As a chef I have obviously been interested in food all my life. The subject of healthy eating is one that is near and dear to my heart. As a child of the 50’s I remember my meals as being “balanced”. Well sort of, in that breakfast was always a cereal with toast and sometimes eggs for protein, lunch was usually a sandwich with some vegetable snacks, and dinner was always a full blown 4 course meal with an entre, a starch, vegetables, a salad, homemade bread, and usually a dessert.
Mom spent at least 2 hours a day in the kitchen if not more. I suppose that my 7 brothers and sisters had something to do with that. As we got older, we began to take on the cooking duties, and each of us siblings developed our own specialties that we would prepare for the evening meal. The formula was always the same, we always had vegetables, and always had a salad. Fruit came into our house by the case load and left a few days later in an empty box. Soda pop was a rare treat that might happen with a summer barbecue, and chips and snacks were seldom seen in our cupboards.
I may be mistaken or nostalgic but life seemed slower in those days,and mealtimes were definitely more important. Today it seems much more hurried, dinner comes in boxes grabbed from the supermarket. Sometimes it gets delivered by “Domino’s” I watched a lady purchase “dinner” at 7-11 the other evening; a box of fried chicken, 4 large cans of iced tea, 4 medium bags of some kind of chips, and a few candy bars thrown in. The total came to $37.50; she was blown away and so was I.
Michael Pollan in the video (above) is talking about nutrition. He suggests that it is increasingly difficult to spend a dollar and get the correct caloric intake necessary for healthy eating. I agree with him, in the last 40 years the number of stores on the corner that call themselves “convenience stores” has proliferated significantly. A simple trip down the aisles of such stores will yield little if any “real” food. You have your choice of sugar or sodium in many forms, but you will look long and hard for any complex carbohydrates with the exception of an occasional banana. While you may find a can of dog food, you will not find may other cans of proteins like tuna or beef stew.
The other alarming trend that I have noticed is the actual changes in some of the staples of our food supply. Having worked in the food service industry for over 4 decades I can’t remember seeing 4 pound chicken breasts in the kitchens until the late 1990’s. These were usually called stewing chicken (Old Birds); today these are common-place and I am given to understand that they are only 8 weeks old at slaughter. Uhmm, I think that is a lot of something that is not necessarily good for me.
So we have a faster paced life these days that relies on more conveniently packed foods. The foods that we eat may or may not have the correct amount of nutritional value. Most of us jump out of bed, grab a cup of “caffeinated” beverage and rush off to work. Around 10 am the hunger pangs are starting and by noon we are famished, so for lunch we head to a “fast food” restaurant to fill up on empty calories in the half hour we have off. Finally, the work day ends and we rush off to join our evening activities, we may or may not include a leisurely meal in that mix, and rarely meet our daily food requirements. The following day we repeat the process, is it any wonder that as a country we are seeing an alarming increase in food related health issues.
Lets look at some facts. In the US 34% of us are obese and another 34% are overweight. This trend has been increasing since the 1980’s although it is beginning to level off. What you say? 68% or 2/3 of the residents of the US are a little or a lot over-weight? Yes, unfortunately this is true. In a lot of cases this is due to making poor healthy eating choices.
In all fairness it is not possible to eat a “healthy diet” at all times. If you take a look at the government guidelines for daily intake of vitamins and minerals you would have to eat absurd amounts of certain foods to meet those guidelines. For instance: you would need to eat 33 tablespoons of peanut butter to get enough vitamin “E”, how about 7 cups of cantaloupe to get enough vitamin “C”. Now add four and a half pounds of ground beef to get enough “B12”, 6 cups of baked beans for folic acid, 7.75 quarts of milk for “Riboflavin”, and 22 bananas for enough “B6” or 4.5 cups of peas for your daily dose of Magnesium. I am sure you get the picture. Trying to get a balanced diet of good nutritious food into our body without supplementation is an ambitious task.
What is the answer? Are we eating healthy foods? Probably not in most cases, but I think it can be remedied. “Slow Down”, take some time every morning to make sure that we start the day with some protein in our stomach. The word “Breakfast” when it is separated means to break the fast we have just finished over night, our brain and bodies need something besides caffeine to work with. For lunch we should be adding complex carbohydrates like salads and fruits. For dinner, a well prepared meal with all the necessary food groups is important.
Learn to cook healthy and nutritious foods, a few well placed herbs and spices can do wonders for common place foods. When you know some good techniques in the kitchen, you will not have to spend hours putting a menu together when it can be done in minutes instead. Take some time to learn about the benefits of the various food groups and make sure that you are including some of each in your daily diet. Finally seek out advise on a good supplement program, it is simply not possible to eat enough of certain foods to get the daily vitamins our bodies require.
Here is a very sensible article that I just found:
If you have the time go to youtube and watch the whole series.
Here is an interesting info-graphic!