oftentimes we make it in big batches, separate it into tupperware and use it throughout the week to make everything from an oatmeal alternative breakfast, to packed lunches, to the starch/pasta alternative in the majority of our dinner entrees. It tastes awesome, has a great, sturdy texture, reheats incredibly well (no crispy edges or sogginess!) and is absurdly versatile.

The thing is, the older I’ve gotten the more aware of my body I’ve become ~ knowing what works and what doesn’t, what makes me feel good and what makes me nauseous, or anxious or unwell.  In college, I was a straight up gin and tonic girl (Bombay Sapphire, if you please!) but now, the idea of drinking hard liquor of any kind turns my stomach.  I just don’t do it.  I used to love all things full of cheese and bread and cheese and bread (Mexican food was my mecca)  … and now, I eat both in moderation (which is actually so sad, as my love affair with cheese is infinite and all-encompassing).  I drink a ridiculous amount of water each day.  Seriously, it’s ridiculous.  I go the bathroom all.the.time.  

But I feel good.

Like, really healthy and clean and good.

And so many things that I once thought were going to be a drag, are actually the things that help me maintain that good feeling.  Counting the bottles of water I drink, counting the glasses of wine I drink (and sticking to my max 3 glass limit), restricting my tea/Stabucks consumption to one a day, etc.  Making sure the majority of what I eat on a daily basis are veggies (this one is huge).  Focusing on making sure leafy greens (the darker the better)  are a big part of my weekly diet, whether they come in their natural form or juice.  Reserving the consumption of red meat and bread for special treats.  (I think of it like this ~ my restaurant is one of those places you could go to on a regular basis, for no reason at all.  Like, more than once a week. Our food is good, our prices are more than fair and our atmosphere is casual.  But there are restaurants out there that are reserved for special occasions ~ birthdays, and graduations and anniversaries, and celebrations.  Red meat and bread are my ‘occasion restaurants.’  I’m always going to enjoy them, just not as much as I enjoy a restaurant like the one I run …. which I actually do eat at for lunch nearly every day).  I mean, I love love love me a well-cooked steak.  Love.  Truth.

It’s been awhile since I blogged, and there are reasons (none of them particularly inventive, interesting, or, well, good).  But I wanted to talk about something important when I came back.  I started this blog to cook, so I think talking about food, and the evolution of food in John and my life is important.  I still adore my mother’s macaroni and cheese.  But it’s a special occasion kind of meal now.  I’m not saying we don’t have nights when we make tater tot crowns and popcorn chicken and eat them with a  healthy serving of curry dipping sauce on the side.  We have those nights ~ and they are good.  We just don’t have them as often anymore.  And that’s because both of us would rather feel good the next day, than swollen and bloated after over-indulging one night.

I will say that I haven’t lost a ton of weight.  Which was the reason I started with the calorie app in the first place.  But I’m okay with that.  I’m a heck of a lot healthier, and that’s important.  It sounds cliched, and you’ve probably heard it before, but your body is a temple, and you should treat it as such.

During yoga today, my teacher read a piece during shavasana about how yoga believes your body is complete as it is, and we create the struggle of being incomplete.

I think of it a little differently.  I think we are complete, and we make choices that may diminish that, and every day is about trying to make the right choices to get us to mentally acknowledge what yoga already believes – our completeness.

Eating well is a huge choice for me in working toward that idea of being complete.  Maybe it helps my MS, maybe it doesn’t.  But it helps my mind feel clear, my body feel strong and my soul feel nourished.  And you can’t get much better than that.

Fun recipe for a snack:

Toasted Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) 

** This is a cinch! 

1 16oz can Garbanzo Beans (I like Goya because they have a tab to open, so can opener required!)

S & P

Cumin

EVOO

What to do: 

Turn oven to Broil.

1.  Rinse beans.  In a mixing bowl, toss beans with about a tablespoon of Olive Oil, 1/4 tsp of cumin and some salt and pepper.  (I’m only using measurements here in case the kitchen is new to you and you feel a little intimidated, the way I did when I first started to cook. Basically, just want to liberally shake the cumin and add a couple twists of salt and pepper -if you have grinders.  For shakers, just shake a couple times, maybe between 2-4 depending on how fast your condiments come out of the container).  I then swirl and shake the beans until every is mixed throughout.  No one wants one bean to have flavor and one bean to be bland!

2.  Spread evenly on an aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet.

3.  Pop in the oven on Broil or at 400 degrees on the top shelf.  For broil I give it about 10 minutes.  For 400 degrees, maybe 15-20 mins.  The outside of the bean gets crunchy and the middle gets creamy soft and it’s an awesome snack alternative.  Garbanzo beans are also great to add to salads raw.  They just kind of rock.