My Way of Eating*

*[Not to be confused with Morris Dithers’ answer in this classic SCTV skit.]

[The main course table from my recent holiday potluck with nutritionist friends, clockwise from top left: [out of the photo–Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts]; Southwest Brown Rice Casserole with Beans [white bowl behind cutlery]; Tempeh-Brown Rice Curry and Vegetables; Baby Spinach Salad; Rutabaga Gratin; Cinque Pizza with olives, green pepper, faux meat and onion; and (in red casserole in center) Carrot and Sweet Potato Latkes.  The latkes were fried–I have no idea what kind of oil she used.  Yes, I ate one.]

In recent years, it seems, we’ve all become hyper aware of the connection between food and health; it’s one of the hottest topics on the internet, twitter, blogs, or in magazines; you can’t read anything, flick on the television or listen to the radio without someone discussing a new study or mentioning a specific food and how it is or is not good for us.  Goji berries?  Superfood. Kale? Will save your eyes. Sugar? The devil.  Trans fats? Avoid at all costs. Refined flours?  Shortcut to a heart attack.  And so on. How do you decide what to eat?

Well, I had originally planned to tackle this rather amorphous topic in the new year, once we’d all recovered a bit from the holidays and I had more time to craft a thoughtful post about it (since I’ll be on vacation then–whoo hoo!). Instead, I’m going to leap right in today after receiving the following comment on the Simply Bar giveaway post (the first part in quotation marks is what I wrote in the original post itself):

“In addition, the company has prided itself on using real, natural ingredients, without any added fillers in their bars. For example, the “Cocoa with Raspberry” flavor contains soy crisps (like rice crisps in texture and taste), organic agave nectar, organic brown rice syrup, organic cocoa, raspberries, organic canola oil.” Six ingredients–that’s it!”

SOY CRISPS! has the world gone mad? I appreciate that these bars only have a few ingredients in them, but they are a few, highly processed ingredients.

Soy crisps – a bean that is only truly digestible when fermented, is processed into a crisp?

Canola oil – oil that is high in inflammation promoting omega 6, processed from rapeseeds and should only be eaten raw.

Agave syrup – the sugars of the agave cactus without the natural brake of fibre, controversy rages about whether it is low or high GI.

Brown Rice syrup – sugars inherent in rice – highly processed, super high GI, even though it’s brown rice!

Only six ingredients? Whatever happened to the good old nut and fruit bars of my childhood made entirely from nuts and dried fruit? I’d rather have a bar of dark chocolate than one of these!

Since I not only promoted the bar on my blog but actually eat them, I felt a response was in order (and I will respond to the email itself toward the end of the post).

First, let me outline how I decide what to eat and what not to eat; here, then, are the principles I follow and firmly believe in when it comes to “eating healthfully.” (This is not a post about how to keep to a healthy diet over the holidays; I dealt with that subject here. )

[African Sweet Potato Stew–pretty darned good for you.]

I. Aim for a Diet That’s 100% “Good-for-You”. . . .

More than anything else about food, I believe that we are, literally, made up of what we put into our mouths, whether food, drink, or breath. Whether fresh or rancid, pesticide-laden or organic, whole grain or refined, local or imported, dirt-still-clinging-to-its-roots or packed in a BPA-lined bag inside a box, food will contribute to the makeup of every cell in your body.

In nutrition school, we learned about a diet called NAG–Natural, Alive, and Good Quality.  I wrote more about it in this post.  Basically, the diet aims to include only real, whole, unprocessed and organic ingredients, with most (if not all) nutrition coming from plant sources.  Lucky for me, I love healthy foods (I also happen to love unhealthy foods–but that’s a topic for another post).

My own tweaks to the NAG foundation were made because of the anti-candida diet I now follow (about which I wrote more here and here), and include, for the most part: no sugar (and most other sweeteners), no sweet fruits; nothing fermented (with a few exceptions); nothing moldy or yeasty (mushrooms, nutritional yeast, alcoholic beverages, many nuts and some fruits, etc); nothing highly processed (packaged or most canned goods); no gluten; very few legumes; no eggs or dairy.  (The ACD typcially allows organic chicken, beef and fish, but I don’t eat those.)  I include tofu occasionally, which is considered “acceptable” in about half the anti-candida diets out there (there is quite a bit of variation about what is included in the diet).

With the ACD, you will ideally re-introduce many of the banned foods after you’ve been following it for a while and are feeling better. For instance, now that I’ve been on the diet for over two years and am 90% better, I am eating some fruits, using (gluten free) flours, and consuming the very occasional treat with agave nectar or coconut sugar.

About my own eating habits, let me be clear: during the first couple of phases of the ACD, I followed the diet one hundred percent, 100% of the time–I never “cheated.”  That’s because I was in great distress about my poor health and wanted to heal as quickly as possible.  However, as one of our teachers at nutrition school remarked, even following the ACD “most of the time” will, eventually, lead to diminished yeast in the body and better health; it will just take longer.

