It is a grossly unfair fact of life that certain foods may taste good and be terrible for you but have you ever asked yourself why they taste so good? Lots and lots of research into what you like food to taste like and then lots and lots of laboratory time and chemicals to make that flavor just so. Look at the back of a typical no-name brand can of chicken noodle soup, the iconic ideal of perfect, loving, Mom food. Those words you cannot pronounce (much less spell or know what they are) represent thousands and thousands of hours of research and billions of dollars by BIG FOOD INC. Let’s examine how much research goes into that can of chicken noodle soup shall we? It has been determined by BIG FOOD INC that we like our food WHITE and with very little bulk or fiber in it. Accordingly, the flour in our country is made of wheat that is milled and refined and blended till all the natural fiber and nutrients are removed. It is then white as the color of new snow, not tan or brown, the way it is when naturally milled. Then the nutrients are put back in to re-fortify the flour. Those eight essential nutrients that we should be able to easily get through food. Those canned soup noodles are now a concoction of corn starch and wheat glue; the proteins available in wheat are long gone and the calories are easily and instantly convertible to sugar. The “chicken juice” of the soup can is a finely tuned balance of sodium, high fructose corn syrup, MSG and a blend of chemicals that are supposed to recreate the flavor of chickens. Those chicken bits are made from scraps of chickens who are pumped full of growth hormones to grow as twice the speed of nature, fed a food source that no birds were ever intended to eat, and raised in conditions that no living creature should endure. These are not the chickens you saw dancing about on farms in your barnyard books from kindergarten. No matter how hard food engineers try, they simply cannot improve on food the way it was originally was. Literally all real nutritious food is perfect for your body in its raw, unadulterated, unprocessed form, if it’s not, it’s not food. Anything you do to make a food whiter or more refined is just taking away from the natural perfection of whole grains and whole foods. Anything done to process real whole food is only designed to make you want it more.
If that can of chicken soup is ‘iffy’ then you can probably guess that the fast food cheeseburger, fries, soda and candy bar is not number one on the hit parade. Just about everything that would cause diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance are present in that one typical fast food meal. That concoction of flavors and smells (and YES, they ARE engineered to be addictive) is a blend of chemicals and preservatives that will prevent it from rotting, and sugar that will make you want it more. Try this experiment, buy a kids meal from any one of the major fast food chains and put it in a glass jar with an open lid and leave it on your counter for a few days. What happens next is a miracle of modern science.
Sure the burger and fries petrify, but they don’t rot the way normal food will. Try the same experiment with a veggie wrap from your nearest health food store. The mold that grows will be fun and thrilling and probably end up on your Facebook page. Here’s a hard and fast rule that you can pretty much judge everything you put in your mouth by. FOOD SHOULD ROT. If it doesn’t, don’t eat it. With the exception of honey, (which doesn’t rot) It’s that simple. Do you know that one in four American meals contain unprocessed vegetables? Not raw, just unprocessed.
Here’s another rule. SUGAR IS NOT FOOD. If you eat sugar, instead of food, you will not be getting the proteins, nutrients, vitamins and minerals you require to survive. It’s that simple. If you live on sugar you will be obese and probably get diabetes. Frankly, giving yourself a shot every day should deter even the most ardent sugar addict. Think about it. Are those mass produced plastic wrapped cupcakes really worth a shot? Shots suck. No way around it. Here’s another thing to know. High Fructose Corn Syrup is not a real food despite all the commercials they put on television showing people happily prancing around the corn fields. If you see it on the ingredient list, stay away from it as if it were contagious. Seven percent of American calories come from soda alone…seven percent. Wow.
