Friday, May 11, 2012

Getting stressed about eating healthy isn't healthy

I'm in the middle of making sage cupcakes right now, so I'm hoping to keep this short. But this has been on my mind for a bit now and I think I'm really starting to grasp it.

I'll start here: I love food. You may or may not have guessed this about me. Less goes onto this blog than I think goes on it, but I think about posting about food ALL the time.

I'll go on to say: I also like being healthy.  I like feeling good and strong and energetic. And since what I eat affects my health more than anything else I do, I therefore like eating healthy.

But I like eating yummy too. And when healthy and yummy coincide, that's the ultimate bomb-diggity, I tell you.

There's a strange myth out there that healthy food isn't yummy food. But I guess it depends on how you define healthy food and I'm thinking that it's because people get healthy food mixed up with "health food." There's actually a BIG difference between the two.

Health food is soy protein, "candy" vitamins, wheat grass juice, spirulina* and cardboard "fiber" cereal that most people I've met have independently nick-named "twigs and stones." Yuck.  Yes, I agree, health food is grody!

Healthy food, however. Ahh, the goodness... don't even get me started on this. Okay, too late.

Real butter, fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade whole wheat sourdough bread, homemade pierogies with homemade sauerkraut. Homemade mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, oh oh oh. I want to go eat something.

You're seeing a theme here: homemade = good. And it's true.

Of course, just cause it's made at home doesn't actually mean its healthy, but it's no doubt better than not homemade counterparts. I will never claim that my homemade marshmallows are "healthy" but they certainly are yummier than the jet puffed kind...

And you see, this is generally my motivation when it comes to food. I love making good food at home with real ingredients and, since I don't add superfluous sugar, chemicals or food-colourings, I really thought I was doing well. I was happy and felt healthy due to all this good food.

But then I read the first 70 pages of Nourishing Traditions. And I'd recommend you do it too, but I warn you: you will get freaked out. 

My first feeling was fear, then despair. I thought I had been eating healthy.

But no, I hadn't been soaking my grains, the milk I was using to make my homemade yogurt was nasty and full of trouble, my eggs weren't free-range and therefore hardly beneficial and I may as well be inviting hardened arteries and many other deadly diseases into my home by buying canola oil. And the fact that I was using white sugar? Forget it.

Oh what, those vegetables you buy aren't organic? You are dead, sister, or as good as.

I was scared. I was depressed. I was in complete distress. I thought I had been doing everything right! I mean, yeah, we still ate sugary laden treats every now and then, but I generally reduced the sugar... That's not good enough? Any amount of white sugar in my diet is going to kill me, wow, I had no idea.

So then I started wildly making changes. I soaked my flours for bread, biscuits, muffins. If I couldn't figure out how to make it without soaking the flour first I didn't make it.  And if  I had a whim to make something but hadn't thought of soaking, or if I had forgotten? Well, it simply didn't happen. I also did my utmost to stop using sugar.

Unsweetened oatmeal? gag it down baby, it's healthy and I remembered to soak it the night before. Mushy, flat banana muffins. What? You don't like them? Well, too bad, they're healthy so EAT THEM.

My good, delicious and nurtured baking skills and cooking talents went bye-bye for a while as I attempted to make things HEALTHY.

John did not complain. (much) He did mention the banana muffins "weren't particularly good" and he added his own sugar to his oatmeal (much to my alarm.)

But when I started trying to convince him of all the more money we'd have to start spending so that our food would be healthy... Well, he laid down the law. (Sort of.)

I had to calm down. Yes, spending boatloads of money on "organic" produce did kind of seem like a gigantic leap. Since our decision to to start saving money to buy a house we've tightened our belts, so to speak, on spending. Not that we spent a lot before, but I had decided I'd try to keep our monthly food bills under $130 a month. Then suddenly, I wanted to buy raw milk, organic vegetables, free-range eggs. These things are considerably more pricy than what we normally bought. My own mind's voice of reason yelled at me to calm down, and John's calm voice of reason calmly told me to calm down.

I was getting stressed out and feeling bummed about my non-organic potatoes in my gnocchi and at breakfast, I was cringing as I ate battery-raised chicken eggs. But I was also gagging as I ate unsweetened oatmeal and I was longing for a rich chocolatey sugar laden BROWNIE.  I had to think of my health!

Then it occurred to me. What's the point of food if it doesn't taste good? Yeah, yeah, I'll choke down some wild-caught salmon if someone else is paying, but really? I don't like the taste of fish. But it's healthy, and if someone else is paying, then I'm gonna get me some omega-3s down, baby! But when everything is gross because it's "healthy"? Um, no. I can't do it.

After all, I had to think of my health. Enjoyment of food is so very important to me that, I'm much more willing to eat something that's a little sub-par of the perfect health food every now and then, if it's yummier.

So I never figured out how to soak flour and get a good cookie out of it. No way am I giving up cookies! Right, yes, limit cookies, yes, yes. But give up sugar all together? No.

So I've drawn the line. Some things are more delicious when it's healthier, like homemade bread being a trillion times tastier than store-bought bread. And when you add whole-wheaty goodness? Yes! Oh and sourdrough bread? My gosh, I'm drooling and it's way more nutritious than regular old bread. And I was in on sourdough way before Sally Fallon approved of it.

Raw milk? TOTALLY worth the price for it's goodness and it's entirely more yummy than pasteurized, homogenized milk. My husband agreed and we've made that step. But some times you really do just need a little bit of sugar in your porridge, and if I forgot to soak flour before dinner, well, the non-soaked biscuits ain't gonna kill me. And dang it, I'm going to enjoy this peanut-butter chocolate chip cookie even if it IS slowly killing me due to non-organic peanuts and the fact that chocolate has caffeine and it has WHITE death sugar in it.

Obviously, real butter is better than margarine because it tastes better. Also happens to be healthier. And olive oil really does taste better than canola, so even if it's a bit pricier, I'll switch to using it all the time instead of just when the taste will make a difference.

Plus, John is happier. And by default, I am too. A healthy marriage is also an important key to being healthy, you know?

And fermented foods are FANTASTIC and healthier. And guess what, Sally Fallon? I discovered and liked fermented foods before I read your book. So there. *raspberry*

Okay, but actually, her book does have valuable information and I say "read it if you dare." But pick and choose your battles, because you can't win them all. I've even read some things saying that a certain amount of phytates (what I'm trying to get rid of by soaking my flour) are actually beneficial. So whats up with that? And while I, personally, never drink soda and find it absolutely disgusting, I don't think I would go so far as to call it "the veritable drink of the devil" as she does. And I also prefer my cook books to let me choose my own flours and not "allow" unbleached white flour in certain recipes. You don't allow me anything, sister! I make my own choices.

I'm so empowered and free now. Now that I figured out that stressing out about eating healthy isn't healthy.

And now I'm going to finish making my sage cupcakes and I'm going to put brown butter frosting on top that's CHOCK FULL of SUGAR.

But don't worry, they're soaked and made with sourdough, so it's not too bad.

*I actually like spirulina, but don't tell anyone.

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