How appropriate it feels for Ash Wednesday to arrive on such a bitter February morning. With Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras now in the rearview mirror, this bleak mid-winter day provides a great opportunity to begin a new type of journey. Lots of ladies I know will be giving up chocolate or wine for the next forty days. These admirable sacrifices turn many into cranky martyrs who will welcome back their forbidden fruits by overindulging on Easter Day. Instead of specific banishments, why not make a tactical change to healthier eating this Lenten season?
My Recent Journey
Until December, I had never heard of the Paleo diet. cNb put a bug in my ear when she told how her son had adopted this lifestyle with impressive results. As I researched the caveman concept, I realized that the convenience foods I have been purchasing along with all of their hidden ingredients have had a negative effect on my menopausal body, and I was ready to make a change.
At other times in my life, I had been a label reader, but in recent years, the demands of daily mothering took my attentions away from the small print. When I began reading the labels again, I was horrified. Not only does it seem that sugar (labelled with one of dozens of different and misleading names) is more prevalent than ever, these so-called foods contain ingredients that I cannot even pronounce, let alone comprehend. If I don’t know what it is, why I am putting it into my body and those of my family and friends?
With renewed resolve and only my husband and myself to feed, in January I put the two of us on a fairly strict Paleo diet of seafood, mostly grass-fed meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts (except peanuts) and seeds to see how it made us feel. (Note ~ there are many different variations of the Paleo diet floating around.) While many have issues with the extremes of this diet, I have to say that reducing sugar and eliminating most grains and dairy from our diets have left us sleeping better, without blood sugar drops during the day and generally feeling lighter and more energized through these dreary winter weeks. The fact that my Paleo version permits red wine may have a bit to do with my mood, but becoming a more conscious eater also makes me feel more in control of my body.
our Paleo pizza substitute – Stuffed Portobellos, recipe here
The Cardiac Surgeon’s Journey
Over lunch recently, our Gracious Posse contributor, Sheelah Katz, described how she and her husband, well-known and regarded cardiac surgeon Marc Katz, came to be whole-food, plant-based eaters. Sheelah has embraced author Michael Pollan’s mantra, Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Dr. Katz has done extensive research on the connection between diet and heart disease and has time and again seen how patients with serious heart issues have been able to transform their arteries and their general health by changing what they eat. Conversely he has seen patients ruin their repaired hearts by continuing diets laden with both animal and highly processed foods that likely put them on the operating table in the first place. In contrast to animal-based diets such as Paleo and Atkins, Dr. Katz prescribes a diet that contains no foods with a mother or a face.
Consider Your Own Journey
Sure, changing the way you eat is difficult, but the results can truly be life-changing. I know that I am not yet ready to give up meat, but each of us can take steps to healthier eating. Reading labels is the first place to start ~ even and maybe most especially on those foods that purport to be healthy or low-fat.
Take a look at the sugar and sodium amounts. According to the American Heart Association, women shouldn’t have more than 25 grams of sugar a day, while the number is 37.5 grams for men. The FDA says that no one needs more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. The numbers you find on so many of the products lining our grocery shelves should leave you thinking and at least a little mad at the food manufacturers. Fortunately when you buy whole foods that have been left virtually untouched by the corporate food world, you won’t have the sugar and sodium concerns.
Over the next six weeks of Lent with Sheelah’s help, we plan to bring you some recipes and ideas that may inspire you to welcome more unprocessed foods into your life. Why not consider taking a proactive journey to healthy awareness during this Lenten season rather than the self-denial that Lent usually entails? If you have suggestions for moving to healthier eating and living, we’d love for you to share them with the posse.
February 18, 2015