[This would definitely be a rare treat. . . even if I weren’t on the ACD. Cake recipe in Sweet Freedom; frosting here.]

II. . . .90% of the Time.

Just as highschool graduates might send their first applications to Ivy League schools; as aspiring editors aim to nab a spot at a “big house” like Farrar, Straus and Giroux; or as newly-graduated life coaches dreams of being on Oprah, when it comes to eating, I believe we should endeavor to eat only the best quality, healthiest foods.  But what happens when the grad isn’t accepted by Harvard or Yale; if the young editor is offered a job at Harlequin; or the life coach lands a local radio spot instead?  Do they decline the lesser offer, or worse–give up entirely?  Of course not.

In an ideal universe, I’d be eating a top-notch, 100% “perfect” diet all the time.  My meals would be 70% raw, all organic, as close as possible to the condition they’re in when they’re plucked from the ground, and entirely unprocessed–things like this, or this, or this.  While I may have lofty ideals when it comes to food and eating, I understand that reality doesn’t always comply. Consequently, I try not to beat myself up if I can’t achieve that ideal.  If I can remain compliant 90% of the time, I’m okay with having something less than perfect the other 10%. (Certainly, there are other food bloggers out there who manage such menus far more often–and more consistently–than I).

For example, I’ve mentioned before that the HH enjoys eating in restaurants, and we still frequent them occasionally.  I’ve found a couple of places that actually serve ACD-friendly food (at one, “Israeli Salad” consisting of fresh cucumber, tomato and onion with olive oil and lemon juice alongside hummus; at the other, gluten free pizza crust with toppings of my choice, usually roasted garlic, baked tomato, red onion, spinach and black olives).  As a result, we tend to patronize either of those most of the time.

Once a month, though, we head to a Malaysian restaurant I adore.  They’re willing to provide vegan options and also hold the sugar at my request.  Great!  But I am fairly certain that they don’t grease their woks with organic coconut oil (or anything organic, for that matter); and I am not willing to stress about this.  If I consume a small quantity of less-than-healthy oil once a month, I rely on the remaining 90% of my uber-healthy diet to compensate; it’s worth it to me to be able to enjoy the rest of the meal.

 

III. Listen to your body.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been rediscovering books by Geneen Roth and am devoted to her intuitive approach to eating–letting your body determine when, what and how much you eat.  The woman has effectively peeked into my psyche (and my pantry), and I relate to her ideas on food as psychological comfort, how food serves many other purposes besides nourishment, and how we can learn to enjoy eating in the most natural and instinctive fashion.  I’m not entirely “there”  yet when it comes to attending to my body’s messages, but I’m learning.

I had my first epiphany about listening to my body only about a month ago, when I first began to experiment with coconut sugar. Having baked only with stevia (and a miniscule amount of yacon or agave) until then, being able to use a one-for-one sugar replacement was thrilling.  I went a little crazy in the kitchen, baking cookies, brownies, bars, muffins and whatever else I could think of.  I also tasted them all. . . and then some. I probably ate more baked goods in that week than I had in the previous six months.  If that episode had occurred two years ago, it would likely have spiralled into an endless round of sweet binges, fuelled by sugar and guilt and the rationalization that “it’s the holidays.”

Instead, something odd occurred: I suddenly didn’t feel like eating so many sweets any more.  My body said, “Give me kale!  Give me black bean soup!  Give me cinque e’ cinque!” (somehow, my body managed to pick up Italian while I was sleeping). I averted a crisis simply by listening to the physical signals I routinely ignored in the past.  It felt great, and I’m striving to improve my skills in that area, and practise it more often. Your body intuitively knows what’s good for you.  Listen to it.

[Meant to be eaten with friends:  Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce.]

IV. Lighten Up (Are We Having Fun Yet?)

Earlier yesterday on twitter, a famous vegan cookbook author asked, “Q: how much oil in a recipe before you won’t make it? Does mention of 1/2 c olive oil freak anyone out? 1/3 cup better? What is OK?”.  Well, I think the answer depends on several factors.  What kind of oil is it?  How many servings does the recipe make?  How much of it will I be eating at one sitting? How often will I eat it? Half cup (the amount in the recipe) is 8 tablespoons (120 ml) or 24 teaspoons (24 x 5 ml).  If the dish yields 20 servings (a baked dessert), that’s less than 2 teaspoons per serving.  If it’s a main course that makes 8-10 servings, it’s still 1 tablespoon or less per serving–less than most people use on one salad.  Mostly, I wouldn’t think twice if the dish were a special occasion recipe–it’s only once in a while, anyway.

What struck me about the exchange was the idea that based on the amount of oil alone, people would eschew the entire recipe.  I know people who eat raw coconut oil by the tablespoon, yet the idea of 1/2 cup in an entire recipe is anathema.

