I don’t think we can opt for the lesser-of two-evils philosophy in the confessional, but it seems like the way to go at the buffet table. When presented with an array of unhealthy foods, you can either opt out entirely and put up with a rumbly tummy and salivating mouth, or you can pick and choose the better options and eat a little less than you’re tempted to.
Since I discovered the traditional foods paradigm, my take on healthy eating is a bit different than the magazines that line the checkout aisles.
Low fat? No more!
In a nutshell, eating real food means that I try my best to eat foods not only in their whole form, without food scientists fiddling with them, but also to seek out foods that have been raised more or less the way it’s been done for thousands of years, rather than for a few decades.
God created a world that was inherently good, with good food to nourish our bodies. As we have in so many arenas, humans have tried to take back control of our food from the Lord. We strip away nutritious parts of the grain, heat and pressurize away the good stuff in dairy and fats, and make corn into every unpronounceable ingredient imaginable. Let us eat God’s food this December and start a new habit with the new church year.
Some would challenge you to avoid all white flour, white sugar, and trans fats. I’m a bit more realistic than that, particularly during the deliciously decadent holiday season. I’ll encourage you to reduce your consumption of those three nasties and focus more on real butter, whole grains, grain-free options and cutting back the sweets.
When faced with a smorgasbord of choices, here are some ways you can choose this, not that to keep your body more nourished this month:
1.) Choose fat over sugar
Not soda…but eggnog
As long as you’ve got a “real food” fat like cream, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or natural peanut butter as an option, better to consume something that won’t stick to your hips than something that will both increase your weight and mess with your hormones and brain function.
2.) If everything is munchy and carby, choose less sugar
Not candy…but Chex Mix
3.) If everything is sweet, shoot for fewer grains
Not Chex Mix…but nuts
Not cookies and cake…but fudge and peanut brittle
Not fudge and peanut brittle…but peppermint bark or peanut-butter kisses
Eating sugar with grains is a double whammy on your system, since both are carb-filled and will shoot your blood sugar sky high (and then rest on your bathroom scale). Sure, nuts have fat, but they’ll keep you fuller, longer, and fat simply isn’t store in the body as fat. Carbs get that prestigious position.
Fudge and peanut brittle are super sweet and not good for you, but generally they come in small portions and allow you to savor each morsel, ultimately consuming less. If you are the one baking a treat, try this real food peppermint bark (to die for!) or the simple peanut butter kisses from my book Healthy Snacks to Go. Just mix natural peanut butter, raw honey and unsweetened coconut and roll into balls.
4.) Look for the super foods amongst the junk
Not sugar cookies…but coconut macaroons or dried fruit bars
Not cherry pie from a can…but pumpkin pie
Sometimes even on a dessert table, you can find a few healthy options mixed in with the white flour and sugar. Coconut and dried fruit are often a good way to avoid some grains and get some nourishment, and pumpkin is well known as a super food, which beats high fructose corn syrup any day.
5.) Basic cheat sheet: what should you look for?
Not white flour…but whole wheat/oatmeal
Not white sugar…but honey or real maple syrup or molasses
Not margarine or Crisco (trans fats)…but real butter
Eat less refined flour and sugar, avoid anything “hydrogenated” at all costs, skip or cut down on the grains when possible.
Try to eat more yogurt (buy plain and add frozen fruit and honey), look for healthy foods like pumpkin, cranberries and nuts when at a party, and plan ahead with simple, healthy foods to go (cheese, fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt cups, beef jerky, nuts) instead of fast food.
Don’t forget the value of exercise – two-mile caroling, anyone? – and be sure to get enough sleep. Come New Year’s Eve, your body will thank you.