What we eat can trigger a sense of enjoyment, indulgence, guilt, satisfaction or some other feeling. We often cook as a way of caring. We eat “comfort” foods and share meals with family and friends to foster a sense of connectedness. When we’re stressed, angry, sad, lonely or bored, our emotions can trigger “bad” eating.
Fundamentally, our food choices are about nourishing our bodies, minds and relationships. But they’re complicated by a lifetime of food-related memories, pressure to “eat right for the environment,” and fear of being judged for our food choices – often silently and without considering budget and time constraints.
My first draft of this post began with an explanation of why I eat what I eat. Somehow, it managed to be preachy and defensive, all at the same time – mirroring our often-complicated relationship with food. Deleting those paragraphs was a lot easier than developing consistent, healthy eating habits! But I’m working my eating habits, using the 80/20 rule as a measure of success. See for yourself…
1. Quick and Hearty Breakfast
Breakfast most days: 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 Tbsp ground flax seed, generous dash of cinnamon, mixed with water, cooked in the microwave for 2 minutes and then topped with 1/3 cup berries, a handful of nuts (pecans, almonds or hazelnuts) and a drizzle of milk. Frozen berries work, too; just add before cooking and increase microwave time by 30 seconds.
2. Not-so-Quick, but Healthy, Lunch
Lunch most days: large salad made with torn kale and lettuce leaves; chopped celery and cucumber; fresh tomato; whatever leftover oven-roasted veggies are in the fridge (in this case broccoli, cauliflower and carrots); all topped with a couple Tbsp of seeds/dried cranberry mix. I went a little overboard with the tomatoes the day I took this photo, as they were the last of the bunch and were getting soft.
It’s hardest to stay mindful about snacking. The best I can say is I’ve made some progress when it comes to more often choosing snacks without added sugar. The Mandarin oranges that become available in November are a tasty and refreshing snack option.
One of the essential food groups, and we always have a good selection (of mostly dark chocolate) on hand!
5. Backyard Buffet
A small herd of Rocky Mountain mule deer wander through our neighbourhood on a regular basis. In the spring, they dictate which annuals and perennials we buy (must be deer-resistant). In the summer, they prompt us to put up temporary fencing around the vegetable garden and keep our tomato planters on our second-floor deck! Come fall, they get a little less choosy and will dig up and eat just about anything if there’s snow on the ground. And in the depths of winter, we’ll spot them balanced on their back legs as they go after the little crab apples that hang on our flowering crab tree for months after the leaves drop. This was one of seven deer in our yard one chilly, November afternoon and she was chowing down on pansies.
With that, my limit of 5 photos/month is full! Can’t wait to see what tickled the taste buds of other participants this month. And what about you…whatcha eatin? Make my mouth water by sharing in a comment (photos welcome).
Remember, you’re always welcome to join the photo blogging challenge! Consider it a low-stress photo assignment – a regular prompt to hone your camera skills. For each month’s theme, you’re asked to share five photos snapped with your choice of camera. The amount of accompanying text is up to you. The next theme will be posted at a ‘lil Hoohaa in early December.
For those interested, here’s some of the preachy/defensive stuff from my first draft…
We’ve been working on making better food choices this year. Why? It all started back in February, when a friend recommended a book she’s found helpful living with rheumatoid arthritis: How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger. Since my Mom also lives with RA and other autoimmune illnesses, I gave it a read. Greger’s main point is that North Americans typically lose years of healthy life because of overnutrition – diets dominated by animal-sourced and processed foods.
Then I read A Woman’s Guide to Healthy Aging by Vivien Brown, MD. After that, my neighbourhood book club read The Hacking of the American Mind by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL. Currently, I’m working my way through Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell, PhD.
While the specifics differ, each of these books makes the same general case in favour of eating plant-based, less-processed foods. Of course, there are other books out there that make convincing cases in support of paleo, keto and other food choices. All the references to (often contradictory) studies can quickly become overwhelming. And I’m not convinced that eliminating certain food groups is a good way to eat. But there are enough consistent and convincing threads in these books that we’ve gradually shifted our food choices to more vegetables, fruits and nuts and less white bread, packaged breakfast cereals, snack crackers and meat.
It’s not easy to make a permanent change in the kinds of food you choose to eat every day. The first six months of the journey, I tracked each day how I was doing in terms of Dr. Greger’s recommended daily dozen: beans, berries, other fruits, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, other vegetables, flax seeds, other nuts/seeds, spices, whole grains, and tea/water (that’s eleven, #12 is exercise). Somewhere around the six-month mark it became ingrained habit. Now my focus is shifting to reducing added sugar.