Let’s pretend your boss walked into your office and told you that your new job would be to:
1. Complete a repetitive task a minimum of three times every single day.
2. For maximum effectiveness the task should take less than 20 minutes each time.
3. Multiple poor choices could cause irreparable damage.
4. A human life would depend on your execution.
Gulp! Insert deep breath. Sweat starts to bead on your forehead. You look at your boss, eyes wide, and ask, “What is this hugely important job?”
Your boss replies, “Food selection and preparation.”
After the initial panic, you would immediately do a ridiculous amount of research, and determine the most efficient way to perform your new job. Unfortunately, most of us do not take this job that we all have seriously. Since we’ve had to eat every day from birth, we don’t necessarily give this hugely important job the attention it deserves. We are kind of on auto-pilot. In fact, when asked, most of us don’t have a great explanation of why we select the food we do.
Over the years I have asked my clients about what they eat, and the meals they cook at home. They typically respond with several “hearty meals” that they ate as a child and have remained a staple in their cooking repertoire. Families have created their own recipe boxes filled with the same eight to 12 meals they prepare with regularity. If we dig a little deeper, we discover the meals and recipes in our current weekly menus are a result of historical circumstances. During the Depression, meals were made from whatever you could get your hands on, then came the invention of the frozen dinner to accommodate the working parents, and since then it has been the quest for the quickest, easiest and most inexpensive solutions.
Wake up, people – it’s 2019! We need to take this job more seriously! We have only one body. With a progressive shared responsibility of partners and families in the kitchen, food should be a topic of discussion.
Eats, chow, foodstuffs, grub, whatever you call it – we all need it to survive. Selecting the “right” food is such a tricky yet unavoidable topic. Creating more healthful eating habits can be a slow process. It will be a byproduct of small changes. To start making these new changes, I suggest the following five steps:
1. Read like it is your job. Read every single label. Look at all the ingredients. The font is microscopic, impossible to read, and seems overwhelming, (all true) but do it anyway. It is an eye-opening experience for sure. Bottom line, if you can’t pronounce it, chances are it is not great for your body.
2. Ingredients = processing. The longer the list is, the heavier the food has been processed. Anything you eat from a package, bag, box or can should contain less than seven ingredients (do not include spices). The body is designed to utilize food that is more a product of nature than industry.
3. Experiment. Take your favorite recipes and swap a few ingredients out for cleaner options. More importantly, tell no one you did this. People frequently decide that they don’t like something before even taking a bite. As toddlers, my children had a Honey-Nut Cheerios obsession. I would buy one box of Honey-Nut and one box of plain and mix them together. I did this for years. They didn’t discover my secret until they had undiluted Honey-Nut Cheerios at Nana’s house. They returned home telling me that Honey-Nut Cheerios had been reformulated and how cool it was they could stick to their fingertips.
4. Be a doomsday prepper – at least when it comes to your food. Live by the motto, “Cook once and eat twice.” Whatever it is you’re cooking or preparing, make enough for it to be used in another meal. During food prep I chop all the veggies at once. I keep some raw for my salads and then sauté the rest for stir fry later in the week.
5. Have an open mind. Taste buds can change. What you think you don’t like, may be something you grow to enjoy. As a child, my vegetables consisted of corn and cucumbers. Now I am hard-pressed to find a veggie I don’t love.
(Crystal Reynolds is the Owner/Operator of 43 Degrees North and is a mom of two teenagers and five chickens.)