Finding Our Food Identity

Thursday, April 25, 2013

   There are more diets out there than you can throw a stone at. It can be very confusing and even more frustrating if you're trying to find your way to healthier living, lose weight or simply feel better.

   For me, any changes in diet or lifestyle that I've undertaken have fallen into the last category. Most of the time I'm happy with how I look and I feel as though I've fortunately never had what I would categorize as very unhealthy habits. But who doesn't want to feel just a touch more energetic, clear minded or peaceful? My mission as far as personal eating habits go have always been to feel my absolute best and also to know in my soul that I've done the best I can to make sure I spend as many active, healthy years on this planet as possible. I love life and I don't want to give up a single day if I can help it.

   Perhaps because I approach eating and exercising this way, I've never labeled my eating habits in any particular way. Steve and I have been eating a mostly vegan diet for several months now, but we are by no means 100% vegan. Although he tried giving them up for a while, Steve feels his best and most energetic when he has eggs for breakfast several times a week. Sometimes when we eat out, the local fish call my name and I don't feel that one serving of fish every week or two is going to harm me or the planet in any irreparable way- so I go for it.

   Mark Bittman, one of my all time favorite food writers, is publishing a book called VB6 which is his abbreviation for Vegan Before 6. He has adopted a vegan diet before 6 o'clock, or the dinner hour, for the past several years and was very pleased with his weight loss and overall boost in well being. I was very excited to hear that a well known name in the food writing world has happened upon this formula because it is essentially exactly what Steve and I have discovered and adopted. I personally don't feel compelled to eat animal products on a daily basis as Mr. Bittman does; I prefer to reserve animal sources of food for a single meal per week or less. But I think his general message is valuable and I deeply believe everyone can stand to incorporate more fruits and veggies in their diet; the weekly or daily ratio is up to each person individually.

   I can't emphasize the power of experimenting with vegan and whole foods enough. One of the most frustrating things for me, especially as someone in the health care industry, are the abundance of 'quick fixes' and temporary solutions available to people who are confused or dissatisfied with their health or weight. Throwing pills, synthetic concoctions and surgery at the problem is absolutely not the solution.

     Because, and I say this with conviction, it works. Steve and I both feel better today- more energy, clear mindedness and endurance- than we ever have. For those interested in weight loss, Steve definitely didn't complain when he suddenly realized he once again weighed what he did in his lean late teenage years. For me, I was already satisfied with my weight and more interested in the other benefits- like clearer skin and more stamina during my long work days. No matter your goal, there is something in this for everyone.

   The power to feel better inside and out is found in your kitchen and the produce aisle of your grocery store- not in a bottle or on a surgeons table.

   "Let food be thy medicine." -Hippocrates.

   This is a very popular quote, but I think it bears repeating because I find it to be so simple and yet profound. Perhaps our medical education and the reimbursement structure of healthcare hasn't caught up to this ancient belief, but I believe it will one day. And I hope by then most of us will already be ahead of the curve, healing our bodies one meal at a time.

   Today's medicine comes in the form of the humble legume. Nutrient and energy dense, beans of all types are one of my go to components when building a meal. Chickpeas inhabit a dear place in my heart as they are the first bean I remember eating as a child. Even at four years old, I knew chicken soup wasn't complete without them, partly because it made phonetic sense to my child's mind, and partly because I liked them better than the chicken! Thankfully, I had a mom who knew the power of the bean, and always accommodated my request for a can or two to be added to the pot.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
Inspired by Choosing Raw

   After their stay in the oven these chickpeas become a rich russet brown and adopt a slightly crunchy texture. The roasting deepens their flavor- it almost remind me of spicy roasted peanuts. We enjoyed them as a complete meal, sprinkled over my favorite salad base, which I added thinly sliced raw kale to.

2 cans chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced

   Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil. Line a shallow bowl with paper towels and roll your chickpeas around in the towels until they are quite dry. Pour them into the tinfoil lined baking sheet. Drizzle over the olive oil and the spices. Roll around with your hands or a spatula until the chickpeas are evenly coated with the spices.
   Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Pull the sheet out, use your spatula to move the chickpeas around a bit. Sprinkle the thinly sliced scallions on top. Place back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
   Serve warm over your favorite salad or allow to cool and package up for a convenient snack.

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