Welcome to Live Free Creative, the podcast that provides inspiration and ideas for living a creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle. I’m your host Miranda Anderson and I hope that each time you listen you feel a little bit more free to live your life exactly the way you want to live it.
Hi there, friends! Welcome back to the show. This is Miranda Anderson, your host of Live Free Creative and you are listening to Episode 74, Food As Fuel. If you didn’t listen to last week’s episode, you didn’t hear that I introduced the next four episodes, including this week and last week are all a return to the basics of intentional living. I’m covering sleep, nutrition, physical exercise, and overall attitude or stress avoidance techniques.
These episodes at the beginning of this year are just a way to jumpstart our intention. I know that we make decisions every single day that impact the way that we feel inside and out, and I wanted to just go back to the very basics. These are things that I’m working on in my own life that have made an impact over the last several months and years.
And I think that if our bodies and minds don’t feel good, if we don’t feel healthy and energized and rested, we have a really hard time making other intentional choices in our life. It all builds upon the idea that our bodies and minds are whole and healthy. So these four episodes are just sort of a bit back to the basics, building blocks of intentional living.
Last week, I talked about how sleep is my love language and all of the reasons that we should get more sleep and some specific ideas for how you can adjust your sleep routine in order to feel more rested. Today we’re going to jump into nutrition, food as fuel, and hilariously, this is one of the only things that I’ve done in the last several years that aligns with my educational background, which is nursing.
I graduated from the University of Utah with a license as a registered nurse, and I spent the next five years working as a diabetes education specialist focusing on nutrition and exercise therapies for my patients. I love food. I have always loved food. I have what I call an emotional and spiritual connection to the things that I eat for better or worse. And I think a lot of us feel that way.
So in today’s episode, I want to give you a few very simple, basic takeaways that can help you make a little bit better nutrition choices in your everyday life. Just make things a little more intentional. Before I share those three simple tips for using your food to fuel your mind, body, and spirit, I want to share a quick Peaks Of The Week.
Segment: Peaks Of The Week
Do you want to know something that I never knew I would fall in love with? Sock rings. Sock rings, you guys. This is a revolutionary thing to me that I just discovered a few weeks ago.
I’m going to give you a little backstory for Christmas. My family on my side, not Dave’s family, but my family that I grew up in. We draw names for Christmas gifts because there’s a lot of us and it just gets a little overwhelming to try to get gifts for everyone, so we draw names and we have a budget for each gift.
This year, my older sister who is super fashionable, super stylish, super wonderful, and is up on all the cool stuff happening in the world. She had my name, which is really fun because she’s a great gift giver. However, when she asked me what I wanted, the only thing that I could come up with was something that I not only wanted but something that I needed, which was new socks.
I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but I guess my first Peak Of The Week I’m going to mention right here is Stance socks. I love these socks so much. I they’re expensive though, so they’re a little bit of an investment.
However, the few pairs that I’ve invested in over the last couple of years not only still are amazing, they fit really well. I love how they look. I love how they feel. I especially loved their invisible ones. These ones that have the little sticky on the heel, but the Stance version doesn’t slide off my heels like every other version that I’ve tried.
So yes, they’re a little bit more expensive, but I consider it an investment in my mental health because, when I wear them, I don’t get frustrated with how the heel of my invisible sock keeps falling down.
When my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I didn’t hesitate and I replied that I wanted Stance socks, specifically the invisible ones, and she just started laughing and said, that is so boring. She came through though and she sent me a bunch of pairs of invisible and also one pair of like a higher version of Stance socks and I was thrilled.
The problem with socks–and having especially nice socks that you really like–is that for whatever reason there’s a monster that tends to live between the washer and the dryer and socks disappear is, I think this is true for everyone. Everyone that I’ve talked to relates to the idea of doing your loads of laundry and slowly the socks just diminish to the point where you either have a big basket of one sock of every different kind or the socks just disappear completely.
I did not want to wash my new Stance socks until I was sure that I would not lose one. I wanted to keep them all together in pairs and I wanted to make sure that they stayed together. I told my sister, there’s got to be something like a clip or like a safety pin, and I thought about using safety pins, but then I realized I didn’t want to put metal through the wash that many times. I just thought it would rust and get gross.
So I started to do a little search and it turns out this is my second Peak Of The Week. There are these things called sock rings. They’re like a little plastic ring that have teeth in the middle. So if you stuck your finger in it and tried to pull it back out, it would hurt because it would like grip onto your finger, if that makes sense. The visual when you stick your socks through there, especially these thin invisible ones that I had, I can stick both pairs of socks up through the ring and then they’re held together with this tiny plastic ring.
I can toss them in the laundry and they go through the washer and the dryer held together in this little ring and then I can pull them out. These clean, fluffy, smelling good, socks and the pair has stayed together the entire time. If you’ve never heard of these before, your mind might be blowing like mine was when I discovered them.
