How to eat well is fundamental to health. It is one of the most powerful tools we have to heal and is one of the primary tools in any treatment plan. Nearly all illness has its roots in poor diet and just as we eat our way into disease we have to eat our way out of it! Both Chinese medicine and Functional medicine leverage nutrition to improve health and if you are one of our patients at Origins Medicine you have probably already begun your nutritional overhaul. During your initial nutrition phase you will be removing all toxic, inflammatory, immune provoking, and addictive foods and replacing them with high quality proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables the body requires to heal. Even though this style of eating is what our bodies were designed for, our years of poor conditioning from the commercialized food industry and improper nutritional advice from the established medical community has left most of us confused, paralyzed, and without the proper skills to nourish ourselves. As we adopt this new eating style it is important to realize that food preparation is a skill you are acquiring. Like any new skill it requires practice and proper instruction. This blog post is going to be a two-parter in which I hope to address the two biggest barriers we all initially face in our nutritional journey: the cost of ingredients and the time required.
So, before we dive too deep into the strategies for eating without breaking the bank or spending hours slogging in the kitchen let us briefly review basic portion sizes. Our bodies have basic requirements for protein, fats, and carbohydrates. The ratio of these macronutrients changes depending on our health status and our goals. As a patient of Origins Medicine we will determine the proper macronutrient ratio for you and we will be refining it as your body heals. The idea that there is one diet that we should all follow forever in our lives is completely ridiculous. Our health status and fitness goals are fluid and our diet needs to change to reflect where we are at. With that in mind, each meal should consist basically of:
1 – 2 palm sizes of protein
1 – 2 thumb sizes of high quality fat
2 – 3 cups of vegetables
If you are eating eggs then the proper number is the amount you can hold in your hand, probably between 2 – 4.
Depending on your treatment goals and adrenal status you may need a portion of starchy vegetables at each meal.
This should be a very comfortable amount of food. You should feel nourished and satisfied after each meal. One of the biggest mistakes people make is eating too little!
So, How do we accomplish this nutritional makeover without feeling like we have to cash in our children’s college accounts? First think about the money you are saving. By preparing your own food you save a lot of money that would have gone to mindless meals in restaurants or mediocre take-out. Eliminating alcohol saves a huge amount of money that many of us sip down in the evenings in the form of wine or beer. If you have a local farmer’s market this can be a great place for produce. Freshly picked produce retains its nutrition and has a lower carbon footprint because it’s not trucked all over the country. Also, because the fruits and vegetables haven’t been sitting in warehouses and markets they last alot longer in the fridge before spoiling. There’s nothing more frustrating than buying some delicious looking vegetables on Monday only to find they’ve turned into mush by Thursday. American families throw out between 14 – 25% of all food they buy. This can add up to $1400 – $2400 annually! So, make a list and be mindful of buying just what you need. If you have a Trader Jo’s or Costco nearby they can be wonderful resources. Here’s a brief list of items I commonly buy at Trader Jo’s:
– coconut milk
– canned, sliced olives
– canned artichoke hearts
– canned wild salmon
– canned tuna
– frozen broccoli
– frozen diced spinach
– frozen diced artichoke hearts
– frozen grilled asparagus
– frozen blueberries
– frozen wild caught fish
– frozen seafood medley (love this for curries and stir fries)
– frozen grass fed ground beef
– coconut oil
When purchasing meat buy the best quality you can, but you don’t need to buy $26/lbs. grass fed steak from Whole Foods. Costco has excellent deals on meat, as do local butchers. Think “nose-to-tail” and buy some of the less popular cuts and organ meats. Many of the tougher cuts of meat are delicious when slow cooked with broth in a crock pot. If grass fed is not possible or not in your budget then look for meat that is raised without hormones and antibiotics and drain off the fat. You can add back healthy fats that are rich in omega 3’s. An excellent idea is to buy an efficient chest freezer and purchase a share of a humanly raised animal from a co-op rancher. I went in with a friend on a cow last year from a farm in Humboldt county California and ended up with 50 lbs. of grass fed organic meat for under $4/lbs!
Another awesome new resource for various staples and snacks is Thrive market online. They sell a wide range of organic and tasty products at wholesale prices. You simply pay a about $5 month for membership. Remember to say I referred you (wink, wink)!
Organic produce is always preferable, but once again, don’t let it destroy your budget and keep you up at night. Each year the USDA lists the “dirty dozen” of produce that have the highest concentration of pesticides. These are apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Plus, include any fruit or vegetable that makes up a large portion of your diet. The “clean fifteen” are the produce with the least likely chance to have significant pesticide residue. These are avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Be adventurous! Buy produce that is in season and inexpensive. Try new things!
Finally, invests in some decent and varied spices. Good spices will make all the flavors of your cooking pop. Less expensive proteins can be made incredible flavorful with slow cooking and good spices. Try to start an herb garden at home so you have a plentiful supply of fresh cilantro, oregano, parsley, etc.
Tune in next week and I will give you some great strategies to cook healthy flavorful meals in the same amount of time you’d spend on hold with Domino’s pizza!