DON’T EAT ANYTHING YOU CANT SPELL. This is a tongue in cheek rule because I don’t care how you spell. If you EVER saw some of my sentences before spell check you would be horrified. BUT if you don’t know how they got some many letters into one word then it probably isn’t something you need to put in your body. (dipthemfaminehydroxyl springs to mind!) Real food is made of real ingredients and not chemicals, preservatives, flavor enhancers or alphabet letters (MSG or HFCS). Even though you are new at this game you can probably figure out that a can of tomatoes should have just tomatoes in them and little else. So what sort of things would this eliminate? Well pretty much anything that comes in a bag through a car window or anything that resides on a shelf at your local convenience store. In order to make foods that can last on a shelf for long periods of time there is a lot of chemistry involved. Try this experiment: Go into a convenience store and grab a pack of cookies off the shelf. Generally cookies should contain the basic ingredients of flour, butter, eggs, sugar and whatever flavor they are (like vanilla or chocolate and almond) but these are not your Grandma’s cookies, these cookies will have flavor enhancers and additives and all sorts of preservatives that will make sure you like them a lot, will buy them again, and that they can sit unsold on a shelf for months without discoloring rotting or really changing in a way whatsoever. How many words do you recognize? How many belong in a chemistry tube?
DAIRY IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. Uh oh I just told on a multi-billion dollar a year industry whose sole goal and focus is to make you think that without a milk moustache you are not going to have strong bones and when you are older you will be weak and frail.
Quite simply there are so many better sources of calcium it boggles the mind that we have fallen victim to this advertising campaign designed to keep BIG FOOD INC in business. Plant-based sources of calcium absorb better than animal sources because we can digest the plant-based foods easier and break them down and utilize the nutrients better. Don’t believe me though, go do some extra credit research on the subject. Dr. T Colin Campbell wrote an amazing book on the subject called ‘The China Study’. Over a twenty year period he shows that the Standard American Diet, so rich in dairy and animal products, is actually producing osteoporosis: the very thing dairy is supposed to prevent. Ironically, osteoporosis (a disease where your bones are weak) is highest in those countries that consume the highest amount of calcium from animal-based sources. Because the high concentration of acidic protein in animal-based sources causes the body to lose more calcium than it consumes, a plant based lifestyle (rich in leafy greens and diversity) will actually reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis. It is a fact that green leafy vegetables contain the highest amounts of bio-available calcium. Kale, collards, broccoli, all beat out the milk moustache. I’m not going to say that i don’t sneak a bite of a lovely French Morbier or smoked Gouda every now and then because i would be lying if i did. Dairy is just not or never should have been included as a food group. Plants give you all the nutrients dairy does without the side effects. If you eat local and live yogurt, kefir and cheeses grown on your neighbors farm, great. Just how much dairy are you consuming that was raised responsibly without bovine growth hormone? That’s what i thought.
WHAT ABOUT ANIMAL PRODUCTS ANYWAY?
Ok so we are finally going to talk about the cow in the kitchen. If you have this book in hand or on your computer you know that I am a vegan chef. You also have opened this book because you are sick and tired of being sick and tired or you realize you need a change. I am going to strongly suggest that animal proteins are one of the things you consider changing. Our animal production in this country is contaminated and flawed, plain and simple. If you went back in time a hundred years ago you would find that meat consumption was a small fraction of the daily caloric intake. Portion sizes were two to four ounces and meats were not included in every meal. The meat that was consumed was raised in a pasture, fed on a grass, and never treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. The fats and proteins and nutritional value of a cow raised in a grass pasture or a cow force fed grain are entirely different. The commercial meat you are consuming now does not serve your body in the way you think it does.
Go back further still, to our Paleo ancestor who consumed a diet of mostly large game and thrived. His game was wild, and he ate all the fatty parts, organ meats and offal that he could. Our DNA is designed to thrive on the omega rich fats that our Paleo buddy consumed. The problem now is that those fats are not the same or providing us the same antioxidants or zinc that they used to. So we literally need to take charge of our own evolution to meet our needs for rich saturated fats and eliminate the animal foods that are no longer serving those needs. Add to this the consumption of water, land contamination and greenhouse emissions that our commercial livestock industry produces.
We MUST evolve or go extinct.
What about my protein needs you ask? In order to evolve responsibly we are going to avoid GMO crops, merge our need for saturated fats, start consuming a huge variety of antioxidants from vegetables and proteins from plant based sources and closely mimic our Paleo buddies diet in every way that we can. The grains we are going to be consuming are high protein, unprocessed and non GMO. The fats we are consuming are going to be saturated and unsaturated plant based fats. Ever heard of a high cholesterol carrot? Neither have I.