A while back, I was asked in a comment on this post  about whether roasting nuts renders them less healthy–and, of course, the short answer is “yes.” But do I want to eat raw nut butter all of the time? No.  I like the taste of toasted nuts better than the taste of raw nuts.  Nuts still contain healthy fats.  They are still a real food.  So I eat them toasted sometimes, and I don’t worry about it.

My point is that you can be so focused on the health-related characteristics of your food that you overlook the fact that food is supposed to taste good and confer pleasure.  As Andrew Weil notes in his book, Eating Well for Optimum Health, a rigid adherence to eating only “healthy” foods can negate the pleasure we get from sharing our meals with others–and sometimes the social contact is more important to our health than the absolute quality of the food we’re eating.

Which brings me back to the comment that started it all.  Here’s my response to each of the points made by the commenter:

Soy crisps – a bean that is only truly digestible when fermented, is processed into a crisp? Yes, soy crisps are processed (they contain non-GMO soy protein, tapioca starch and salt); see my comments above about 90%/10%.  As I’ve mentioned before, even though fermented soy is more easily digestible than non-fermented (eg, tofu), I do not avoid tofu or other non-fermented soy (eg, soymilk) in moderation.  It is a great source of protein and contains isoflavones that are advantageous in myriad ways, plus many other health benefits.  While it’s not for everyone (you can read about the pros and cons yourself), for me, soy’s numerous health benefits–and the fact that it’s been a staple food in many Asian cultures for centuries–makes it a desirable food.

Canola oil – oil that is high in inflammation promoting omega 6, processed from rapeseeds and should only be eaten raw. As far as I know (or can find information in my nutrition texts and online), canola oil is considered a “monounsaturated fat” because it contains mostly (about 55%) monounsaturated fatty acids.  Like any oil, canola is made up of mono-, poly- and saturated fats in different ratios.  It does contain Omega 6 oil, but it also contains a larger percent of Omega 3.  In any case, unless the canola is organic and cold pressed, I wouldn’t want to consume it at all. Like any oil that is liquid at room temperature, canola is best when unheated.  It might not be my first choice for baking or cooking (I don’t ever use it at home); however, I am not too concerned about eating a snack with it on occasion (see point II, above).

Agave syrup – the sugars of the agave cactus without the natural brake of fibre, controversy rages about whether it is low or high GI. I know that some people think agave is evil.  I am not one of those people.  The glycemic index (GI) of agave, when organic and processed without excess heat or chemicals, is relatively low (38 or so).  Like any other natural sweetener, agave is harmful in large quantities.  However, having read several articles about it, I’ve decided that, for me, agave is a good sweetener as long as it’s organic and not overly processed.  Like maple syrup, it requires some processing to convert the raw sap into what we buy in the store.  It is still a delicious, low glycemic sweetener–but like any sweetener, should be eaten in small quantities and as a treat.

Brown Rice syrup – sugars inherent in rice – highly processed, super high GI, even though it’s brown rice!  Again, brown rice syrup is a traditional natural sweetener that’s been used for ages.  The sugars inherent in rice are no worse, as far as I can tell, than the sugars inherent in wheat, spelt, millet, or any other grain.  And while some processing is, of course, required to convert rice to a sweetener, I have been able to find absolutely no corroboration that brown rice syrup is high GI.  Most of the articles I’ve come across list its glycemic index as around 25-35–rather low.

Given my own approach to healthy eating, I am comfortable consuming snacks such as The Simply Bar on occasion.  If the bars’ ingredients don’t jibe with what you think is healthy, please, don’t eat them. I’m grateful to the commenter for prompting me to examine my viewpoint on these ingredients and articulate my eating philosophy in general.

[“Does this mean we get to listen to our bodies, too, Mum?  Because my body is telling me that it’s time you gave me a treat.”]

Perhaps most importantly when it comes to our diets, however, is that I believe each of us must make our own informed choices about the food we put in our mouths.  If  my approach doesn’t resonate with you, that’s fine; there are many other approaches out there to pursue.  With so many sources of illness in our world–toxins, pollution, carcinogens, molds, bacteria, germs, viruses, electromagnetic pollution–I could go on–I think it’s essential that we don’t allow ourselves to become bogged down in the negative impact of them all.  It’s still possible to eat well and enjoy your food while keeping an eye open to the possible drawbacks.

Whew!  And if you made it this far in the post, well, I think you deserve a reward.  Go get yourself a huge piece of chocolate, or maybe a (thin) slice of cake–made with real, organic ingredients, of course. 😉

I’d love to hear what you think about the issue–what constitutes a “healthy” diet in your mind?