I promptly ordered a couple of packages. This was right before my Live Free From Clutter shopping pause began, so like three or four days before my no shopping for five weeks began. The last purchase that I made was these sock rings and I cannot say enough good things about them. They’re such a simple little fix and they’re so amazing. If you’re interested in learning more about them, I will for sure link the ones that I got in the show notes. They’re the ones that I can vouch for because I’ve used them and now I told my kids I’m going to use them a few times to make sure that they work well and everything before I distribute them.
But then I got a couple of different colors so each of my kids, they’re going to be so, so excited to have their own little package of soccer rings. I’m being facetious. They’re going to think it’s crazy. It’s an added step, but this will hopefully keep the socks off the bathroom floor. Maybe not, but at least when we pull them off of the bathroom floor, I can encourage my kids to stick their socks through the ring so that the pairs stay together and it makes everything so much easier on the backend of the laundry.
I am proud to report that even a month after Christmas, after I started wearing my Stance socks, I have not lost a single one. I’ve kept them together. I love using the rings and I am super thrilled with them, so those are my Peaks Of The Week. Improve your laundry system. Improve your life.
I know it’s a little odd to talk about socks before we talk about food, but that’s how it goes today, friends. Seriously, those things are changing my life. I hope you enjoy.
Main Topic: Food Is Fuel
Okay. Let’s talk about food as fuel.
When I first say this phrase, it rubs me a little wrong because I believe that food is worth more for our bodies than just fueling our bodies. That is a really important thing that it does. Food is our literal fuel for ourselves that keep us alive.
It also fuels our minds and our spirits. Have you noticed how food can create a feeling of connection? When we celebrate, a lot of rituals include foods, religious rituals, and ceremonial cultural rituals. These types of things bring us together and the food can sometimes be the glue. Our traditions and family memories can often be based in recipes and in things that we shared together that were food or drink.
So many holidays throughout the year have a specific food associated with them, and then when we eat that food at other times of year, it brings up all of the feelings and memories and traditions of the holiday. So I believe that food connects us not only to ourselves and our body, but also to each other culturally as families, as a community, and for better or worse food.
And the way in which it is created, manufactured, distributed, and delivered to us is also a way that we are connected.
Farmer’s Market Family
One simple example of this is the change that my family has felt in the last six months since we became a “farmer’s market family.” I realized about six months ago that my values surrounding food all aligned with the idea of shopping for local whole foods grown by farmers that we could meet at the farmer’s market.
And even though I knew that, and I felt that it felt a little bit inconvenient and expensive to shop regularly at the farmer’s market until I just decided that I wanted my actions to reflect that my true values. And so we began making the sacrifice, which now feels like such a blessing, but at the time making the sacrifice of spending an hour or two on our Saturday mornings at the local farmer’s market and making room in my grocery budget where, instead of buying so many giant boxes of snacks at Costco, I’m buying less of that and more whole foods grown locally by by people that we are getting to know at the farmer’s market now.
The food that I’m buying at the farmer’s market, not only is food for my body, fuel for the energy that my family needs to survive, it has also now created this connection and served as fuel for our relationship with our community in a way that’s been really fun.
I would say in addition to that, it served as a connection or a fuel for our relationship within our family because we’ve formed a new family tradition surrounding how we shop for our food on Saturday mornings–or at least some of it–and it’s been really fun to introduce my kids to new foods that they wouldn’t necessarily see at a regular grocery store that are grown locally, especially during the summer and fall months like kohlrabi and radicchio and all different kinds of like squashes that you don’t see at trader Joe’s or at Costco.
It’s been really fun to fuel our minds as we also make the connection between how these things are grown, what they look like, what we do with them and the earth that we live on.
Talking About Nutrition
Talking about food and nutrition tends to be a pretty rife subject because people are all so different and so it’s really hard to generalize one particular set of guidelines or rules that will work well for everyone. Our bodies are different, our heritages are different, our cultures are different and likewise it would be ridiculous to assume that our food should then all be the same or there’s one set of standard ideals that will work well for everyone because of this.
Because of the hard time that people and even doctors and specialists have prescribing a particular set of guidelines that works for everyone, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding what should we eat, how should we eat, how often should we eat, what should our portions look like. All of the ideas surrounding food and nutrition can get a little bit muddled because there are so many voices in the space telling us what we should eat.
On top of all of that confusion, we can add the growing epidemics of metabolic disorders and obesity, especially within the United States, and then on top of that layer, this cultural expectation of body image and how we want to look or how we want our bodies to be perceived as a separate thing entirely from how we feel and like our actual health and nutrition–which, those two things, it’s kind of silly to separate them because how we look physically and how we feel physically, you know, should essentially be the same thing.
But in our culture and society, it oftentimes is not, you can feel healthy and feel energized and be really fit and not look the way that you think that you should look. Likewise, you can look a certain way, fit in some particular visible standard of the way that you look and not actually be fueling your body in a healthy way or be, or have any level of fitness that is a measurable and sustainable.
