Refined flours and sugars are out. Meat is out. When people hear this, they often say, "wow... what's left?"
It's a sad statement on our current food system when that question is asked, because it shows how far from eating healthy we've gone. The two least healthy things a human can readily digest have become our bread and butter, so to speak.
What happened to beans, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits?
Beans are amazing for you and totally delicious. . Black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, and white beans are all fantastic.
Besides being great with rice or in meals, you can also eat beans cold straight from the can. It's a great satisfying snack, supremely nutritious, and can be carried anywhere (get the ones with the pull off tops). They cost next to nothing, too, especially if you get them dry and cook them yourself.
Nuts are another great snack. Almonds are a perfect food - high in both protein and healthy Omega 3 fats (by the way.... these healthy fats do NOT make you fat). Walnuts, pecans, and all the other suspects are great too. Peanuts are among the worst (their fat composition isn't ideal), but are still fine.
When getting nut butters make sure that there are no added ingredients other than salt. Most companies add sugar and oil.
Vegetables and Fruits
Other than white potatoes, pretty much any fruit or vegetable is good for you and can be eaten with reckless abandon. Variety is a good idea, as is making sure you get enough dark greens. Fruits and vegetables have so many vitamins and minerals in them that it's ridiculous that they're usually side dishes.
We eat so few vegetables that we have to take pills to get nutrients. How backwards is that?
Think about an orange. It tastes like candy, is good for you, is refreshing, and comes with its own durable packaging that decomposes quickly and is good for the earth.
It's perfect. Compare that to starburst candies. They taste good too, but are terrible for you and come with packaging that pollutes. And that's not even considering the amount of energy it took to make them.
The modern grain refining process takes away the most nutritious parts of the grain, and leaves the nutritionally vacant inner part. What does that say about our food supply? We take away the good part and leave the junk.
Whole grains are great for you, though. Whole wheat, whole oats, quinoa, brown rice, kamut, and other grains are fantastic.
Grinding them down to whole grain flour is okay, but not as good as keeping the grains intact. A couple breads that are amazing are Ezekiel bread and Alvarado Farms bread. They sprout and mash the grains rather than milling them. The closer to the original form of the food you can get, the better it is.
Oils and Seasoning
Oils are generally bad, but olive oil is a shining exception. You can stir fry in it, use it to dip your bread in, make salad dressings with it, or use it to "butter" your popcorn.
Avocado oil is also excellent but more expensive and hard to find.
Coco butter (aka unrefined coconut oil), when in its semi-solid white virgin state, is also fantastic. You can even use it as a moisturizer for your skin. It's sweet so it's good for making healthy desserts.
Salt is fine for you IF you drink enough water so that you're peeing clear. If you let it dehydrate you then it's no good. Get sea salt - it's from the sea instead of being synthesized from chemicals. It tastes better too.
All spices are good to eat. Things like fresh basil are excellent to eat.
Putting it All Together
All of these ingredients are so good that you can eat pretty much any proportion of them and you'll be fine. Since they are foods your body "understands", you will probably naturally want to eat the correct proportions.
On this diet you don't really need to count calories or macronutrient breakdowns. Just eat whatever you want, and eat a lot of it. You'll be eating so much more fiber and water that you'll have to get used to eating more frequently or larger portions.
To give you a general idea of what to eat, here's what I might eat on a day:
What it's Like
I'd tell you if the diet wasn't great. The one big compromise is that eating out becomes much more difficult. The first month or two takes some adjusting and you'll crave old foods. Strangely, I craved egg rolls, a food I was never particuarly into.
After a while you develop a disgust for traditional food. You see it for what it is- sustenance that is slowly damaging your body and working against your goals.
Eating becomes WAY more enjoyable and satisfying. Other people who have started eating like this say the same thing. You taste flavors you've never known, and you gain a deep contentment because you know that your body LOVES what you're putting in it. You know that you're eating the way you were designed to eat. You appreciate your food more.
Some people suggest that everything in "moderation" is okay. It depends what your standards are, and I find it hilarious that they always think the best option is moderation between things they KNOW are good for them and things they LIKE. Strange coincidence...
The argument that you need to eat meat and sugar to enjoy life is ridiculous too. It's the difference between surface and depth. Are cheap sugar induced thrills the key to enjoying life? Or is it eating in a way that is satisfying and in alignment with your values and goals?
You know where I stand.
This series finishes with Part V, where I cover some common objections.
Hi, great article. I just have a little question:
English is not my first language and I'm having trouble finding out what does "sprouted grain bread" means.
I understand you reffer to bread made of whole grain flour... right? But what does "sprouted" mean in that context? Thanks.
The only issue with soups, beans, or veggies from a can is the BPA lining the can walls. Look for cans stating BPA-free (hard to find) or the ones that are in cartons.
Hey! Thanks for your post. I found your blog through some convoluted chain off of Gary Taubes' website, then via Denise Minger - thanks for all those back-and-forth responses from Denise and Colin and for examining the issue, by the way! Very interesting and I liked your take on them.