********************

Last Year at this Time:Flash in the Pan/Gastronomic Gift: Brazil Nut-Cilantro Pesto (all stages of ACD; gluten free)

Two Years Ago: Gastronomic Gifts III: Marzipan-Topped Shortbread Cookies (not gluten free; ACD maintenance only)

Three Years Ago: Pumpkinseed Shortbread Buttons (gluten free; ACD maintenance only)

© 2010 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Comments

  1. I love this post Ricki!! All or nothing in diet and health doesn’t work for most people including me. I subscribe to the 80/20 rule. Eat awesome 80% of the time, then I don’t need to get all bent out of shape if I have a vegan donut I can’t resist. I’m also about 80/20 when it comes to gluten. When I cook at home no gluten, but eating out becomes more difficult.

    I’m really happy that blogs like yours exist, teaching others how to nourish themselves with healthy delicious food. I’m sick of all the vegan chefs/blogs that promote delicious food that is nutritionally void and full of processed crap. Just because it’s vegan doesn’t make it healthy.

  2. This is a tricky issue and one that I run into with commenters on my blog from time to time. I really do agree with you wholeheartedly that each person must ultimately choose what is best for their own diets. With the recent slew of people moving away from veganism because their bodies were telling them that they were not getting the nutrition they needed, tells me that every body is different. I came to veganism for health reasons (and I am sticking with it most of the time because my body prefers it), so I can fully appreciate why someone else might need to move away from it, or why they might need to become gluten-free.

    I think that there is just so much negativity around food. I’m definitely one of those people that is frustrated with the amount of HFCS, GMO wheat and soy in the nation’s diets. But if I am really honest, I don’t always avoid those foods 100% of the time. Sometimes it is because of others’ food choices (if I’m visiting relatives, for example, and they are buying food for our meals), and sometimes it is because the financial cost difference between organic and GMO is so vastly different that I cave and buy the GMO.

    I’m all for eating more consciously, but at the same time I fear that it becomes a religion for some people and that in those moments the enjoyment of food is lost altogether. I also think that some people imagine that when we say we like a certain treat that we are advocating that people eat these treats all the time. The reality is probably far different than what people imagine.

    • I agree–I think everyone is different and what works for one may not work for another. And we do have a lot of negativity around food these days–but then again, food has devolved into lots of “non-food,” too. I do hope people don’t misunderstand when I advocate certain treats–as much as I wish I could eat them all the time, that’s not realistic for me! 😉

  3. This is a beautifully written post, Ricki. You articulated yourself so well, and I definitely agree with a lot of your points. I think that “healthy eating” is so individual and actually quite a broad term. There is a lot of conflicting information about what is considered healthy and what is not. Soy is a very controversial topic right now- some people seem to think it is the devil while others think it is health food. I really believe that individuals should do their own research, experiment with different foods, see what works for their bodies and what makes them feel their best. I have also read a few books by Geneen Roth and I love her philosophies on eating. I love the idea of trusting your body to know what is best. I also think the point you brought up from Andrew Weil about enjoying your food and enjoying the company of others is very important. Obsessing over how healthy our food is causes stress, and I firmly believe that stress is not good for our health. Seems a little counter-intuitive, no? I have not started my studies in nutrition yet, but as of this moment, my personal way of eating (and it’s something I highly recommend to others!) is to eat food that makes me feel good, allow room for treats, and to get the most joy out of food and life as I can.

    • Thanks, Hayley. 🙂 True, there is so much conflicting evidence out there that we really have to be our own advocates. And I think I have quite enough stress, thank you–don’t need to add more by stressing about what I eat or don’t eat! 😉

  4. I love this post and have to agree with you on several factors.

    I recently did a Candida Cleanse to deal with some health issues. Afterwards I kept saying “Now I can have sugar, barbque sauce, a martini!” To add to that I dealt with some heavy food poisoning which had me only craving carbs and sugar- cereal, coconut water, cookies. Anything else seemed dangerous to my stomach nausea. But after a few days of indulging in these cravings, I know my body still wants to continue the Candida diet since I was feeling SO much better while on it. I’m re-introducing grains, a bit of honey and maple syrup, but I need to cut back on a lot of the heavier sugar/flour items for my health.

    Thank you for the well written blog and reminder. I look forward to meeting you in January!

    • I know what you mean, Gillian, about falling back into old habits–that’s what got me in this predicament in the first place. But habits are difficult to change. . . and it does seem to take a lot of time and patience! Looking forward to meeting you, too. 🙂

  5. Great, though-provoking post! Good stuff. My comment could be a mini thesis statement, but lucky for you, I don’t have much time. =) Whole foods, organic and local. Food that rots, food that you can hold in your hands and wash, food that bugs WILL eat, food that your grandmother would recognize, food with no labels. Those are some basic rules I follow. Belonging to an organic CSA makes it easy and educational. Oh, and I agree, nothing better than a piece of cake on occasion.
    Peace, love and sensible eating.
    Melissa

  6. How fortunate for us that you took the time to respond to the comment (because you certainly did not need to defend your choice!)

    I learned much from this post and would have to say that fundamentally I agree with your approach. I eat very healthy…and sometimes I eat (vegan) junk. Some things in moderation, and occasionally, keep me focused on a mostly very healthy way of eating.

