By now it has come to our attention that eating a whole foods, plant based diet is beneficial for our health and well-being. We end up weighing less, being happier and at lower risk for chronic disease.
Those are just a general beginning to a much longer and more extensive list of reasons why it is critical to make the shift in diet and lifestyle. It is critical for the individual but also for the family and larger community. Eating is a social thing and something that is not done in isolation. When we eat well, and do it happily and joyfully, perhaps we can inspire others to raise the bar.
I know for me, while I was raised eating dinner sitting down at the table with my family, we got accustomed to eating some processed food that was not organic and was nutritionally deficient. I was raised with a certain framework on food and it was more mainstream, although not as extreme as some.
When I got older and my parents and I began to become more aware of farming practices and diet, we started a shift. I can still remember my mom quoting my grandfather. He said, “Don’t eat anything white: rice, flour and potatoes.” He knew all along these food items were over processed and nutritionally deficient. It took us awhile to start listening. But we finally did.
Sometimes making the shift toward this more holistic approach can be overwhelming even when we see it happening more and more around us, and even when we know it is best for us. I love that I see more and more local food options, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and a growing platform for increasing people’s awareness about these issues. But, when we have bad habits or food addictions, we are vulnerable to stray from our good intentions.
And diet is only part of the picture. The other part is lifestyle. If you are going to commit to the diet, you need to be aware that your lifestyle will shift. You will need to re-think fast food on road trips and how you approach food preparation and cooking in general. In that spirit, because I think it still be fast and easy, but with a different strategy. I came up with a different set of “genres”.
Instead of meat, carb/starch, fruit and veggie, I thought of the six words that start with S to help me make this transition, create a framework and stay on task: Sorbets, Smoothies, Salads, Soups, Sauces, and Spices.
One of my cravings or addictions is dairy. I love milk, cheese, creaminess, and ice cream. I live in Wisconsin, so we don’t just eat normal ice cream here, we eat custard. So in order to be proactive on this front, with this craving, I got myself an ice cream maker (There are very few good, well-priced, dairy free sorbet/ice cream options on the market.) and started making my own. I sweeten with honey and use fresh ingredients from the garden: rhubarb, strawberries, even spinach and mint for a mint flavored one. The children love helping out with ideas and recipes to make for these. They are flavor intensive and completely refreshing.
Smoothies are my go to breakfast replacement. I know that when I start my day off with a smoothie, I am giving my body a nutrient dense start to the day. My smoothies always include some kind of green (usually spinach or romaine), various kinds of frozen fruit (pineapple, strawberry, berries, mango, or whatever I can find in the freezer section), a banana, and for my Omegas a couple tablespoons of chia seed. I confess I drink one cup of coffee in the morning with my smoothie, but other than that I just have a smoothie. My body is sustained and ready to go for the day.
Salads. Need I say more? I have made my standard lunch a salad. While for me a salad typically means a plate full of greens with lots of veggies, I have broadened my definition of salad. My family subscribes to local CSA. When we get our farm share, we eat what comes in the box. Last night for dinner, our salad with the meal was sliced yellow cucumber and sliced red bell pepper. Fresh and delicious. But salads are a staple. They are quick to throw together, especially if you have taken the time to chop up your veggies. Even with a little chopping, a salad does not take that long to throw together. Also, if you happen to be out on the road or stuck in a restaurant with not so great options, you can always order a salad.
Another classic type of dish to cook for the family. The advantage with soups are many. One is that there is A LOT of variety in recipes and the other is that you can make them in large batches and freeze for later use. I always try to at least double the recipe and keep my freezer full of options.
Sauces are easy to make ahead of time in batches. I love having a variety of sauces at my fingertips because they can so easily add variety of flavor to the food my family eats. We can change the ethnicity of the food, and sometimes the sauce has a creamy feel to it, even though it is dairy free. The kids love using sauces for dipping. Sauces can be used to marinate veggies before eating.
Like sauces, using spices, seasonings, or herbs adds variety and can bring out flavor. Being aware of the different combinations of herbs and spices, can really make or break a new recipe. I have found that with standard things I like to make for dinner, a switch in the seasoning can give a whole new flavor to the dish.
I hope you resonate with this framework and it helps to get those creative juices flowing in your meal planning. I also hope that these ideas empower you to stay on course in eating well!
Let me know if you have anything to add… peace.