The short of it is that there are so many things happening in the space of food and nutrition that it can be a little confusing and it can be a little frustrating. And so I think that when faced with the complete, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, and I don’t know where to begin.
A lot of us revert to one of two things, either 1) eating the way that we grew up, which may or may not be a great system or 2) following some someone’s idea of what we should eat, whether or not that is right for us, particularly.
What I’m going to try to do in this podcast with my own experience as a registered nurse focusing on nutrition and the huge array of research studies and podcasts that I’ve listened to and articles that I’ve read–I’m obsessed with food. I love food. And so I try to keep up on research as far as food is concerned. And my understanding of the challenges that can face us when it comes to making choices surrounding food, especially feeding a family and also meal planning and things like that for your kids.
My attempt today is going to boil down a lot of information into three guidelines that you may find helpful that will hopefully invite you to pause before making a food choice and make the best of the available choices. Understanding that we’re not always going to get it right. It’s not always going to be perfect. However, there is a good and a better and a best when it comes to food choices and as often as we can where we can afford it and we are able and we have the time and the energy to make these decisions.
I personally want to opt for the best available option at the time. I know that this whole idea of food can be fraught, so forgive me if I say something that you don’t necessarily agree with or if you feel like there is something in your particular situation in your life doesn’t align with the things that I share, that’s fine. You can take or leave these. However, I want to make it as simple as possible. And share three particular food as fuel guidelines.
Number 1: Eat Less Packaged Food
The first guideline that I want to share is to when possible, try to eat less food that comes from packages. Packaged food is processed food. Generally when a food is in a package that we buy at the store, it means that it hasn’t just grown, but that it’s been formulated somehow. Oftentimes in that processing and formulation, there are ingredients added to our foods that are not readily processed by our bodies.
While food processing is something that has happened for thousands and thousands of years, over the last hundred years or even less than that, food processing is dramatically different than before. Historically, food processing was a way to preserve food for future use. It involved smoking, drying, salting, and in some situations canning for future use. All of the methods used for preservation and processing of our food was something that our bodies could also naturally handle because they were done all naturally using air, using salt, sometimes using sugar or heat.
These are all processes that our bodies are fine handling. The difference in preservation and processing of our food came with the industrial revolution because not only did our food start to be processed by machinery instead of people, it also started to include chemicals instead of naturally occurring food substances.
I’m sure that you’ve heard this advice before. It’s widely distributed in the nutritional realm, but the idea that you should only put into your body foods with ingredients that you understand that you can pronounce. Have you heard that before? I’ve also heard kind of a rule of thumb of only eat packaged foods that have five or less ingredients listed on the label.
Now, this is harder than it sounds if you’ve ever tried to adjust your diet to include only foods that have, you know, limited number of ingredients, especially understandable ingredients on the packaging. You’ll realize how far and wide manufactured or processed foods extend. It is really difficult to find packaged food that doesn’t contain preservatives that our bodies don’t recognize as food–that they recognize as chemicals–and what those things do on a macro level.
If we’re talking like big umbrella without getting down into the nitty gritty of all the details, they’re recognized as foreign in in the best case, they cause inflammation which then leads to unwellness or disease. In the worst case they themselves can cause diseases. This one, I know I started with a big one, but as a general rule, a very simple rule to decrease the amount of food that you eat that comes from a package will make the foods you eat automatically be better for you, better received by your body and more whole and healthy for your whole system.
Every part of your body will respond better to foods that are not packaged or processed and I know you’re thinking how, I’m not saying don’t eat any of these because I think that that is really near impossible. Unless you go live off the grid and you homestead and you grow everything yourself, it is really difficult to avoid. And so at the second kind of mini rule that goes underneath this first rule of try to reduce the number of packaged foods that you eat is to when you do eat them, to try to avoid the packaged foods that include preservatives that you do not understand again, and something may have more than five or six ingredients.
However, if you start to get to a point where the ingredient list is so long and the number of letters per word exceeds your ability to pronounce, it’s likely that the detrimental effects of that food on your overall health will not be outweighed by any of its benefits.
Packaged Foods Are Convenient
The only benefit that you can give to that food, or that it will add to your life is convenience. And at times we need that. There are seasons of our lives and there are days and there are moments when we need the convenience of just something. Again, this is the good, that’s the baseline.
What is the better? The better is choosing foods that if they are packaged that have easily understandable ingredients, the fewer the better and the best is to try to avoid foods that come in packages.
Now, some exceptions to this would be frozen foods that they’re in a package but they are a whole food, so like frozen peas that inside the package of peas it’s just peas. Well that’s not really a processed food. It’s just a frozen food and so that’s better than for example, those like pea snacks that people keep trying to think are going to catch on. I don’t know if you’re one of those, I don’t remember what they’re called.
There’s like these peas snacks that are kind of like potato chips except for their peas. They’re like dehydrated pea flour that then other stuff is added to it and because it’s not potato chips, then we think that it’s fine to eat. Maybe it is, I don’t know. I’m not going to act as the expert. I’m just going to give you this very simple rule that if you eat less packaged food, you will more likely be eating healthier than before.