  7. Well written post, Ricki. I too am on the ACD, & the myriad of versions of this diet can at times be confusing (& painful, when trying something that one person can tolerate, but finding that I can’t). Going on this diet has taught me so much about food, & my own body’s response to food. Through my own trial & error, & listening to my body, I’ve discovered what I can & cannot eat. My body is highly sensitive to anything that contains a high amount of carbs, yet my boyfriend can consume whatever he puts in his mouth. Each body is different & unique.

    What I think it all comes down to is listening to your body. Dietitians, nutritionists, & doctors can recommend what foods to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, but no one knows your own body than yourself. & I think that’s the most reliable source to go on.

    As for soy, it’s something that I too have in moderation, in flour & milk forms. It’s the only other flour besides coconut flour that my body can handle. I can’t consume almond or oat milk as my body doesn’t tolerate either almonds or oats, so I deviate between soy milk & lactose-free dairy milk. These don’t cause me great amounts of stomach pain, lethargy, brain-fog & so many other symptoms of Candida that I get hit with.

    Thanks again for this great post. With the food blogs that I follow, I always find it interesting to hear everyones stories; we all have such different & unique relationships with food, yet I find our similarities are that we understand what it is like to live with food allergies & intolerances. Good luck with your ACD, & I look forward to more of your recipes.

    • I remember wondering when I did the ACD the first time how anyone could figure out what to eat, there are so many variations! 😉 And re: soy, especially if one is vegan on the ACD, it is a savior in the protein department. 😉 Good luck to you, as well–it can be done!

  8. Bravo!!! Bravo!!! (imagine standing ovation here) So well said. It’s often difficult to balance how fast I want to heal with the diet of a “normal” person and the accompanying social interactions. I’m often too hard on myself because I want health NOW. Once I feel my health issues are under control, I’m not sure I’ll know how to eat. 🙂 Hopefully I will continue to make good choices most of the time.

    I’m getting rather tired of all the “food police” that are coming out of the woodwork lately and are all too happy to pass judgement on how one eats. People need to relax and keep their minds on their own choices. I am also tired of people in my life who assume guilt because they don’t eat “healthy” the way I do. I try to convince them the idea of “healthy eating” is different for everyone and they should do what works for them. I’m rarely successful and then I feel guilt because they feel guilt. (sigh) Anyway…

    Ricki – You are a constant source of inspiration. Thank you for taking the time.

    • Kim, I know how you feel. After 2 years on this diet, I wanted health a year ago!! 😉 On the other hand, I would never have cut out all the sugar if not for the ACD, so it has helped me immensely. And thank you for your kind words. . . readers like you make it very much worth it! 🙂

  9. Very comprehensive and excellent post, Ricki. The one thing I will add about canola oil is that rapeseed naturally contains over 50% erucic acid, a toxic fatty acid. All rapeseed in this country has been either genetically modified or rigorously selectively bred to contain less than 2% erucic acid. This info is semi-new to me, so I’m still phasing canola oil of my diet (but I hate wasting, so I’m using up what I’ve got at home first!). That said, I completely concur with the 90/10 ow 80/20 philosophy of eating healthfully. (Oh, and I still eat my share of soy, too!)

    • Yes, we learned about canola being mostly GMO (unless organic) in nutrition school–I haven’t used it since then. However, I know that it’s a very popular oil in restaurants because of the high smoke point. I don’t worry about it, as I rarely order anything that might contain it, anyway–it is a rare thing for me to consume it (even in a Simply Bar–I don’t have them very often). 🙂

  10. Hi Ricki – this was a fantastic post. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and eloquence. And, I should add, this is coming from a person who really avoids soy crisps and would choose to not eat the Simply Bars, yet in a pinch will eat a Lara bar even though they have dates which I otherwise generally avoid.

    I too believe in 100% good-for-you eating (you’ve seen my lunchboxes on my blog) but once in a while I do enjoy dinner out with my husband and it is hard for those times to be 100% good-for-you-all-organic-etc. One of our favorite restaurants has a mostly-organic farm-to-table menu, but a couple of the others do not. Sadly, my husband does not love the all-vegan restaurant two blocks away which also uses mostly organic ingredients (and some raw dishes) – and while I wish we did most of our eating out there, it would be kind of sad to not experience more places either.

    I used to be one of those 80/20 people – now I am probably more 95/5 people, and that’s ok. Some of it, I should add, is also dictated by my own health issues i.e. I do avoid fried foods like the plague because of my gallbladder issues AND the fact I recently discovered I am highly intolerant to any hydrogenated oils – if I did not have that particular set of facts in hand, I would likely indulge a little more often in vegan gluten-free offerings at various ethic restaurants that are fried.