If I could teach you one thing it would be about how easy it is not to use animal products in everything you make. We have gotten into this national belief system that in order for it to be a complete meal there must be some form of animal product attached to it in order to have protein and calcium. This is just not so. There is calcium and protein in literally almost every vegetable you eat. The key to the success of this plan is to eat a variety of proteins, antioxidants and plant micronutrient from a variety of plant based sources. When I go on cooking websites there are tabs to describe which animal product you wish to design your meal around. Feathered or hooves or gills? There are no tabs for broccoli or bok choy. No tabs for tofu or Seitan. It seems as if in order to make a real meal I must somehow incorporate an animal product to make it worthwhile and nutritionally viable. And that is simply untrue.I can literally take any recipe you can find that uses animal products and make it healthier by taking them out.
Broccoli has more protein, calorie for calorie than steak. Kale has more calcium than milk. You do not need a milk moustache in order to have healthy bones and a strong body you need to have green in your teeth. Eating a predominately plant based diet increases your life quality. It’s that simple. Thanks to T. Colin Campbell and his monumental China Study, we now know that eating a diet that contains less that 7 percent of animal products is proven to increase modern life expectancy and to reduce the typical western diseases that we suffer from. If you eat a diet with LESS animal products, LESS sugar, LESS preservatives and MORE whole grains and MORE whole foods you will be healthier, stronger and live longer. Mark Bittman, an influential writer, developed an eating style of being vegan before six and only eating plant based unprocessed foods before dinner. If he wanted the steak and martini after six he would indulge. Think progress about eating less meat and processed foods. Everyone is always terrified the vegan police will be watching and report them. Relax. Do the best you can.
Eating a variety of whole foods (grains, rice, vegetables and fruits) in their raw unadulterated form is best for you, your body and the world you will inherit. Eating less (a lot less, or none at all) animal products just make sense. But don’t take my word for it, go read what the really smart doctors and nutritionists that research this stuff are saying. There is a wealth of information out there but people have buried their head in the bacon. Yes, I’m a chef. I remember how good it tastes. I simply choose not to eat it. I seem to remember liking cocaine in the 80’s as well. So maybe it’s time to say bye-bye to something that is not serving you anymore.
Here’s something you all know: people do not like to admit they are wrong. For years and years, we have been told that milk makes strong bones and steak is the best source of protein. Well, that is just not the whole truth, and most people don’t want to admit it. There is a tremendous amount of money riding on the success of the dairy and beef industry, and to say that all the propaganda, lobbying, and legislation was a mistake would be financially catastrophic. Have you seen any carrot subsidies or lobbies in Washington? Neither have I. Realistically, it will probably be a long time before you hear the dairy council and beef council say that kale is better for you than a cheeseburger. For those of you that actually know me you know that I am not a granola-crunchy-Kumbaya-singing-preaching-to-the-choir-vegan chef. You know that I practice being nonjudgmental about other people’s food choices. You also should know that I know what I’m talking about. After the resounding personal successes I witnessed in my wellness program, I feel confident when I say, MORE MEATLESS MEALS MATTER!
There will be those of you who feel that you need meat to thrive. You are not going to change that aspect of what you eat no matter what. Ok, but in order for you to have the benefit of eating better unprocessed food you have to do the following:
- Buy only pasture raised organic beef or pork
- Make sure that all seafood is wild and sustainable
- Buy only organic, pastured and free range organic chickens
- Buy only organic and cage free eggs
- Buy only organic cheese or dairy
- Cut back on your quantities
The organic label will insure that the animal products are antibiotic, hormone and steroid free. Organic will insure there are no growth hormones, RgBh or GMO feed. If you buy farmed fish you will encounter the same problem. GMO grain and soy feed fundamentally changes the structure of the omega 3’s, fats and proteins of the animal you are consuming, if that animal was not meant to consume grain. Look in the back of the book for the scientific studies that support this.
Make sure your source is clean and pure if you must eat meat.
WHAT YOU REALLY SHOULD BE EATING AND WHY
EAT PLANTS, MAINLY PLANTS, MOSTLY PLANTS, AS MANY PLANTS AS POSSIBLE, DID I SAY PLANTS?