Shop The Periphery
One way that I accomplish rule number one is by shopping the periphery of the grocery store. I’m sure that’s something you’ve heard before too, but it’s worth mentioning again as we get ready for this new year shopping.
The periphery of the grocery store allows me to shop in the produce section and in the dairy section and in the deli section and the bakery and I’m not getting into those aisles where more and more of the foods on the shelves within the aisles are packaged foods full of preservatives that are not great for our systems. Now, I don’t know about every single diet that’s out there, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess that if you talk to any health professional that has any knowledge of nutrition, that they will agree with this rule.
Now, again, I mentioned at the beginning, it’s hard to be universal when we’re talking about something as specific as nutrition because our bodies are all so different. However, eating less packaged and preserved food in general, I believe will fit into any diet or nutrition plan that you have.
It is a good universal rule, as universal as it can get. Okay, so take it or leave it. This is one way that we can be intentional about our food choices.
Intentional Meal Plan
Now, is it a little bit tricky? Yeah, it uses a little bit of extra effort and extra planning and extra forethought, extra cooking probably to eat in a way that fewer of the things that we buy are packaged, but that’s what intentional living is.
And if we, I’m going to talk in a little bit about some ways to do this, but if we get into more of a meal plan or a minimal meal plan, then these things are able to become automatic. Our snacks and meals become more automatic and so we can make them healthier because we don’t have to rethink the wheel every single time. We just follow our own previously planned and scheduled meals and we’re able to make them all higher quality. So I think that it’s possible.
Okay. Even in a really busy time of life, even with really young kids, even if you’re working full time, it is possible to eat better, and avoid packaged foods is the first way that I’m going to recommend that you do that.
Number 2: Eat More Whole Foods
Okay. Let’s move on to number two. Number two is like the inverse of number one, eat more whole foods as close to the ground as you can get them. Mostly plants.
I want to share this awesome Chinese proverb. It says this, “Eating what stands on one leg is better than eating what stands on two legs, which is better than eating what stands on four legs.”
Okay, so let’s back up and think about this a little bit. What stands on one leg? Mushrooms, tomato plants, a bean, vines. Basically any plants are going to stand on one leg, so those are the some of the best things that you can eat.
I want to back up for a second because this proverb doesn’t mention zero legs. There are things with zero legs and those are like fish and oysters and a lot of shellfish. Those things I think roll in in general as far as nutrition. Now maybe you don’t like those as far as taste and you have to take that into account in your own life. But those also are some of the best things that you can eat. So zero or one legs are the best things.
And then two legs. What stands on two legs that we can eat? Mostly birds, right? Poultry. Generally chicken and turkey are where we go for this. But I don’t know, maybe you eat quail too. I would guess most of us don’t. So two legs would be the next kind of category of food according to this Chinese proverb.
Okay. I’m not gonna say that I agree with all of this completely, but it’s something to think about: one leg, then two legs, then of course four legs are cows and pigs and other mammals. Within each of those categories there are going to be differences. Like some one legged vegetables offer more nutrition than others and that’s fine. And some four legged animals offer more nutrition than others and that’s fine.
However, this is kind of the inverse of rule number one. Eat more whole foods as close to the ground as you can get them. So what does this mean? Eating each of these individual foods in its whole form, whether cooked or uncooked, is going to be one of the best ways that we can eat them. What happens when I cook at home? Well, I take these whole food, single ingredients and I combine them myself into a soup or into tacos or into whatever I’m making those foods.
I’m not saying don’t eat tacos because it has lots of different things mixed together. I’m saying that the foods that go into the foods that you make should be as whole and natural as they can be. This is generally going to be better for you than if you eat things that are already mixed together and processed by a machine somewhere else and that is where the package foods come in, right?
So as we decrease the number of packaged and processed foods that we eat naturally, what the inverse of that is is rule number two that the whole foods that we eat naturally will increase. One particular place that this comes into play that I think a lot of us get kind of off the rails with our nutrition is with snacking, with snacks because we tend to in general be a snacking people and that’s cultural, that there’s food available almost all the time within our culture.
And you go to a meeting, there’s food there, you walk past a vending machine in the mall, there’s food, there’s food everywhere. And we raise our kids to know that in between meal times is their snack time. And so what are we going to do for our snacks? And snack foods are some of the most highly processed and highly packaged foods that exist. You know, we get all of these foods and we combine them all together with all this other stuff and then we put them in these little teeny serving sizes that are like a snack size and, yes, it is convenient, absolutely.
But what is just as convenient as like a little bag of goldfish for my kids? Giving them an orange or an apple. That’s just as convenient. In fact, I think that getting to the point where I know that doesn’t work for little tiny kids; you’re not going to be handing your baby an apple to gnaw on. No, of course these things understandably come with developmental stages as well.