    Oh, and very occasionally, I do indulge in Daiya (non-soy) or Sheese (soy-based) cheese which, frankly, are far more processed than many of the organic processed foods I avoid. I have been able to avoid Sheese for almost a year now and think I will stick to it, but last had Daiya 5 months ago and am hankering for it again.

    • Oops, I meant to say pan-fried.

      • Ok – so i keep not finishing this comment because of interruptions. What I meant to say is that your post was super eloquent and we all have different ways of eating that work for us. But then I got wordy and confusing 😛

        • I hear you about eating out. I also prefer the raw or all-vegan restaurants–and my hubby will even go to them–but they are so far from us that it has to be a special occasion rather than regular event. I’m in awe of your 95/5! I find 90/10 a bit of a challenge, but I’m doing it for the ACD. I’m totally not tempted by things like Daiya or Sheese, though, so I guess that’s lucky 😉

          • Husband does indulge me in jaunts to Cafe Green once in a while – he did not like their spring and summer menus, but is loving a couple of dishes on the winter menu, so hopefully we will go again sooner rather than later. I also tend to meet up there with friends. 95/5 is paradoxically quite doable when I am working all the time (such as now) – no time to cook much or socialize means I am doing lots and lots of fast smoothies and some vegetables over quinoa type meals and, with no time to socialize, no restaurant meals.

            You are so lucky not to be tempted by Daiya. That is definitely my processed food downfall – there was a bad phase over the spring when I had it twice weekly for a bit (totally messing up my 95/5 ratio 😛 and I did not care either) but I tried to be intuitive about it and sure enough, within a few weeks I got sick of it.

            At the end of the day, eating 100% unprocessed foods is hard. We all have different reasons for eating different foods 🙂

  11. Um, whoa. If someone commented on something I’d eaten that way, I would seriously go out and take pictures of French fries and vegan donuts and post them non-stop for, like, two weeks. Ugh. Talk about vegan police. Some people really need to lighten up. What’s funny though is so often, the uptight vegan police are often newbies who are just way too excited about their new healthy habits….and now they’re on a mission to convert the world. Whatevs. Major turn-off.

    Your eating strategy makes total sense. It’s still way better than mine, and I look up to you as inspiration. I’m not in any way against processed food and “junk” food. But I try to eat healthy sometimes…you know, gotta have balance, right?

    • I didn’t intend the post as an attack on the commenter, or retaliation–just clarification as to why I hosted the giveaway even though I am aware that some of the ingredients may not be 100% NAG-friendly. I would point out that they ARE almost all organic, however. 😉 I think food police, whether vegan or not, can be a bit too strident for my taste (no pun intended!). And I agree wholeheartedly–balance! 🙂

  12. Great post! I think listening to your body is so very important, I am learning too. When I had food sensitivity tests, everything that came up as a problem made sense with what my body was saying.
    Healthy is different for everyone. To me it means homemade foods with whole ingredients. And butter. Lots of butter.

    • Ha, ha! Love the “butter” part. 😉 And so true–my honey can eat pretty much anything, but he’s been a moderate eater his whole life, so I guess he hasn’t messed up his system the way I did. Now I will need to be much more careful for the rest of my life to be healthy. (sigh).

  13. I love this post – trying to get the right balance and not beating myself up about it is a long struggle for me. For some reason it’s so much easier to believe I don’t have to be perfect all of the time when it comes from someone else, rather than me telling myself! I’ve never used coconut sugar so will definitely be looking in to it. I have such a sweet tooth, I try to listen to my body, but a lot of the time it just shouts ‘more brownies’ at me!

    • I know what you mean–I think we are all often more forgiving of others than ourselves. I think you’ll like the coconut sugar–I have found I can tolerate it in very small amounts (like, once a week). I must have the same sweet tooth as you–mine asks for brownies, chocolate, ice cream, cake. . . !!

  14. Oh yes, the uppity comments by the “uber health-conscious vegans”…why do they have to try and make everyone feel guilty about what they eat and/or that everyone should eat exactly they way they do?

    I agree, we all have to make our own choices about what we eat…if someone does not want to eat soy crisps and so on, it’s their choice and that’s great. But, they shouldn’t make others feel like they have to apologize for it if they differ in that choice.

    Your dietary philosophy sounds right on to me.

    • This is a topic I’ve been meaning to tackle for some time, so I think the comment just spurred me to deal with it sooner rather than later. I agree, though–we should all eat the way that makes us happiest, whether because we feel better or because believe in it–but that differs for each individual.

  15. Thanks for setting that naysayer straight!

    • It was more my intention to simply explain my own choices. . . she’s entitled to prefer less processed foods if that’s what feels right to her, I think.

  16. “I believe each of us must make our own informed choices about the food we put in our mouths. If my approach doesn’t resonate with you, that’s fine; there are many other approaches out there to pursue.”

    That really resonated with me. I think people should do their own research and come to their own decisions about what is right for them.

