NYTimes: (Only) Two Rules for a Good Diet
My wife is a health coach and our family generally eats healthily, taking a moderation approach to most things. But I notice that what we now consider everyday and not at all in the camp of ‘health-nut’, such as eating rice cereal with an egg for breakfast or juicing, is still not an everyday thing for most people. And this includes plenty of affluent, healthy looking people that I am considering in this, i.e., the ones that you would think are educated and aware.
While I did not grow up in a health conscious household per se, my mother did cook basically all of our meals and that means that we ate in a manner that it much more healthy than those who don’t cook. The point Bittman makes in the article about cooking, though he does not include it as one of the 2 rules, is critical. I know that cooking seems scary to people, foreign, with questions on where to even begin. But like with anything, begin at the beginning with what you know and try to expand out from there. Because how can you otherwise even know what you are eating? Relying upon labels for ready made food does not work that well. And yes, there are great restaurant options these days (meaning actually healthful places, most restaurants are not healthy for you at all), but not always available (especially in non major metro areas) and it can be really expensive.
When you do cook, there are still plenty of questions about ingredients and you could drive yourself a bit crazy if you get overly focused on it. You can check out sites like http://www.foodbabe.com and she has really great advice on things to stay away from, both the ingredients to look out for and popular brands of products that you should avoid. But you can also take the Bittman approach and just stop eating processed foods. That is actually a huge category of things (not really “food” at all), but basically if there are ingredients that you don’t recognize as food, then the product is not food. It can be hard, especially if you don’t cook, to do this. No more bags of Doritos or anything like them, but there are choices for snacks….see here: http://foodbabe.com/2012/09/28/do-your-favorite-snack-brands-contain-gmos/
In our house, we still have foods that are on the “avoid” list, but not many and we cut them out when we learn about them (I just read that Thomas’ English Muffins are no good, bummer). There are more choices than ever, especially if you have a Whole Foods nearby. And maybe someone will figure out the opportunity to bring artisanal foods safely and quickly to your doorstep (though the carbon footprint thing could be a problem). Even if you don’t have a Whole Foods, or can’t afford the organic section, start slowly in any way that you can. It is easy, and will save you money, to stop drinking any and all cola (Coke, Pepsi, Diet Coke, etc) and drink water instead. No more McDonald’s. Boil an egg in the morning and have it with a piece of toast that is natural, not processed bread. Eat carrots with hummus as an easy and inexpensive snack. There are lots of little things and once you start and your body feels better, you will look for more ways to continue to change your eating habits. And this is especially important for your children, don’t hook them on processed foods and sugar….I know that they beg for them, of course they do, but they will stop craving it when it is not given and then will forget it almost all together, as will you.