If You’re Hungry, Eat An Apple
One of my favorite things as an adult has been getting to the point that when I feel hungry for a snack, that I am more likely right now to reach for an apple or an orange or a pear or whatever I have in the fruit bowl and I deliberately do this. This is a tip. I deliberately leave a bowl of fruit out on my counter or that my dining room table and a bowl, or actually it’s a little jar, a Mason jar of nuts out on the counter so that when I feel hungry in between meals, it’s easier for me to grab an apple or two, or grab a handful of nuts, than it is for me to go dig in the pantry and look for a granola bar or a bag of chips or whatever else I might do.
I don’t tend to eat super elaborate snacks right now unless I’m doing something fun for my kids for an afterschool snack. I really feel like it’s like taken me a long time to get to the point where when I’m hungry I grab an apple.
It’s funny because Michael Pollan, a nutrition journalist and author. He wrote books like Ominvoer’s Dilemma and Food Rules. Food Rules is really cool and it’s a super easy read. It’s just a bunch of ideas of food rules. But one of his kind of sayings is “If you’re hungry, eat an apple. If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you don’t need a snack.” And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. I don’t always eat an apple, sometimes I eat something else, but it is worth mentioning that if you’re hungry, then what your body might be telling you is that it needs actual food.
And a lot of the packaged snacks that we have available are not going to satisfy in the way that your body needs. What they more often tend to do is satisfy a craving or be something that satisfies a cue, like an urge that is just natural because of something else going on in our life that we get this automatic thought, “Oh, I should have a snack.” That has nothing to do with what our body actually needs.
During my years working as a diabetes educator, I was working with mostly type two diabetes patients who because of that condition, need for their health to eat a lower carbohydrate diet. My main takeaway piece of advice that I would give them was to eat more plants. Naturally, this is kind of the same as rule number one or rule number two here. As we eat more plants, we eat less of other things, right? Because there’s only so much that we can eat during a meal.
So if you eat a salad or some roasted vegetables along with your meal, then you have less room in that meal for higher carbohydrate items or higher fat items. And so again, I’m not going to go into all of the specifics because all of that varies so greatly depending on what you’re trying to do and what your own body and ethnicity is. I think that this is, again, a rule that you could talk about with almost anyone, any nutritional counselor. If you said, “Hey, I heard on this podcast that I should eat more single ingredient, whole foods as close to the ground as they come. Do you think that’s a good piece of advice across the board?” People would say yes, because even people who are doing a paleo diet that’s really high in animal proteins want the better animal protein. The more whole the meat, the better it will be for you.
And just a note on meats in general, I only ate white meat and fish, so poultry and fish, for about eight of my growing up years. And then for several years, Dave and I have done vegetarian summers where when there’s such an abundance of produce. We would not eat meat during the summers at all. And then we would eat it once in a while in the winter, there have also been times in my life where we ate more of a traditional Western diet at home for convenience or whatever comfort where meat was kind of the centerpiece of every meal.
That way of eating this traditional Western diet, which is not really a traditional diet at all. It’s kind of like the default that has happened in America over the last couple centuries has led to higher rates of Western diseases, “Western Diseases”, which are Obesity, Type Two Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer than almost any other diet around the whole globe.
So the way that we’re eating in America right now doesn’t seem to be contributing to our overall health. And so some adjustments need to be made. And I want to make the suggestion that the three simple rules that I am sharing with you today can help you do that, can help you turn around your own personal diet or your family’s diet in a way that you are able to eat that in a way that fuels your body, mind, and spirit better than what is sold to you generally, if that makes sense.
So rule number one is to try to eat less packages or processed foods and you know, if you can’t then at least pay a little closer attention to what is in those packages. See if you can find packaged food that you understand the ingredients.
Now rule number two is the inverse of number one. Eat more whole foods as close to the ground as they come.
A Little Bit About Meat
Oh, I wanted to mention about meat. I think I was telling you a little bit about meat. So something that isn’t really widely understood about processed meats or the meats that we buy from the grocery store is that we are eating what the animal has eaten. Okay?
So this is why grass fed beef costs more than regular beef than ground beef at the grocery store or like steak or whatever. If it’s grass fed and grass finished, that means that the cow that we’re eating was eating grass. Why does that cost more? Because cows are supposed to eat grass. That is what they are designed to eat. But because of the way that meat has been in such high demand and so highly produced over the last century, most beef that’s raised and produced for sale for consumption in America is, is cows that have not been eating grass.
They have been eating corn, they eat corn because it’s a lower cost way to fatten up these cows quickly so that they can be processed for the high demand of beef that that exists in America. Now why do the cows have to eat corn? Well, because it has to be turned into a slurry of meal that they can eat standing very close to each other because they’re not, there isn’t the availability of pasture land on some of these meat production facilities for the cows to graze. The land itself doesn’t lend itself to growing grass anymore because there, there are too many cows on this land. Okay, so without getting too political about sustainability in food in this episode, grass fed cows, their meat contains a more balanced protein, carbohydrate and fat level. Then cows that have been fed corn or other substances.
