BE ALL THAT YOU CAN EAT
There's much more to food than calories or the nutrients you can read on the side of the box. Food affects us both immediately and in the long term, and everything in between.It's well established that many of our snack foods and fast foods are responsible for diabetes, cardiovasclar disease and other inflammatory chronic illnesses. What is not as recognized is the impact these kinds of foods have on our brains. In this article about food's impact on the hippocampus, a part of the brain where memory is formed and stored, the authors look at the "Western" diet, foods high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates (think sugar, white flour, white rice, white bread, etc.) The authors discuss how the "western" diet causes depression and loss of cognitive functioning over time, and assert in this article that these kinds of foods reduce the size of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, learning and has a role in emotion regulation.
I particularly like South Beach diet recipes. These follow the Mediterranean Diet model, but also draw on flavors from other cultures and so spices are used. Spices are thought to provide additional micronutrients that do things like protect against cancer or heart disease. In addition, spices allow us to enjoy food more, and engage in mindful eating. This contributes to the effect of increasing satisfaction that lasts longer so that you don't get hungry and feel like splurging in between meals. Some spices can fight oxidative stress and related inflammation.
Home cooking vs. going out to eat and choosing "healthy" foods off the menu:
With home cooking, you can choose the ingredients, whereas with restaurant or prepared foods, there is a tendency to use fats and sugars to enhance flavor. You would think that a salad is healthy, and it is full of healthy stuff, but the restaurant is going to flavor it to keep customers coming back. Spices and healthy sweeteners are expensive, and most restaurants arent going to invest in this. They're in the business to sell food, and as a business, they are going to achieve this as cheaply as possible. Occasionally eating out shouldn't throw you off track, but if it's the rule rather than the exception you're likely to run into higher level of empty calories than if you cook at home using whole foods rather than packaged and processed foods.
The argument has been that it's cheaper to buy processed foods, but the reality is that they generally contain low-nutrition, high refined carbs, which will leave you feeling hungry sooner and eating more. Also, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh, sometimes more, and tend to be inexpensive. The initial outlay for things like whole wheat flour and spices can be costly, but once purchased, inexpensive ingredients can be used to offset this cost.
Meal planning, cooking and cleaning all factor in to maintaining some structure and routine into your life. Set a regular time each week to: select recipes for the week, shop for ingredients and prepare the food. These tasks can be built in to your already busy schedule to minimize the extra time spent.
In the long run, being well-nourished and feeling good is going to save you time in terms of functioning more efficiently, being less dependent on prescription medications, and having fewer visits to the doctor.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes. With the exception of the chocolate chips in the cookies (you can't be a food saint all the time!), these foods are low glycemic (carbohydrates convert slowly into blood sugar) so that they will keep you going for a long time before you get hungry again.