After reviewing my food diary with my nutritionist this week (actually, it was more like open-heart surgery without anesthesia, but I digress), we started to talk about food combinations, fats, carb-loading and the importance of diversity in one’s diet. Over the past few weeks, I’ve made myself try one new fruit or vegetable in the grocery store–so whether it’s raw beets, purple cauliflower, snap peas, sunchokes, or bean sprouts, I’m making point to widen my color, flavor and texture repertoire. Back in the day I didn’t bother with strange-looking rutabaga because why bother when pesto pasta takes under 30 minutes to make? A taste that might make you shudder becomes something you crave and love over a period of time. And the nutritional benefits of eating among the five taste sensations (sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and savory) are profound in terms of aiding digestion, and maintaining an overall balanced diet. I think the hardest part of my journey for is the realization that not having gluten, dairy, yeast, bananas, sweet potatoes, turkey, and the other dozen or so foods I have to avoid for the next seven months is, in fact, NOT a limitation. It’s not because there are hundreds of other things I could be eating but have simply chosen not to. Because again, why bother?
Now I have to bother.
I’ve also been cognizant of food combinations in order to absorb all the nutrients in my system so I can feel good. I tend to not mix complex grains and proteins because they’re brutal on our digestive system. If you’re interested in checking out the WORST combinations (believe me, I’ve done them all), check out this article on MBG. Grains work best with veg, same with protein. Before I received my food sensitivity results, I was confused why I kept getting appendicitis-level pain every time I had a dish that had quinoa and a protein. Here I was in self-diagnosis land before my slew of test results returned, and Dana told me that since I had damaged my insides from years of gluten + dairy abuse, I was a walking wound. Most people can handle poor combinations, but for me, it’s like getting punched in the face after I’ve received a proper BK beat-down.
One of the biggest lessons learned? FAT IS YOUR FRIEND. You need fat to absorb nutrients. You need fat to LIVE. I grew up in the age of Snackwell’s + low fat, and what do you think replaces the fat that has been eliminated from your favorite foods? Starches, sugar and salt. Sugar is cute, isn’t it? Especially when it throws a frat party in your liver and you start to become susceptible to all sorts of health-related conditions. If you’re eating fats free of hydrogenated oils (think nuts/seeds, avocados, coconut oil, and nut butters), you’re golden. They’re healthy, they’ll fill you up, and they’ll add that proverbial glow to your skin.
Every so often I need reminders. I need the nutrition version of getting punched in the stomach because my descent back into eating crap is so easy. Bacon and candied pecans, popcorn, carb-loading (even of the complex carb kind), and suddenly it’s not about moderation or balance, it’s about me with a huge bowl of popcorn in my lap after I’ve eaten a salad. And there I go rationalizing it, but I ate a huge salad, etc, etc. I have to remind myself why I’m eating the foods I’m eating and am I present when I eat them?
Dana has me switching up my diary format to take stock of all the times I misstep (to drive awareness) and some thoughts on how I feel after a particular meal. I dutifully rolled my eyes when I saw the spreadsheet, however, today I was annoyed that I’d eaten this buckwheat burrito because, while it was OKAY, it wasn’t a potato-with-olive-oil-sea-salt-and-pepper delicious. It was simply a vehicle for the beans and guacamole, which were divine on their own. Similarly, when I return to eating gluten and dairy, I want to eat the BEST PASTA or HOMEMADE BREAD, not just crap out of a box. I want my every meal to be a small celebration, a victory, a minor event.
I leave for Thailand in two weeks and I’m watching (as I type this) a 1.5 hour seminar on eating to achieve your best body. This isn’t a diet or about being skinny, this is about feeling good inside and out. This is about fueling your body. This is about changing your mindset from I work out to eat to I eat to work out. So far, I’m loving the sessions–videos that range from 2-7 minutes in length–brought to you by the founders of Sakara Life. And you guys KNOW how I feel about Sakara Life, so much so that I’ve ordered the lunch boxes for a two-week reboot.
From how to eat the rainbow (and why it’s important to have color on the plate), and why fat is your friend (please stop eating low-fat), to the importance of eating organic and the need to quit it with the calorie counting, the sessions are smart, digestible, and the founders manage to make heady science intuitive and simple. I also love their 54-page downloadable booklet, which is filled with so much health information and a seven-day meal plan, complete with recipes. While a lot of the information isn’t new to me, it’s that lovely punch I need right now.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Art of Eating Well
For the tortilla
9oz (2 cups) buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups of water
coconut oil for frying
For the fried beans
1 tsp coconut oil
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 pinch of cumin
1 pinch of chili or a little cayenne pepper
1 15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed
sea salt + black pepper
For the guacamole
2 large avocados
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1/4 scallion of fresh chives snipped
1 garlic clove, finely grated
sea salt + black pepper
4 large tomatoes, sliced
3 handfuls of crunchy lettuce or red/white cabbage, shredded
a handful of chopped cilantro
1/4 cup red onions, minced
To make the tortillas, whisk together the flour, egg and salt in a large bowl with 3 cups of water. Leave the batter to stand for 1/2 hour. A note on the flour: the burritos in the cookbook look NOTHING like buckwheat. Perhaps buckwheat looks completely different in the U.K., however, the kind I find in the local grocery store is dark grey. So don’t freak out when your tortillas don’t resemble the white floured-looking ones in the book.
Bring a lightly greased, well-seasoned cast iron skillet (or ceramic pan) about 8-inch in diameter. Brush the bottom of the pan with the oil. Whisk the batter and using a ladle, add enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan when swirled. After 1-2 minutes, when the underside is brown, flip and cook lightly (1 minute) on the other side.
To make the beans, gently heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic. Add the cumin and chili and cook for a few minutes. Add the black beans, a splash of water, and cook for 5 minutes until the beans are sticky. Season to taste.
To make the guacamole, mash the avocado + all ingredients in a bowl.
To serve, pile your fillings (I almost typed feelings, so there’s that) onto each tortilla, as well as any of the optional toppings and chow down.