Historically, part of the reason that our nutrition has changed so much, I mean along with the processing of food is that even our meats, even some of these whole foods are not being produced in a way that they naturally would have been produced. And so this is the reason, it’s not just like a ploy to get you to spend more money necessarily.
If we think about the way that the animals that we eat have eaten themselves: like cows eat grass, chickens eat high protein diets when they’re out foraging because they eat bugs. They don’t only eat corn and grain, but they do eat a little of that, but they also scratch and dig and they eat. You know, my chickens are out all day in my backyard digging up little worms and eating like little earwigs and spiders and stuff that’s around the yard.
That higher protein diet from a chicken yields not only higher protein in the meat of the chicken, but also higher protein, higher quality eggs in that chicken. So we are not going to eat our backyard chickens, but we do eat their eggs on a regular basis. Their eggs are higher in nutritional quality than eggs from a traditional or from like a regular egg farm because of the food that the animal itself is eating.
This goes across the board for one of the reasons actually that like kind of wild animals–I guess people who eat venison or buffalo or wild hare, like little rabbit, those wild animals, their protein is leaner, so lower in fat and higher in quality nutrition than any type of farmed animal because they are actually wild. They’re out just doing their thing and eating the things that their species would naturally eat.
I hope that this makes sense. So when I’m talking about eating whole foods as close to the ground as they come, that goes for just eating foods from as natural of a process. So if the cow, so the best, so let’s go back to the good, better, best. So good is just eating a McDonald’s hamburger, right? That can be like your baseline. I’m not going to say it’s good, I’m going to say its baseline. Better is going to be eating beef that you bring home and that you make yourself, that you make hamburgers on the grill yourself, you season it yourself, you know that there isn’t any crazy preservative chemicals in there because you’ve done it yourself. And then best is going to be eating a grass fed cow beef. You know, maybe even better if you can find it from a local farmer at a farmer’s market, but whole foods and all of those places are going to sell these higher quality type meats.
But The Budget
Now here’s where it balances out. I know some of you, you’re having red flags go off as far as budget and you’re like, “Wait, I can’t afford to eat that expensive meat.” But how we do to fit better foods in our normal, totally normal food budget is to eat less meat generally. So we, if we’re only eating red meat or fish twice a week, generally like one night of meat, one night of fish, the rest plant-based, then we don’t have to spend as much money because we don’t have to eat the meat as often. So it all starts to even out.
The same thing goes with packaged foods. Packaged foods come with a lot of convenience, but they don’t come with necessarily with a price that necessarily balance that balances that out. And so if I can, I just made a huge batch of granola yesterday. I had this hankering for granola and my friend (Granola Recipe coming soon!)
I was shocked though as I made it, how much it made. So I kind of added up in my head the price of like the oats and the almond meal and the nuts and things like this. And, and I’m thinking, gosh, this is kind of a lot of fun ingredients that go into this. It’s made with coconut oil and with honey. And so I made this. But then I laid it all out on the sheet and and cooked it like toasted it all and then I pulled it out and I started to scoop it into jars and I was shocked how much granola I had just made.
Like if I were to sell it in a store, you know, this is all, they’re all nice ingredients and stuff. I’m buying granola at the store. Granola was kind of expensive, seven, $8 for a little bag of granola and I probably made six bags worth of granola at home yesterday just on a Sunday afternoon. There is no doubt that being able to make that at home made it way more cost effective than if I was buying it at the store.
One Step At A Time
I want to briefly touch on this idea that some of you may be thinking, this all sounds actually really hard. Like my life is not conducive to not buying packaged foods. My life isn’t conducive to buying whole vegetables and then figuring out what to do with them. How would I do this? How would I incorporate these nutritional principles into my lifestyle and the life of my family?
The first thing I want to say is that some change, some improvement is better than no improvement. So replacing one snack a week with a whole food instead of a packaged food is going to be improvement.
Replacing one meal a week with something homemade is going to be an improvement. Doing something is always better than doing nothing if it means progress. Because of the all-or-nothing thinking that a lot of us tend to have, we say, “I can’t do all that. And so I’m not going to do any of that.” And I want to tell you right now that if you make one small change for the better of your nutrition, intentionally eating foods that are meant to fuel your mind, body, and spirit, you will feel better.
So don’t simply discard this episode and this information if you’re not ready to make a huge like nutrition overhaul, especially if you find yourself eating a lot of fast food, eating solely packaged foods. I’ve been there, there was a time during my pregnancy with Plum that I didn’t want to cook because I actually couldn’t be around vegetables for most of my pregnancies. They like really stunk. I thought everything was rotting.
The only things that I could eat were frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. And so Dave and I would drive with the cooler from Austin. This is at the time Austin didn’t have Trader Joe’s in the city. The closest was San Antonio. So we would put a cooler in the back of the car, drive down to hours, load up the cooler with frozen meals like frozen fettuccine and frozen mac and cheese and frozen pizzas and frozen Thai food and whatever and go home and spend the next month eating these frozen dinners. Those were the only things that I would eat.
