Nourish Your Heart and Soul

Nowadays there’s a lot of talk about “real” food. What is “real” food? It’s food that has not been processed, refined, stripped, polished, fortified, enriched or otherwise modified. It’s basically fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, fish, eggs, dairy products, and meats, like poultry, beef, and game, and including all the wonderful variations of these things that our brains are capable of inventing. If it’s not food, then it’s manufactured calories. This post is for helping you figure out how to tell the difference. 

It’s not that you can’t eat any manufactured calories; it’s just that they don’t nourish you. I want you to be a well nourished soul who sometimes likes to be entertained by edible items that aren’t really food. But I don’t want you to take anyone else’s word about which is which, so here are the guidelines I teach my patients.

First, if it’s real food, then you probably don’t need to be told. As in “processed American cheese food.” Talk about truth in advertising. If you have to be told it’s food, it probably isn’t. 

Products with names that have nothing whatsoever to do with food are also food-like items. Miracle Whip comes to mind. Or Cool Whip. These food-like products contain a variety of substances that are anything but food. And they aren’t just in food-like products. A while back, I was stunned to discover a food-like substance in the ingredient list of a container of brand-name cottage cheese. The offending agent? Food starch. See above.

Why is there food starch in cottage cheese? It makes cottage cheese thicker, and thicker seems richer, which is especially important if the cottage cheese is made from low-fat milk. You can also find food starch in Cheerios, long touted as a healthy breakfast choice. It even has a reputation as an ideal snack choice for babies who are working on their hand-eye coordination. As you can tell, I am not a fan.

What’s my beef with Cheerios? Check the ingredient list. First is whole oats. [‘Whole,’ ‘hale,’‘heal,’ and ‘health’ come from the same root word.] So far, so good. Then comes — food starch. Uh-oh. Then modified food starch. What’s the difference between “modified food starch” and regular “food starch”? Though common sense tells you they are similar, food manufacturers actually differentiate between them. Plus, if they were not separate, there would be more food starch than whole oats, and food starch would have to be listed first, which would be bad for business. The fourth ingredient, incidentally, is sugar. 

Many words have been coopted to make processed, manufactured food-style products more appealing. Like “buttery,” “creamy,” “chocolatey.” When were butter, cream and chocolate replaced by flavor substitutes with similar but not identical names? It’s no accident that America’s favorite after-dinner pastime seems to be cruising the kitchen cabinets. That’s what happens when your body isn’t nourished by real food.

Real food hasn’t changed in at least a millennium or two, so ask yourself if your great-grandparents would have recognized a product as food. Peanut-butter crackers? No. But peanut butter? Yes, absolutely. Coffee whiteners and “liquid delights”? Never.

The list of “convenience foods” is long and scary. What does that term even mean? But cheese sticks, nuts, apples, sunflower seeds, snow peas, pumpkin seeds? Perfect. And dried fruit, the ultimate convenience food? Delicious, nutritious, and portable. Don’t worry about the sugar content unless you are diabetic. Fruit is not what’s driving the obesity epidemic in this country.

Ratchet Up Your Breakfast to a New Level

This week I’m going to spend a few minutes talking about the typical American breakfast, namely toast bagels muffins waffles pancakes “cereal” biscuits bread. Basically just white flour and sugar. Stripped carb. I put “cereal” in quotes because the word cereal really means grain (like oatmeal, millet, kasha, bulgur wheat), and not boxes of sweetened, dyed, highly processed products of limited nutritional value.

Something I’ve noticed just in the past few months is that EVEN friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have made the switch to real food, and who have rid their kitchens of items from that list of typical American breakfast foods above (at least most of the time) can still be strongly influenced by the list. Continue reading

The Salad Dressing Situation

The last time I stopped at the local supermarket to investigate salad dressings, I learned some very interesting things. Here’s a warning: After you read today’s post, if you haven’t already done so, you’re going to start making your own salad dressing, even if it’s simply olive oil and salt (my fav), or a squeeze of lemon. Continue reading

The Commodity Compromise

In life, one always has to choose between quantity and quality. If your goal is to obtain an item of the highest possible quality, then it doesn’t matter how much you get. Like a sample of uranium. When it’s quality you’re after, it doesn’t matter whether you end up with a microgram or a kilogram. The issue of its purity is not negotiable, so the amount is secondary. But when it’s quantity you seek, it doesn’t matter whether the end result is purity or perfidy, perfect or problematic. Continue reading

Chocolate Mousse

What follows is a true story. It really happened, and you can draw your own conclusions.

Just over 13 years ago, on a snowy evening in January 2003, my daughter and I went out and brought home the sweetest, gentlest, 8-week-old Labrador Retriever puppy. She was a chocolate lab, and so we named her Mousse. Mousse played ball; Mousse cuddled with the children; Mousse helped me to weed the garden; Mousse stole food from the kitchen table when she thought no one was looking; Mousse hung out with the chickens and enjoyed visiting with our friends and neighbors, both human and canine. Mousse became family, and all was well. Continue reading

The Actual Cost of a Burger

The announcements of the recent Academy Award nominations remind me to talk again about Food, Inc., a 2010 Academy-award nominee for Best Documentary, and winner of many other awards and nominations besides. Billed as a “civilized horror movie for the socially conscious, the nutritionally curious and the hungry” as well as “an unflattering look inside America’s corporate controlled food industry,” it minces no words. Just 94 minutes long, I urge you to make time to watch it. Continue reading