I’m sure there are more ways to say it (and lots of people have said it before me) but I certainly can’t say it enough. Plants are filled with everything you need. EVERYTHING. Between fruits and vegetables and grains, and a diet filled with lots of variety and all the colors of the rainbow, you can get your vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, polyphenol, micronutrient, calcium and protein needs all met without popping a pill. Human beings existed a lot longer on this planet than little sugar gummy bear chewable vitamins because they ATE their nutrients in their food. If you go back a hundred years there were no premade prepackaged dinners in the freezer section. Dinner had to be made from scratch and most of the time you had to grow the food that went into it. There is no soft way to say this: not eating properly can shorten your life, and affect pretty much everything you think and feel about who you are. I want you to take a minute to imagine yourself sick. Think about the very worst health scare you can imagine. Now think about having to live with that every single day.
Maybe you already have to test your blood sugar multiple times a day. Maybe you already give yourself an insulin shot regularly. Maybe you have had multiple heart disease scares. Maybe you have gone through chemo or dialysis. Maybe you already have felt the effects of living in a body that is sick and tired. If that is the case isn’t it time to try something new to help yourself heal?
Most of us have been exposed relentlessly to media that tells you that you have to look and be a certain way. Raise your hand if you have done faddish crash diets to get there. (Mine’s up by the way) How many of them worked long term?
Don’t most diets work short term? Calories in, less than calories expended, it’s a simple equation, right? The problem is that most diets don’t consider the types of calories you are consuming or the insulin spikes that you are getting from the foods you are eating. I picked up a diet book from the best seller pile last year and skimmed through the suggested 100 and 150 calories snack list you were supposed to consume two to three times throughout the day. The author had actually included cookie and cracker products whose second ingredient was high fructose corn syrup or sugar and listed it as an acceptable snack to be eaten throughout the day!
I mean, really.
Which of you out there still think you can eat mass produced cookies loaded with sugar, hydrogenated fats, ultra-processed flours and chemically created flavors and lose weight and get healthy? If you believe that still, then I hate to break it to you about the tooth fairy. She hates sugar too.
Sugar is the number one thing that you need to remove from any eating plan in order to reboot your metabolism. If you consume sugar then it truly doesn’t matter how many calories you consume. You can eat far less calories than you expend and you will still gain weight. If you want the scientific research on this go to the reference section in the back of the book, but before you do, really think about it. Don’t you know deep down that this is true? How many diets have you gone on, counted your calories, paid close attention to your exercise and still not lost weight? Was your diet built on consuming the traditional 8-11 servings of grains a day? Were those calories painstakingly counted from processed grains, bread, breakfast cereal, or pasta? If you are counting the calories from the back of a package of processed food then what you are really doing is counting the calories of sugar.
1) Refined carbohydrates convert into sugar.
2) Sugar prevents you from losing weight and being healthy.
3) Sugar prevents your metabolism from working properly.
4) Your body cannot function properly on a diet of sugar or flour.
5) There is nothing else. This is really all you need to know right here.
So diet books (some of them written by doctors) are suggesting you can lose weight by eating cookies and pretzels. Big Food Inc tells you what to eat based on the amounts of sugar they can pump into processed foods and no wonder you are confused. Big Food Inc wants your money (sugar addiction lasts a lifetime) and will stop at no lengths to get it. It is up to you to start reading labels, start being aware of the marketing gimmicks and begin educating yourself and take matters into your own hands. I will give you the tools to deal with the grocery store, just keep reading.
And no, you can’t get healthy and lose weight long term eating cookies filled with high fructose corn syrup. But you can eat organic raisin oatmeal bars see page # — It’s all about the ingredients and what you put in them and how often you treat yourself.
So everyone knows that there are categories of food. But the categories of food on the USDA ‘my plate’ are not the ones we are going to utilize. First off, we are going to think more about nutrients and quality and less about volume. We are going to eat unlimited amounts of certain food and limit others. We are going to eliminate all simple carbohydrates for the first 28 days and all processed sugar. Once your body reboots its natural insulin producing response you can tolerate small amounts of naturally occurring sugars back in. Until then, Sayonara Domino.
Great article Gretchen, are you still doing cooking demos? Most people still think that it is hard to cook healthy and still make it taste good.
yes i am keep watching the facebook page