And when I had younger kids, I mean it was so easy to just rip open a thing of orange chicken and toss it on a pan and call it good. Like I have been there and I get that and it’s okay. It’s okay to have those seasons. This is where I’m saying that making one small change, like replace one packaged food with a whole food, or try to eat one whole snack or give your kids one whole snack instead of a packaged snack. Every once in a while these things are gonna add up. We eat packaged foods still too. I don’t want to act like my family’s all like living this homestead life. No, we totally eat packaged food still too.
I pay way closer attention than I used to, to what ingredients are in there. There are absolutely foods that I will not buy because of the ingredients. And so I just leave it. So it’s a spectrum, right? And so we’re all along this pathway on our own journey and it’s okay. Wherever you are right now is okay. And I believe that you can make one small improvement by listening to this episode.
One thing that I want to say that can contribute to that is meal planning. And I have a really different approach to meal planning than a lot of people. I don’t believe that meal planning should be an added stress or that you should create some new gourmet menu every single week. My approach to meal planning is very minimal and it is creating a system that works well for your family and putting it on repeat for as long as you can. I actually have, so I will refer you to my episode about meal planning.
Podcast Episode 22is all about a minimal meal plan. And because of the incredible feedback that I’ve gotten on that episode, I’m in the process right now of creating a minimal meal plan e-course that will include not only seven days and seven dinners, but also ideas for breakfast and lunch and some of my very favorite, very simple recipes for dinners that are family friendly.
So keep an eye out for that in the next month or two, my Seven Days, Seven Dinners Minimal Meal Plan e-course will be available and I would love for you to check it out if this is something that you feel like you’re struggling with. We’re going to incorporate the ideas of basic, basic, kind of back to the basic nutritional values and create it in a way that your family can eat really well without all of the stress and overwhelm of trying to come up with something new all the time.
Number 3: Listen To Your Body
Okay, so tip number three, this maybe should have been tip number one, but I want to finish up the episode with this. Number three is to listen to your body, mind, and spirit when it comes to what you want to eat. This is a principle of intuitive eating. I believe that we are all different. I believe that the two overarching principles that I gave you today are fairly universal and I would be surprised if someone you know who has some background in nutrition would tell you that no, you definitely should eat all of the packaged foods with all the chemicals in them that you can. I think that the two principles that I’ve given you today are very sound. But at the end of the day, you have to listen to your body when it comes to what you eat.
There is a caveat here, though, and this is something that I talk about a lot about with consumption. Like with our intentional living, trying to reduce the amount of things that we buy from traditional retailers. The reason is your body can tell you lies if it is induced by one of the chemicals that is inside the foods that you’ve been eating that aren’t great for you.
Now let me just back up and tell you what happens. When you eat a high carbohydrate, high sugar food, your body gets a spike of insulin. That spike of your blood sugar goes up and so your insulin goes up to help your cells absorb the sugar. And then what happens is you start to come down and when you’ve had a high quick spike, you tend to also have a quick low, a quick descent.
So when you have this quick descent, your body starts to feel like you might be getting to a place where you have a dangerously low blood sugar. Your body doesn’t necessarily respond to the exact blood sugar number as if you were to use a glucose monitor. Your body responds to the up and down feeling like on a roller coaster. When you’re going down, think of the feeling when you drop over the edge of a roller coaster and your stomach kind of ends up in your throat. Now your body feels that sensation. It doesn’t know that you’re safe. All it feels is that you’re falling.
Now if your blood sugar goes super high, you may be falling into a normal range into a place that you’re totally fine, but your body feels that drop, that crash. And so what it does is give you a craving. It tells you we have to eat something sweet now because we need that sugar in order to survive, so if you listen to your body, if you are on the roller coaster of eating really high carbohydrate, really high sugar foods that are contained in a lot of that packaging.
A lot of the foods that I’m talking about, this is the culprit. It’s really high processed carbohydrates and sugars. Those are the two things that are in almost all packaged foods and it was crazy. I told you a couple episodes ago that at the beginning of 2019 I did a three-week sugar cleanse and part of the guidelines was to look for any form of sugar or refined carbohydrates in any of the foods we ate. We were trying to eliminate those things just for three weeks to kind of kickstart some new habits.
The only things that I could eat were whole foods and vegetables because every single package included sugar. Things you wouldn’t think: ketchup, bacon and mustard. There were like all of these things that I was like, “Why is there sugar in ketchup? Why is there sugar in corn chowder? Why is there sugar in sushi?” I started eating a package of sushi from Trader Joe’s. I will admit that I have a blind spot when it comes to Trader Joe’s because I just love them so much. I know that everything they sell is not healthy, but I still like kind of have this soft spot.