    Bummer on the unfriendly comment. I get those from time to time as well. Bottom-line you can’t and will never please all the people all the time. It is so much easier to not comment or stop reading when a blog no longer speaks to you.

    I hope you are staying warm,
    Ali

    • It’s a tough lesson to learn, I think, when you write a food blog. You sort of expect people who frequent your space to be sympathetic to what you write. I do what you do–if a blog stops resonating, I go elsewhere. I already have too many blogs in my reader–no sense following one with which I totally disagree! 😉

  17. What an interesting post, Ricki. Personally, I find restrictive diets to more obsessive compulsive than anything else if strictly adhered to. Even now as I investigate eating more vegan food, I find it difficult to eschew ALL animal products. But to each their own, and while I don’t follow ACD, I love trying your healthy recipes in my own kitchen. 🙂

    What we need is that recipe for African Sweet Potato Stew! 🙂

    • Thanks, Janet. The photo is one I took and never used because I didn’t like the way it looked–but I’ll be making the stew again in the next couple of weeks, so will post the recipe after that! 🙂

  18. I try to eat as healthy as possible, but if I really want a cookie (full of sugar and white flour) I am going to have it. I spent too many years depriving myself of the foods I enjoy (and food in general) to be super strict with myself now. Most of my diet consists of grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit- all of which I love. I eat enough “healthy” food throughout my day that I know eating something that’s “bad” for me on occasion isn’t going to hurt me. For me, maintaining my mental health is just as important as my physical health, and following too strict of a diet is not healthy for me (as you know).

    • I’m with you on that one, Kiersten–mental health is paramount and should take precedence (as long as you’re not feeding a disease like diabetes or cancer with what you eat). But in a way, food can act as medicine, too (where have we heard that before?), just by increasing the serotonin or other “feel good” chemicals in the body.

  19. Ricki, I haven’t read this all the way through (which I will), but I noticed that you linked to your sweet potato truffles. I made those a couple of weeks ago to add to my vegan truffle assortment I am giving out for the holidays! While I didn’t spike them … went more for a hint of cardamom … they were surprisingly good and I am really excited to employ sweet potato again as a frosting! Thank you for the idea 🙂

  20. I love this post Ricki. Honest and entertaining and thoughtful and enjoyable and informative all at the same time 🙂 Thank you for it!

    Courtney

  21. What a beautiful, well thought out post, and I agree with you 100%. It’s been interesting how much this has come up lately, especially with the vegan bloggers who have “come out” about eating meat. Nutrition is individual, just like everything about us. We need to strive to be healthy but it’s all about listening to our bodies and keeping ourselves whole!

    • So true–everything about us is individual. I’m learning that in terms of medications and treatments, too–what supposedly works for one doesn’t work for all.

  22. I love your guidelines, and completely agree with them. Especially the “eat what’s good for you…90% of the time” combo. So important not to feel deprived!! 🙂

  23. hear, hear! I actually discuss the 90/10 “rule” with clients on a regular basis. I believe mental and emotional health are big components of health, and obsessing doesn’t do nice things for either.

  24. BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO! This is the post I’ve been wanting to write. Now I don’t have to — you’ve done it :). Moderation, moderation. Thank you Ricki. The ACD worked for us (did it strict last fall … me and my 2 year old). Am noticing that I need a tune-up so am backing off the sweeteners and grains again. It really really helped. SUPER DUPER POST.

    • I have to admit I’m still working on the “moderation” part. . . sweet things do that to me. 😉 And a tune-up on the ACD is, I think, always a good idea. If I had done that when I first started noticing symptoms, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, still getting treated and on the diet two years into it.

  25. Kelly Michelle says:

    Thanks for sharing, thoughtful as always. I eat very healthy most of the time but love my treats too. Do I have a perfect diet? probably not. Is there such a thing as a perfect diet? Who knows, everyone has a different opinion! I do know I eat lots of fresh veggies and very very little processed food so if I want to eat some delicious treats now and then and usually a small piece of good quality chocolate a day I’m going to do it! I would say I’m still healthier than most of mine (and your) countries (unfortunately).

  26. v interesting post – you seem to have done an amazing job with the ACD – having followed this blog long enough to remember when you loved a decadent chocolate treat! It is always reassuring to hear others are less than perfect – I don’t feel I have any answers to a healthy diet but I do believe that there are times when other priorities in life come first.

    • Ha ha! I do still enjoy a decadent-TASTING chocolate treat! 😉 But I know what you mean–and I was trying to get at that point when I mentioned eating in restaurants and not stressing about the less-important ingredients (in my opinion). If I omit gluten and sugars, I am 90% compliant; a drop or two of “bad” oil isn’t going to kill me once a month–but that’s just me. 🙂

  27. Love your humor ‘my body managed to pick up Italian while I was sleeping’ – I wish mine would pick up Spanish! Great post, Ricki. Rita and I marvel at the way you manage to turn out beautiful, nutritious food to your standards that is so wonderful that we want to eat it too even as each of us struggles to find our optimum fuel mix. Which carbs, how much protein, is this enough veggies for the day, should we buy this tiny, perfect agave-sweetened, gluten-free cheesecake? (We did, it never made it out of the parking lot. We are ‘have fork, will travel’ kind of women’.) We both are 100% gluten-free and I have cut way down on animal protein making my way to mostly vegetarian and may get to vegan one of these days – if the food chain is scary enough.

