A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why is it Weird to be a Healthy Eater?

Do you consider yourself a healthy eater? If so, what guidelines do you follow that make you think this? I used to think I was being “healthy” by requesting no cheese on my Double Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s. Taking that example, its obvious people view healthy eating in different ways. I have come a long way from even eating at a fast food restaurant, but see people making the same mistakes as I once have.

People at work will look at me with confusion as I bring a medley of carrots, jicama, celery, and other cut-up veggies along with a protein of some sort to my desk for breakfast. Why the confusion? I understand some people can’t identify the foods I have sometimes, but what I have should be more “normal” than the Hostess Powdered Donuts or processed meat wrapped in processed bread (ok, sausage rolls) from a donut shop. These foods have a host of ingredients not found in the common kitchen and even some science labs.

In addition, with so many restaurants (fast food chains or sit-down) cooking food using methods for flavor (i.e. pan-fried in butter), I choose not to eat out very often. When I do go out to eat, I have to play 20 questions with the server and usually end up with a salad, no dressing, no cheese or croutons, some things on the side, etc and still pay the full price. To me, I can’t justify the expense when I can do the same thing to my exact liking in the comfort of my home. I realize going out to eat an easy way to gather with friends and family, so I am working on being more accepting of this. But again, I’m the weird one for questioning the food that is put in front of me to eat. Tell me, why is it so “crazy” to scrutinize the food you are served when we are hearing about an infected or recalled food every other week?

I choose to educate myself on foods, learn how to prepare them, and appreciate them for what they are. Food, and I mean real food, can provide all the nutrients the body needs when you eat a wide variety. To be someone who cooks 95% of their meals and rarely eats anything not prepared by my own hands should not be so weird. The media spouting different research results almost daily, companies promoting their packaged, processed foods with bogus health claims, and the government setting America’s Dietary Guidelines every 5 years has created a giant mess of confusion! Of course, companies love this as the more the consumer is confused, the more they are able to make claims on their product that set with current trends and profit. But really, if you stick with whole foods like an apple, banana, carrot, cut of meat over ground, salad greens, etc; you will be eating way healthier than anything in a box or bag.

So, do you face the same situations as I do where people are constantly asking you why you don’t eat this or that? Do your peers or co-workers stare in confusion when you turn down a cupcake or slice of cake someone baked (usually from a Betty Crocker mix or something similar)? Well, I say most people act like this out of insecurity from their lack of self control or discipline. Others are just confused for the reasons mentioned above and think eating most of their meals outside of home is the norm.  Either way, my food choices enable me to stay energized, look and feel healthy, and recover from a variety of exercise.

Eating healthy won’t happen over night, but through seeking food knowledge to know what you are putting in your body, you will see the change over time. Becoming “food smart” is not about learning to calculate grams of fat, limiting one’s intake of a certain ingredient, or counting calories. Healthy eaters eat a wide variety of foods in balanced meals, and maintain a physically active lifestyle. Food is not medicine that must be eaten in strictly prescribed ways such as many fad diets will claim. The bottom line, however, is that you fuel your body and your brain regularly with enough of the right kind of foods to keep your body strong and your mind alert. If you can do that, you can trust your body to look and feel great.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to see if you eat healthy:
Do you…..
- Avoid all sweets?
- Diet to be thin?
- Eat only fat-free or light foods?
- Count calories?
- Buy products according to the health claims on their package?
- Eat only when you are hungry?
- Restrict certain kinds of foods?
- Take pills to control your appetite?
- Drink soda pop instead of water?
- Consider fast food a viable option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

If you answered “yes” to a few of these, it is likely you share some common misconceptions on what constitutes healthy eating.

Here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction:

- Eat a lot of whole foods; whole foods contain vital nutrients and fiber to help fill you up with good stuff.
- Don’t leave the table hungry.
- Have protein with every meal. It keeps you satisfied and energized.
- Make your lunch for work or school the night before, so you will be sure to have it ready to take in the morning.
- Spend time outside and moving as much as you can; if you work inside, stand as much as possible.
- Don’t fall victim to health claims printed on food packaging, read ingredients and look for a short list of real food.
- Eat meals together with your family whenever possible.
- Learn to enjoy food and savor it slowly while sitting down.
- Trust your instincts to tell you when you are hungry and when you are full. Your body is wise and knows what it needs to survive and do well.

If you already follow a healthful diet with a balance of whole foods you prepare yourself, good job, keep it up! If you are one of those who look at the “healthy” eaters with confusion, try to learn a few things before judging; it’s more normal to eat things not wrapped in a package to know what it is you are eating. Appreciate food for what it is, energy for our bodies, and seek to learn what nutrients different foods can provide. In this way, you will be able to be grateful for the food in front of you and less likely to waste the good things.

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