You and Gary are in agreement that sugar and unrefined carbs are the devil, although he is a huge proponent of animal protein, and it's not clear to me what his position on conventional "meat"-growing is. He certainly can't claim there is enough hard scientific evidence, however, to back up his claim that there is no health reason to not eat meat.
I've been vegetarian for 13 years because it felt right, but ironically only got into healthy eating about two years ago when I volunteered on a vegan farm. (As a teenager I ate a lot of conventional dairy as well as fake soy stuff.) Anyway, when I volunteered on the farm I became strict vegan for a month or so. That was when I realized that I ate too much dairy before and didn't even like it much, aside from cheese. It was good. I also began to stick pretty strictly to whole grains and avoid potatoes. Also good.
Aside from eggs and a tiny bit of dairy occasionally, I began to start eating a lot like you do -- and I now have a lot of faith in the "MaxDiet" as you call it, although objectively I would allow that others might be able to eat occasional quantities of pasture-fed meat and eggs, and be just as healthy.
Some questions for you:
While vegan something I really missed were eggs. I lived in Guatemala for a time, and everybody ate 1-2 eggs a day there. I started to do the same. I realize now that eating eggs in the morning instead of cereal/granola or oats makes me more satisfied and I love them. What's your take on eggs? And also you don't mention dairy?
And, I've been off white sugar for awhile, but I will occasionally indulge if there are cookies or cake on offer. And I sometimes use honey and maple syrup. Are all sweeteners the same? Do you think limiting sugar to some extent has benefits? Or is it really necessary to go cold turkey? I can see myself cutting down but I feel like I have too many memories from childhood and too many family members to ever want to give it up totally.
Thanks for sharing your perspective!
Almonds are not high in omega-3, in fact, they have approximately 0. Source: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3085/2
I'm amazed that you are recommending drinking fruit juice after your sugar diatribe. Most fruit juices are nearly as loaded with sugar as soft drinks.
I agree with SOME of the things in this diet. But I strongly disagree with a lot of it as well.
You should really read (if you haven't), the The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf.
Of course, you're probably aware Pritikin, Dr. Ornish and Dr Esselstyne would also exclude nuts and any kind of added oil from their diets, as well as olives and avocados.
Hi Tynan, found your site today from Tiny House Blog. Thanks for the info (eventually) ;) of What To Eat. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 4 yrs ago, but my goal is to eventually live a nomadic lifestyle FOR MYSELF with a passive income, lose weight, and be off all medications. Ah, if only you were about 20 yrs older... ;)
Hi. Olive oil is the healthier of oils, but it may be worthwhile to avoid cooking it in every single day - go oil free some days each week. This is an attribute of the diet of some extremely healthy Greek monks, see these articles:
Tofu is a bit controversial. I mostly avoid it because I'm not sure if it's good for us or bad for us. Tempeh IS good and tastes better, so I stick with that, but if a restaurant serves plain tofu (no sugary sauces), I'll eat it.
Not sure about ROBI, but in general it's a good idea to stick to real whole foods and not eat weird processed things.
Yesteday Todd and I were choosing a place to go to lunch. I normally go to Whole Foods because they have healthy delicious food, unlike almost everywhere else. However, we wanted to try somewhere new. How about Veggie Heaven?
I'd never been there before, despite living across the street from it for two years. I used to eat awful food on a daily basis, and considered vegetarian and vegan food to be for hippies. I still do, actually.
Anyway, we get to the restaurant and are handed three menus each. The main menu had almost fifty items in it. Many were marked as being vegan. Hey, this must be healthy, right?
Nutrition and health is something I take very seriously. Thus eating Healthy without going crazy is one of the key elements to having amazing health.
Although when I'm out eating I put no limits on what I eat, because I like to try new and varied things, when I am home I am very picky. Eating healthy is one of those things I refer to as cumulative habits; Eating healthy for one day or a week out of the year has practically no effect on your life, but eating healthy for 80%+ of the year might add an extra 2 months your life as well as possibly fill you with energy you never knew you had.
Information regarding healthy eating is almost as insane, and convoluted as information regarding how to bake an apple pie, there tons of it, a lot of it is bogus, and most of the good information is filled with confusing words or assumes you know the specifics of how the body works. Thus I've decided to make my own small guide on the decisions I make daily to eat healthy, although sometimes when I go out I don't follow them. NOTE: if you are overweight, I highly recommend you get that handled before you start alternating, unless you are doing a slow-carb type diet with a cheat day. Regardless being overweight is bad, and is one of those things in life that comes with no benefits.
Eating healthy does not be hard, in fact I'm going to outline what to do in three easy steps. Its going to look so easy that people might think I'm crazy.
1. Get rid of all simple carbohydrates. This means Sugar, Bread, Pasta, Rice, potato, corn syrup. I would avoid any "whole grain" products as well, as they usually are just white carbs with color or grains readded. Brown Rice is acceptable. As a general rule just avoid anything made with flour or that's sole purpose is sweetening. Agave, sucralose, honey,bread, pasta and rice all fit in this category