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?
Wrong. I went through the entire menu and picked what seemed to be the healthiest item on the menu - a vegetable curry. Todd ordered "the immaculate tomato" or something like that.
Our orders came. Each one was smothered in gross sugary sauce. This is typical for vegetarian and vegan places - they're almost NEVER healthy. This was actually my favorite thing about eating raw - there was nothing on the diet that wasn't healthy.
So, in honor of Veggie heaven, here is a list of eight "health foods" that you shouldn't eat.
Right now I'm sitting on my couch enjoying the aroma of onions and garlic cooking in olive oil. On another burner is a giant pot full of vegetables. Next to it is a skillet with roasting eggplants. To the side of the stove is a cutting board with even more chopped vegetables. What's going on?
On Friday I'm heading up to Massachusetts to be with my family for Christmas. I go every six months and see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. The one problem is that it's very difficult to eat healthy while traveling, especially during the season of many fine home cooked meals. My family is Italian, and thus most meals are a healthy salad coupled with an unhealthy pasta dish.
I eat pretty well and take pretty good care of myself. But it's taken quite a while to get here - before 2006, I had a pretty standard American diet. Lots of pizza, junk food, fast food, liquor, soda, sweets, etc. I smoked cigarettes, cigars, sheesha, and other kinds of tobacco.
Since then I've refined my diet and I eat pretty well. I have more energy, feel better, look better, and God willing, I'll live a lot longer as a result. It's a gradual process though, and I'm still improving. There's a few things I use to do it:
First, I'm all about incremental improvement - I think trying to crash change your diet is unlikely to work unless you have immense amounts of willpower and self-discipline. If you do have these Herculean amounts of will and discipline, you know who you are and don't need my advice. If you're more mortal, then you'll want to pick one or two things to be refining in your diet at a time.
Second, there's two ways I quit food or habits I don't like - "hard quitting" (cold turkey) and "soft quitting" (gradually reduce my consumption and eventually eliminate it). I pick which of these routes to go based on how convenient it is to quit something outright and if there's any detox process. If there's detox (like there was with nicotine), I think it's better to just get it over with once instead of constantly feeling deprived as your body re-adjusts to its new biochemical levels. The most successful method for quitting smoking is cold turkey, isn't it? Something like 80% of successful attempts to quit smoking are cold turkey? I don't have the statistics onhand, but that's the general idea. Quitting something like sugar, bad oils, or excess salt might be easier to do incrementally, since you need to replace the consumption with something else.
Which brings us to third point - I actively introduce new good behaviors before and during the time I quit something. Now, I don't know if the following is a good strategy, but it's what I did - when I started cutting down the sweets I ate, I increased my consumption of the kinds of salty foods I already ate: Chips, french fries, nuts, etc. Later I cut the salt content back. I don't know if that's a good habit, but it's worked okay for me. I also try to actively introduce fruits and vegetables before I quit something - it's hard to go from no fiber food that's highly processed to stimulate you immediately to fruits and vegetables. Fruit tastes bland compared to ice cream. So I introduce fruits and vegetables first, get comfortable with them, then increase my consumption of them as I decrease or eliminate bad consumption.