Making Food Important 6/14

hotdog.12292974June 2014

Breakfast is the meal I enjoy eating out the least. That’s probably because I eat pretty much the same breakfast every day of the week – and I love it.

As a result, I was getting a little cranky while staying at a Chicago hotel recently. Not surprisingly, my bran cereal with 13 grams of fiber, hemp hearts, ground flax seeds, plain yogurt, bananas, berries, almonds, walnuts, and of course milk, was nowhere on the menu.

The allegedly steel-cut oatmeal was actually highly processed. The granola and yogurt was loaded with sugar. Eggs? Not my favorite, but if I must . . .

I choose to see myself as discriminating versus difficult to please. I make food important. I prefer whole foods, as opposed to processed foods. I enjoy healthy dishes with a little attention to preparation and flavor. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

A flag goes up when I hear clients talking about “grabbing something” to eat. What they usually mean is something “instantly available” or “fast” from a business that sells food. It can also mean something they can eat fast, or eat while doing something else – fast. What’s the hurry? How about “fixing” something and taking some time to enjoy it?

If you’re concerned about your weight, or generally improving your health, pay attention to the voice that says, “I’ll just grab something.” If you hear it a little too frequently, fear not. Just take a deep breath and slow yourself right down. Remember that YOU are important. Challenge the belief you might hold that you don’t have time to eat or to fix something simple.

If all you can do is grab something, grab an apple or a banana instead of muffins or other baked goods. Grab some raw vegetables or nuts.

Here are some ideas for fixing a simple lunch or snack. Culinary skills not required.
• Nothing cooks faster than an egg. Boiled? Scrambled? You decide.
• Pre-washed greens make salad prep super simple. You can even put an egg in it.
• Cottage cheese with a dash of balsamic vinegar, cucumbers and tomatoes is a tasty, balanced meal.
• Try plain yogurt with real fruit on top instead of the sweetened stuff on the bottom.
• Canned salmon with chopped orange slices and a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar is quick.
• Maybe you prefer tuna with celery and/or apple and a splash of mayonnaise.
• A boned and chopped chicken breast cooks very quickly. Add salad greens or other vegetables.
• A bowl of high-fibre cereal (5 + gms per serving) with milk, fruit and nuts is sure to satisfy.
• Remember the old faithful – sandwiches. Make it healthy with whole grain breads, vegetables and meat. Go easy on the cured meats.

You get the idea. While I’m mostly referring here about what to eat, how you eat is equally important. Stop what you’re doing and take a deserving break. Eat slowly and mindfully, notice and enjoy what you’re having and what you’re doing.

I’ve worked with many clients who never take a break during the workday. Sometimes encouraged by a work culture, this can easily become a habit that has the potential to undermine both health and happiness. I can’t believe it’s really productive to the workplace either.

Because I make food important, and I really do enjoy good food, it’s always worth it to me to prepare something. It’s a little easier for me, as I work from home. (Did I mention I appreciate my own cooking?)

With a little planning you can prepare lots of simple things to eat. Clients always tell me that when they plan their meals ahead they eat a lot better. Make a list of possibilities, then keep adding to it. A little planning prevents being caught off guard and compelled to grab something you might later regret.

If you don’t have time to cook or eat, what are you making more important? Is it truly more important? Remember that food is the fuel for your body. Besides water, what can be more basic and important to your life than the food you eat and how you eat it?

When you make food important you might:
• plan your meals
• keep the fridge stocked
• eat out less often
• use fresh, whole foods versus processed
• eat a balanced breakfast daily
• not skip meals
• understand the basics of nutrition
• read labels
• be willing to pay more for groceries
• grow your own vegetables
• sit down at a table to eat
• take time to chew, savor and enjoy your food
• remove distractions like TV or the newspaper

Now let’s make an important distinction.
 When I talk about making food important it comes from a positive, healthy place. It should feel good. If you are constantly thinking about what you will eat next, or constantly eating, or obsessing about calories, you too are making food important – but in an unhealthy, negative, kind of way. It doesn’t feel very good to be here. Perhaps food has become the enemy instead of an ally. And the availability of food on every corner is not supporting you. Let the list above inspire you, one step at a time.

Food on every corner, and everywhere in between, means tempting, fast food is always available. Ironically, restaurants and food vendors don’t always make food important. They make profit important. Don’t be taken in.

I’m left wondering. Why is it that at a White Sox game all there is to eat are hot dogs and ice cream? (Now I’m really cranky!) Come on food industry. Let us grow up instead of out.