Do you love food? I sure do. I’m guessing that is just one of the things we have in common. Not everyone loves cooking, but everyone loves to eat good food.
Around here, good food isn’t just tasty, it promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Although I do not include the words organic, free-range, pastured, or unrefined in every recipe ingredient listing, this is the food philosophy I follow.
What is food philosophy?
It is a personal outlook or set of guiding principles about food.
Why is food philosophy important?
It is like anything else in life if you do not follow your own guiding principles, you end up subject to someone else’s. There will always be new trends in food, but trends are risky to follow and rarely help anyone make lasting changes toward a healthy lifestyle.
I believe the greatest obstacle to nutritional health in the U.S. is convenience. Modern men and women have relied on convenience foods for so long (more than a generation) that knowledge of whole food preparation has been lost.
Following a recipe or relying on pre-packed, processed foods is not the same as knowing how to cook. When asked how to best save money on groceries, Julia Child responded, “learn how to cook.” I would like to take that a step further—learning to cook whole foods (while avoiding processed foods) not only helps our budget, it improves our health and well-being.
Seven Pillars of Our Food Philosophy:
1. Real food, as close to the source as possible.
Vegetables grown in your own garden are superior to any other, with produce from farmers’ markets and grocery stores with a commitment to local farmers a close second.
Organic, grass-fed, humanely raised animals are an ideal source of meat. We look for local resources committed to products without growth hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, nitrites, or additives whenever possible.
2. Avoid processed and refined foods, i.e., convenience foods.
Refined flour and sugar are a double whammy to the immune system and are serious culprits causing inflammation, which contributes to heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. The more processed or refined a food product is, the less nutritional value it will retain.
One way to significantly reduce the number of processed foods or refined food in our diet is to primarily shop the perimeter of the grocery store, dairy, meat, and produce (skip the bakery, it is full of refined foods). Also, skip the non-fat, reduced fat, low fat, sugar-free, and diet foods; stick with real, whole food.
3. Whole grains can be part of a healthy diet if care is taken to reduce the phytic acid prevalent in grains. Sprouting or soaking grain in an acid-base is the ideal way to consume grains. Even though we primarily eat sprouted grain products, it is still a minor part of our diet overall.
4. Fats are a vital part of our diet; some are even essential.
The way fats are extracted, stored, and utilized makes a great difference in how healthful they are to consume and is an important aspect to research beyond the latest headlines.
5. Limiting sugar, even natural sugars, in our diet is a crucial step in improving health and vitality. America’s addiction to sugar and sugar substitutes is evident in the sheer number of products developed to indulge our habit.
High fructose corn syrup has taken the spotlight. Still, whether it is fructose, sucralose (artificial sweetener), glucose, or sucrose, the negative effects of sweeteners on our health should be taken seriously. Agave nectar is relatively new on the health food scene.
However, few consumers are aware of the chemical processes necessary to produce the product, so we have chosen not to use it. Unrefined honey, palm coconut sugar, stevia, or succanat (unrefined cane sugar) are better choices, yet still important to limit.
6. Organic vs. Non-Organic: Whether you are environmentally conscious or simply trying to avoid ingesting chemicals on every leafy green passing your plate, organic produce is an excellent choice for the 5 recommended daily servings.
Here is a quick list to get started without breaking the bank. These are commonly referred to as the “Dirty Dozen”: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes, and grapes (imported).
Conversely, to leave a little more room in your food budget while avoiding pesticides, there are conventionally grown fruits and vegetables referred to as the “Clean 15″: onions, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato, honeydew melon.
Click for a side-by-side, printable shoppers guide.
7. Relationships are more important than food.
While we are purposeful regarding our food choices, it is also important to be courteous. We make the best choices we can at parties, dining out, or as guests in other homes—placing more value on being gracious.
Food philosophy is something we use to guide our own choices, not to impose upon, criticize, or judge what others eat.
The first six pillars are what we follow 90% of the time, though we still enjoy the occasional dessert or birthday cake made with white flour and sugar (which is why you will still find some of those recipes here).
These pillars are guiding principles rather than rigid rules. Through experience, we know the closer we follow them, the better we feel.
Each of us can quickly decipher what our food philosophy is simply by what we put on our plate. Of course, each individual must test and prove what works best for them.
It can take considerable focus due to the abundance of information one must wade through, but we have found sustained health and vitality is worth the effort.
A few of the resources we follow for nutrition and health:
The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Food Smart by Cheryl Townsley
Disclaimer: This information describes my personal food philosophy and lifestyle choices and is not intended as medical advice.