The holidays are a time for family and friends to gather together and celebrate the many traditions and rituals of the season. Whether religious or social, have you noticed that they usually involve food? Food is the magic ingredient that brings people together and is what people remember about special occasions.
Food is defined as being a substance of either plant or animal origin ingested to produce energy, sustain growth, and maintain life. While foods should be both appetizing and healthy, it takes effort to prepare healthy food. Perhaps with the incentive of eating food that matches this definition, you’ll make it a priority to try some new recipes or rediscover old family recipes with a healthy twist.
Making homemade meals and treats from scratch is time well spent. While requiring more effort, the food will be much healthier. To increase profit margins and tantalize the consumer’s taste buds, convenience meals and snacks are generally made with artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, hormones, processed salts, MSG, genetically modified ingredients (GMO’s), and trans-fats. Reading labels to see what’s actually in the food is a good idea; but my rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce it, or if it has more than three ingredients, it’s probably not something you should eat.
When we don’t give our bodies the nourishment they need, we’re putting our health at risk. But high stress levels combined with a shortage of energy often results in many people doing whatever is necessary to get through the day. If you find yourself reaching for that double latte or crunchy snack, it’s time to start looking for healthier alternatives.
Packing healthy snacks ahead of time is a plan that works for many people. My new favorite beverage, Fruit and Veggie Plus, mixed with water and Royal Farms (environmentally verified) Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate, helps me get through many of my long days. Raw nuts, organic grapes, and hormone-free cheeses also make good snacks.
When making changes, remember to keep the 80/20 rule in mind. It’s better to eat healthy foods 80% of the time while simply doing your best the other 20% of the time, rather than becoming obsessed with trying to do everything right. If you’re taking full advantage of this rule or more than 20% of your diet consists of forbidden foods, perhaps it’s time to look into a good detoxification plan.
It’s easy to see how we began relying on pre-made foods. Before artificial preservatives and refrigeration, safety concerns led to the avoidance of certain foods and specific cooking techniques to eliminate possible pathogens. As technology began to change this, fewer people kept their own livestock, tended gardens, preserved their own foods, milked goats and/or cows, and made cheese, butter, yogurt, etc. With the new preservatives, people thought they could buy everything they needed from stores. The ramifications of the technological advancements in relation to our food supply are outlined in a fascinating book by Randall Fitzgerald, “The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That are Destroying Your Health”, (2006).
Some people question if it’s worth spending extra money to buy organic and/or sustainably produced foods. The short answer is that it benefits both the consumer and the planet. Some argue that the cost of real food is higher but in the long run it is lower when factoring in the cost of what it takes to detoxify your body and try and regain your health after ingesting artificial foods. Of course, not all food has to be organic/environmentally verified to be safe.
The Environmental Working Group website compares organic fruits and vegetables to non-organic ones. Fifty conventional fruits and vegetables are ranked according to levels of pesticides and other chemicals. Twelve that contain the most dangerous chemicals and pesticides identified are called the Dirty Dozen. Asking the farmers themselves about the methods used in their food production is another great way to decide what to buy, but they don’t always know, so do some research ahead of time and then ask. Always treat them with respect as they work very hard to produce the things we consume so that we can do other things, like work at our regular jobs.
It seems that we have a new generation of people who are bringing back many of the old traditions. Homemade soups, stews, and broths using high quality protein sources and sustainably produced foods are making their way to the dinner table again. Raw milk yogurt and cheese, kefir, kombucha, raw nuts and seeds, fermented veggies, and other sprouted and fermented foods are becoming increasingly popular. Grass-fed meat from free range animals, wild-caught fish, and eggs from free range chickens supply quality protein and provide Omega-3’s. Unprocessed Celtic sea salt, organic butter, and other high quality oils, such as raw fermented organic coconut oil adds extra nutrition to daily meals.
Two classic books that I highly recommend for outstanding recipes, preparation techniques, and guides to wise food choices include, “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon, and “Truly Cultured: Rejuvenating Taste, Health and Community with Naturally Fermented Foods” by Nancy Lee Bentley.
How does all of this relate to the holidays? It’s the perfect time to give yourself and your loved ones the gift of health! Try some new recipes using the best, cleanest ingredients you can find. Experiment with raw food dessert recipes; many taste quite gourmet. Have a dinner party or make Santa homemade cookies. Maybe he’d like to try some of the Hemp Heart treats we make for our Stress and Exercise workshops. Just combine hemp hearts, raw almond butter, raw honey, and a touch of Celtic sea salt, roll the mixture into balls, and coat them with more hemp hearts. Pick up a copy of the recipe from my office or just experiment. We carry most of the ingredients in our office if you’re looking for a one-stop shopping trip. The things you can do with healthy ingredients are limited only to your imagination!
We hope you’ll have fun rediscovering real food this holiday season and have a very healthy new year. Bon appétit!