    • Thanks so much. 🙂 I know what you mean about struggling to find the best balance of what to eat–I am still figuring out what I can and can’t eat without prompting a reaction. It’s an ongoing process!

  28. All hail Ricki Heller 🙂 This was a great read – and I didn’t need a break after reading it! Though I wish I’d taken notes! I find that if I do worry and obsess about eating healthy and clean every day, I get too caught up in it and it becomes a negative. So I agree, everything in moderation and that feels good for me! I love it. You’re a wealth of knowledge Ricki and I am so thankful that I’ve found you.

    • Phew–glad it didn’t wear you out reading it! 😉 I agree totally–too much “serious” focus on every morsel that passes our lips can make the whole experience seem negative. Thanks go both ways! 🙂

  29. Well written post, Ricki … thanks! I’m still a work in progress with how I eat in so many ways. There’s both my own weaknesses and the fact that I’m still learning, or I should say relearning. I just was enlightened by a nutritionist friend that my recent issues with several healthy foods is due to the fact that I no longer have my gall bladder and can’t process high fat ingredients, again even wtih healthy fats. 🙁 And, there are ingredients mentioned in the comment and your post that I avoid and others that wouldn’t bother me in the least. Even those I avoid, I still occasionally eat in a product; e.g., soy lecithin in some chocolate. It’s truly hard to fathom some of what the studies have shown anyway. Agave in a recipe or product never bothers me, but HFCS definitely does, so how can agave and HFCS be very similar in being highly processed and so detrimental as has been “put out there”? Anyway, I think we come up with our own plan and abide by that in our homes and then when we’re out and about and we want to vary from our plan a bit to make life easier, then why not?

    Shirley

    • So interesting about the agave vs HFCS. I would have guessed as much for many people just given how the sweeteners are made. And I like your approach to eating out and listening to what works for each individual.

  30. Great post, Ricki! And oh, SCTV, how I miss thee…
    So much to say on this topic, it’s a bit sticky. The way I try to handle things around here is we have “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods – Guppy eats sweetend cereals “sometimes” we bake cookies “sometimes” etc. but broccoli is an “everyday” food. It works pretty well – she catches on quickly, but I admit that with cookie giving and holiday celebrations it’s hard to stick to it right now. I know once January is here we’ll be back on track, though.

    • I think everyone feels the change around this time of year–it’s almost impossible to be a social person and eat 100% “clean.” But it’s the holidays–so let loose! And I think the “everyday” vs “sometimes” is a great lesson for Guppy. 🙂

  31. I really enjoyed your post and you made some excellent points. I follow the Eat to Live plan (I don’t know how familiar you are with it) pretty strictly, meaning no salt, oil, or sweeteners (other than stevia and dried fruit), and no grains other than whole grains. I do this because that’s what makes me feel good and it works for me. However, I do make exceptions occasionally, for example, going out to eat, and that’s okay with me too. My friends joke about it and say I’m not human, but that’s okay too, because I do what’s right for me, and they do what’s right for them.

    I guess my point is that I really agree with you about everyone needing to find their “healthy for them” level. Some people hate restrictions, but I find that I really need them, and for me, limits allow me to be more creative, and every time I set limits (vegetarian, to vegan, to E2L vegan), I actually expand my palate. I eat more variety now than I did 8 years ago before I made any dietary restrictions, and I feel better too. I just encourage everyone to be informed about what they’re eating and to be open to everyone’s food perspective. I made vegan curry without any oil or salt, and my godfather, who had previously been extremely skeptical of my E2L veganism, loved it! So I think it’s really important to respect everyone’s perspective and to be open.

    • Hi Marissa! I do know a bit about the Eat to Live plan, but have never followed it. And I agree totally about how such diets can help us to expand our culinary horizons–I eat a much more varied diet now than I ever did before!

  32. Fantastic post Ricki! I realised after I wrote that comment that it was not about you at all, but about me and my frustrations.

    I think you have a wonderful blog, write delicious and inspiring recipes and it was great to hear your philosophy so eloquently set down.

    x x x

    • Naomi, thanks so much for coming back here and leaving your comment. I can relate to that kind of frustration, as I feel that way a lot of the time–it’s so common to encounter foods that are either not good for us or not what they say they are. I didn’t think the comment was specifically aimed at me, but rather at the product, and I’d say you’re not alone in preferring not to eat it. And thanks for saying nice things about the blog–much appreciated! I hope you have a great holiday season. 🙂

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