Eat This: 10 Simple and Sustainable Dietary Guidelines

Make It Salubrious, Make It Sustainable

You know what’s a good word? Salubrious. It means favorable to health or well-being. It’s not a word that makes any huge promises, and it’s a word that allows a little room for interpretation.

Another good word? Sustainable. It means able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed. It also means able to continue for a long time.

Here's a good mantra! Today I will avoid careless advice.
Here’s a good mantra! Today I will avoid careless advice.

Oh, and one last word. Reality. Our current global reality is that millions of people around the world go to bed hungry every night. Much advice about food and making food choices is simply careless. If it fills your tummy, ANY food has served an important role. Not everyone has the flexibility, time, or money to overhaul their diet, or to buy only the sprouted, the organic, the pasture-raised. If you do have the resources to buy the best food, that’s great. Avoid proselytizing.

With that out of the way, an ideal diet should promote health and personal well-being. It shouldn’t deplete our sacred natural resources. And it should be something that you can pull off, for a long time, as a lifestyle.

So, instead of writing a epic post about all of the different diets out there from which to choose (since it’s already been nicely written), I’m going to share some dietary recommendations that are non-controversial no matter what your foodlosophy.

If you can follow these simple dietary tenets most of the time, then you’re doing something good and you should drop you shoulders and relax a little. And I’m of the strong opinion that relaxation, in all its forms, may very well prove to be one of the the most important variables in the science of staying well.

Simple Dietary Tenets

1. Enjoy your food and the company in which you eat it. You’re sitting down for a big meal with friends. There is a veritable feast laid out before you. You are truly blessed.

Okay…fine. You’re not always in good company. Let’s say you’re sitting down for a work-sponsored lunch, and on a good day, the people you work with resemble a terribly dysfunctional family.

Wait! You are not doomed to stress-induced indigestion! Choose your seat wisely. Use your food as a meditation. You can totally tune out the drivel and focus on the pleasure of a warm piece of whole grain bread with butter. I know this…. because I lived this. There was this one woman, when I lived in Oregon, who called herself an “office manager” but who was really just a crazy, manipulative, awful mutha – – – Mmm, this bread is so chewy, and the butter is flavored with…is that cardamom? Ohhhh, sure, sparkling water with lime sounds nice!

2. Chew your food.  Take time to taste it. There are lots of secret flavors in food. Chew slowly and see if you can discover them.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, apples strengthen heart, tonify qi, quench thirst, promote body fluids, lubricate lungs, and resolve mucus.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, apples strengthen heart, tonify qi, quench thirst, promote body fluids, lubricate lungs, and resolve mucus.

3. As best as possible, avoid the processed stuff. Look at the ingredients. Look for the following words and do your best to avoid them: enriched, bleached, refined. Also, avoid to the best of your ability trans-fatty acids* (look for the word partially hydrogenated oils or ingredients including margarine and/or vegetable shortening) 

*Trans-fatty acids increase total cholesterol, raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Beyond that, TFAs may have adverse effects on cell membranes and the immune system, and may promote cancer and aging.

4. Go easy, sweetie. I don’t like it when people get all whack and start referring to white sugar as “poison.” White sugar isn’t poison. Yes, it can be addictive, and yes, too much of it over time can cause serious imbalance. But it’s not poison. Moderation – the annoying but best way to deal with sweets. Cuz lawd knows I’m gonna have a piece of that icebox cake every now and then!

Side note: Artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup are on my avoid-as-much-as-possible list.

5. As often as possible, eat foods in their whole form, and mix it up. In other words, as often as possible, stay away from the

Fiber. It's what's for dinner.
Fiber. It’s what’s for dinner.

boxed meals. If you’re crazy busy and can’t avoid them, just read the ingredients and chose the ones that do boxed-meals best at whatever your price point. Here’s a helpful little app that can help you choose your foods according to their nutrient density (most body-lovin’ bang for your buck).

a) Carb-lover? Cool! The advice is simple, yet complex…and it’s complex carbohydrates! (badum ching) Complex carbs include whole-grain flours, brown rice, fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans in their natural forms. These are all rich in fiber, which helps you feel full (yeah!) and helps you poo (yeah!). Fiber also slows the absorption of food and helps you avoid blood sugar spikes, which is good for regulating your insulin response.

b) Carnivore? Cool!  As much as possible, avoid meat that is factory farmed, processed, contains nitrates/nitrites or comes from animals that were given antibiotics. Look for the words organic and free-range. If you’re eating beef or buffalo, look for grass-fed. Reality check: This kind of meat costs more.

6. Prepare food with love. We are all rushed at some point in the day, and we’ve all snacked behind the wheel. Remember, these are goals that you are striving to meet most of the time. Had a Snickers while flying down 95N. So what? When you do have the extra time, a cutting board, and a sharp knife in your hand, infuse your pleasure and attention into what you’re making. See Like Water for Chocolate if you haven’t yet. Magic realism? Pshhaw. Food is qi. And so are we.

Community gardening = awesomeness.
Community gardening = awesomeness.

7. Grow your own food! If you have the resources and the desire, do it. A garden can create food for the body and the soul! Interested in gardening, but don’t have the experience, or a plot? Cultivating Community is here for you!

8. Eat more plants. Cuz it’s only gonna help. They’re like a Brillo for your bowels!

Side note: I know a couple of people who say they don’t like eating plants. If you are one of those people who grew up with canned spinach, I’m so sorry. But let me remind you – it’s pretty easy to make a mushroom taste like a steak, and roasted garlic is like mouth magic.  There are also endless recipes online/in print to assist you in learning how to prepare vegetables in a delightful manner. There are also lot of local restaurants who would be more than happy to help you fall in love with the things that grow from the ground. And there’s this, too. Eating healthy on $4 a day!

9. Don’t totally freak out if you can’t buy organic. I, for one, cannot afford to by all organic all of the time. Besides, sometimes I’m craving a specific fruit/vegetable, and there simply aren’t organic ones available. I am also of the mind that it’s better to eat fruits and vegetables than not. Wash your produce before eating. Know the Clean 15 to assist in flexibility.

10. Share. Don’t shame. Share. Whether it be tomatoes from your garden, a crock pot of beef stew, or your favorite recipe, sharing is usually a safe gesture of communion. And for the love of Gruyere, don’t shame. Consider history/culture when you decide that someone’s diet “is killing them.” There are varying degrees of need, and it’s our responsibility to recognize it. Besides, no one wants to sit down next to the proselytizer at Thanksgiving, right? Though… someone has to sit next to Uncle Tony. If it’s you, enjoy every moment of that perfectly brined free-range turkey, and I won’t judge you for that second glass of spirited nog.