So I got some sushi at Trader Joe’s thinking this is fine. And then I started to eat it and look to the packaging casually and I was like, “Brown sugar in the rice? Why is there Brown sugar in the rice of the sushi?” If I made the sushi at home, or even if they made it at like a restaurant, they wouldn’t put brown sugar in the rice.
Sugar is not the only culprit. The whole point is that when our body is telling us to eat because of a message that it has received because of the food that we’ve eaten, that is a craving. That’s an unnecessary message that tells us you need to eat a Snickers bar or you need to eat some Oreos or you need to eat quick carbohydrates. That’s what our body wants when our blood sugar is dropping. But what if our blood sugar is dropping because we just ate cereal for breakfast and there was no fat or protein in it to help our body actually retain the blood sugar over time or stabilize our blood sugar.
Craving v. Hunger
Okay, so it’s getting a little technical. I can tell your eyes are glazing over. So I’m going to just back it up and say there are two types of messages that your body will send you. One is craving and one is hunger. Now, I want you to determine the difference by eating something that is a whole food that doesn’t contain a whole lot of sugar in it in order to determine the difference.
If your body has a craving that it just wants to stabilize a crashing blood sugar and you eat something like a handful of almonds, okay, assuming you can tolerate nuts, you might not feel satiated, you might feel like it’s kind of an empty craving and it wants you to eat something sweet and so it might feel like that was an empty, like it didn’t solve the problem, right?
However, if you’re hungry and you eat something that is nutritionally valid, then you will feel more satisfied. And so I guess my message for number three is that you need to listen to your body unless your nutrition currently is such that your body is going to be telling you mistruths.
If your body is going to be telling you to eat foods that are not actually going to solve any naturally occurring nutritional need, then maybe you want to question some of the things that your body tells you. Now this also goes into play with what is your mind saying? What are your emotions tell you? And I think that a lot of us can eat emotionally and I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. I would venture that we should be careful, more careful about what we eat when we are feeling emotional because we’re probably more susceptible to eating things that are a quick fix for our emotions rather than eating something that will actually fuel ourselves in a way that we feel better.
And so, maybe it’s good that this is number three because when, when you listen to this, number three, listen to your body, mind, and spirit when it comes to eating and when you are listening to it, I want you to refer back to number one and two. Okay?
So your body is telling you that you’re hungry and that you need to eat something. If it’s a craving, especially if it’s a craving for something specific, I want you to try to think of the best way to satisfy that craving without having wholly detrimental effects on your health. So go back to:
- Number one: Can I satisfy this craving without a packaged food?
- Number two: Can I satisfy this craving with some sort of a whole food?
A plant based food if possible. How do I satisfy this craving without simply reaching for a packaged food full of processed sugars and carbohydrates and chemicals that will actually just then in turn perpetuate the craving that I have?
I hope that after this episode you will continue to listen to this show because I do have a lot to say about nutrition and I tried to keep it simple. I feel like a little bit here and there. I went a little soapboxy on you. My nutritional values do not have to be yours. However, whether we like it or not, our bodies need fuel. Our bodies need foods that can be absorbed readily into ourselves in a way that they provide energy for all of the different systems for our brain, for our heart, for our lungs, for our skin, for our digestive health. All of this needs fuel and I get to choose what I fuel it with. Food, preferably the best food that I can on the good, better, best spectrum.
The best foods that I can give my body are going to be the least processed and the most whole. And as I do that, it will become easier and easier to listen to what my body says about food because I will have eliminated a lot of the mismatched signals of specific cravings for things that are not good for me and my body will start. I’ll be able to trust that the things that my body wants to eat, then we’ll actually solve a nutritional problem rather than just perpetuate the rollercoaster of this typical Western diet that’s happening right now.
I would love to answer any questions that you have. My main advice if you are interested in making some small shifts in your nutrition that enable you to kind of align yourself more fully with these tips that I offered today. My main piece of advice is that you create a plan that you like and that you repeat it over and over and over again. So listen to Episode 22 about minimal meal planning. Look for my Seven Days, Seven Dinners Meal Planning e-course that’s going to come out in a few weeks or a month or two.
And basically, even if it’s just one thing, even if it’s just one snack that you can be consistent with, that you can add a little thought to and make sure that you have that on hand so that it can be your go-to or just one dinner a week or one meal a week that you feel like, “okay, I’m going to nail this one” and then don’t feel bad about anything else.
Just know that we’re all working hard, we’re all on the process. We’re all doing the best that we can. And the more we know, the better we can do. And so that was my hope today is that by sharing some very basic universal nutrition truths, that you will be able to make a couple small adjustments in the way that you live in order to get back on track or kind of move yourself forward. Progress in this very basic piece of intentional living, which is choosing what we put into our bodies.
Thank you so much for being here. I would love to hear if you have any questions and I would love to try to answer them. I’d love to hear your feedback or things that work for you. Please share those in the comments of the show notes at livefreecreative.co/podcast, and I will talk to you again next week. We’re going to be talking about movement and I’ll catch you then.