The production of food is a mega billion dollar a year industry that makes money by selling products to YOU. Next time you go into a grocery store I want you to pay attention right as you walk in, what do you see? Generally something called a “cart commitment.” This product is so cheap and desirable that you simply can’t live without it. Jumbo chip bags at 99 cents, soda bottles a two for one special, whatever holiday just passed piles of candy for 75% off….the idea behind the entry way is to make you pick up something FAST and get it in a cart because then you think, “Oh well¸ might as well do all the shopping even though I just came in for carrots and broccoli and milk.” So now go around the outside perimeter of the grocery store and you will hit pretty much the essential items of a normal grocery list. Produce, milk, eggs, meat, bread, cheese, the idea behind this is that you are willing to walk for what you need. However, in order to get there, most of you will not go around the outside but instead will cut through the aisles. The aisles are where the real fun begins, because this is where so much of that research money has gone to trying to figure out what packaging and colors and flavors you want to buy.
Go down the cereal aisle first. How many bright packages covered with cartoon characters, super models, celebrities and mega-athletes are right in front of you. If I eat this cereal I will be beautiful like blah blah blah or strong and hot like blah blah blah. Accident? I think not. The food industry wants you to buy the packages of prepared food that they have put so much research into. It will package the products to appeal to both you and your kids. Grab one of those cereals. Bright colors, familiar face, groovy name…all those are for your kids, but then I guarantee you that the words FORTIFIED WITH ESSENTIAL VITAMINS are going to pop up somewhere on that box. They may even say its NATURAL or LOWFAT or some other nonsense. This there for you to read and feel better about your choice for your family. “Whew,” you say, “I felt guilty about feeding my family the triple cocoa pop smack Ty Testosterone eats as part of his complete breakfast, but it’s fortified with vitamins and minerals so it can’t be that bad.” OK, now here is another little detail you won’t want to miss. Flip that box over and read the ingredient label. I will promise you that within the first THREE ingredients will be sugar or a sugar wannabe. In fact, there is probably has more sugar in one serving of that cereal than you should eat in a week. Anything with an “ose” in it will qualify. High fructose corn syrup, maltodextrose, glucose, fructose, there are dozens of names for it but at the end of the day it is all just sugar.
YAY! Sugar you say? Well, here’s the thing… YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT and sugar just isn’t on the hit parade. I also know that if you are saying ‘YAY’ you didn’t read the first part of this book and skipped right to the middle where you thought the diet part was. Processed sugar does a lot things for you, and trust me none of them are good. Everyone likes a little sweetness now and again, but to start your day off with a high calorie sugar rush is a recipe for disaster which leads to insulin resistance.
If there is one thing you need to take away from everything that I have written here it is this: sugar is not your friend. She doesn’t like you and she’s a real bitch behind your back. Cut her out of your life. You can do better. I promise.
This book is written for YOU. I want you to learn and know what you are doing when you put something packaged boxed in a bright color wrapper in your cart. I want for you to make conscious decisions rather than shop, eat or cook on autopilot. One of the most basic ways that we care for ourselves is through food so this is a jump start on the cooking game that allows you to care for yourself in ways most people don’t know how. It is also an opportunity to think about choices. The choices we make have consequences. If you choose to go to work and pay the bills you have a stable and productive life, if you choose to get high, and play video games till two in the morning… not so great. Food is no different. You choose to eat well and your body is healthy, strong and vital: you choose Cocoa Puffs and Wawa Sausage egg and cheese biscuits, and your body is going to be fat, sick, tired and slow.
Those are the facts. Your body, your choices.
So we have to relearn what is healthy, and confront the food quirks we all have about what tastes good. One thing I want you to do is to KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN. You will get a lot of disinformation from the media and FOOD INC. about what is good for you but I am going to teach you how to think critically about what you hear and do your own fact checking. At the back of this book are a lot of resources for you to look at, read, watch or surf. I rely on some really good researchers who know their stuff when deciding what I put in my body. I also go by what makes me feel great and strong and powerful and smart. What I do know a lot about is how to make food taste good that is actually good for you; ‘good for you’ being defined as something made from scratch with whole foods and mostly plants.
OK, so think critically, keep your mind open, try new things, and did I forget anything else? Oh…yeah…HAVE FUN. Cause that is what this is all about: having fun while getting healthy, you and me in the kitchen, making something good to eat. If this cooking business wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it all the time. Also eating good food makes you feel really REALLY good. I remember what I used to feel like before I became a plant powered vegan chef and I was tired and irritable a lot of the time. I slept badly, didn’t have much of a sex drive, drank too much, and my stomach was always “off.” Not anymore. I have the energy of my eleven year old (which is a good thing) and am almost as smart as my seventeen year old (which is even better). That other thing is pretty good too, just saying.
REAL FOODS AND WHERE TO BUY THEM
Navigating the grocery store is such a tricky business. So many products are so cleverly and appealingly displayed to convince you that you absolutely need, want and have to buy them. Each grocery store is different so I cannot give you a map of where everything that is a whole food is but I will do my best to teach you how to read a label and how to look for what you need. One of the most important rules is that most of the things you actually need are around the perimeter of the store, at your feet or over your head. As you are going around the grocery store think about the things that you are being targeted to buy. Do you need that product or want it?
MAKE A LIST! Ok so the first thing we are going to do is look at what we need. And doing that requires a list so get out your pen and paper and start planning. Mark the recipes that you want to try and list out the ingredients you need. Lentils? Carrots? Parsley? Check. Check. Check. I always think about dinners first and then plan the lunches around leftovers and extra ingredients that I will have. For example, if lentil soup only needs half a bag of carrots why don’t I make the apple carrot raisin salad or carrot muffins with the other half and I will have extra lentil soup the next day so I can take that to lunch in a thermos. So when you are ready make your list and move to the next step. The really fun thing about this plan is that EVERY DAY is interchangeable with any other day. If you don’t like the recipes on one day’s list, just skip it and go to another. There are plenty to choose from.
EAT AN APPLE. Never, never, never go into a grocery store hungry. Grocery stores are meant to entice and tempt you with smells and subtle salivary cues (fancy word for make you drool) When you are hungry, you are going to fall fast victim to those baking smells (they are often piped in, having nothing to do with whether the bread is fresh) and be tearing into the hot cross bun faster than you can sing it. If need be, get a piece of fruit, (pay for it) and eat it before you start shopping.
STICK WITH IT! When you go into the grocery store you are going to be bombarded with cheesy poufs, chocolate cream cookies, tiramisu, chocolate bark, and sugary soda fizz and that is before you have even gone five steps in… be strong. You have a list and you have it for a reason. I know those chocolate fudge dipped triple layer goober cakes look good in the package but turn it over and just take a peek at the ingredients on the label. It has enough sugar to coat a goat what do you think it is going to do to your body?
READ YOUR LABELS! Sugar in the first seven ingredients? No way. Anything with High Fructose corn syrup? NOPE! MSG? Hydrogenated fats? Remember those super oxygenated fat molecules designed to make products shelf stable? Well, guess what they do to your ass? Can’t read it, pronounce it or know what it is? Probably best to avoid it then. Good food is made out of real ingredients. When you are first starting out you might want to try writing down the things on the label that you don’t know. There are a couple of stabilizers and preservatives that are not damaging and you should get to know them as well. Olive oil, salt, citric acid, xanthum gum, corn starch are ok. Look at (https://chefgretchenhanson.com/2017/02/21/food-labelling-laws-and-other-fairy-tales/) for a complete list of acceptable preservatives, emulsifiers and stabilizers.
stay tuned tomorrow for the well stocked pantry list !
Let’s do this!