I am writing for someone who would like to eat healthier. Here are some rules of thumb: what to eat and what to buy (gather).
You might be interested in what works for me. Conversation is welcome.
Lately I’ve been thinking how lucky I am that I don’t need to work, being retired from a full time job. I also feel fortunate to have been health-conscious for, probably, the last 30 years of my life. But to be honest, it is only in the last 10 years that the pieces of what healthy living looks like have started coming together.
As I get better at taking care of myself I also become aware of how different my lifestyle is from most other people that I know. Just so you appreciate my position, it seems like every time I go into the supermarket the number of food items I am willing to buy is shrinking to the equivalent of a tiny store, except that I get to walk hundreds of feet up and down aisles gathering organic kefir and yogurt, and organic eggs, (organic) sourdough bread, to the cooler where the fermented sauerkraut is kept and all the way to the organic produce section.
Another difference between the current me and how it used to be is I’m not tempted to buy anything that isn’t good for me. It’s not hard to eliminate unhealthy food from my diet, but it is a bit challenging to buy (gather) the healthy food that I want in my body.
The supermarket is set up like someone is trying to hide the inventory of a health-food store within a giant cornucopia of junk-food.
Now I have to define “junk-food”. Junk food is processed food, food with additives like colors and flavor enhancers and salt and preservatives and starch like chips and pizza. Some preservatives are pesticides which, like antibiotics, kill the good bugs in your gut. Packaging is also a problem, but some healthy food comes in plastic packages. Plastic pollutes the environment and leeches into food. (Plastic = bad, but sometimes unavoidable. Plastic = a necessary evil.)
Some healthy food is not in the supermarket, but you might find these harder to find items at Aldis or trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, which was just bought by Amazon. (If your town has a co-op, great, but sometimes the co-op mark-up is beyond my budget.) I won’t go into the drawbacks of shopping at Aldis and Whole Foods. I want to get back to the main topic I am addressing, which is how to eat healthily when cooking or preparing food is not one of your skill sets and you aren’t home for huge chunks of time.
Purchase a smoothie blender. Hamilton Beach makes them and Magic Bullet.
Purchase a hot / cold thermos (stainless steel) with a wide mouth that includes a lid that serves as a cup. Buy a bottle brush for cleaning the therms and the mug.
Purchase an Instantpot (or similar technology), the next generation of the ceramic crock pot, for unattended (safe) cooking. Make soups! (Throw a bunch of organic veggies and herbs and an organic veggie bullion (optional) into water and slow-cook.)
Purchase a box of quart-size canning jars for keeping soup in the fridge for lunches and dinners, and for seeds and grains / oats and nuts. Canning jars are very useful because they seal.
Plastic = bad. Get rid of plastic travel mugs and thermoses.
Non-stick cooking pots and pans = bad. Learn to embrace ironware. Or ceramic-lined pots.
Aluminum pots and pans = bad.
Tap water = bad. Faucet filters = good. This is a tough one. With city water, you are undoubtedly drinking chemicals. If well-water, you should have your water tested for lead, mercury and whatever they test for now. Or Get a high tech filter for your sink! They are easy to purchase on-line. Just research the right modifications for your particular faucet so the filter fits tight.
Healthy foods to eat:
Mushrooms = very good. A super food. Eat lots of mushrooms, any variety. They are very, very good for you and we are just beginning to find out what they do for us. After you buy them in their plastic containers, dump them out on the counter and place a paper towel in the container under them and one over them and place them back in the fridge. They will dry out very slowly but will never slime on you. (If you want [this is cool], after purchasing them, place them on a plate or cookie sheet and expose them to the full sun for 20 minutes. They will absorb Vitamin D!, which our body requires but must come from outside sources, from food, supplements or sunlight.)
When you make soup, include mushrooms, onions, turmeric, pepper and parsley.
Another superfood is raw (best,local) honey. When cooked or heated up, honey loses some of its medicinal properties.
Eat hard cheese. If dairy is in your diet, try to eat raw milk products if possible, for the bacteria. Only 50% of people can digest dairy products without repercussions so notice how it affects your digestion.
Probiotics; A word on probiotics. If you are used to eating processed food and food with lots of salt and sugar, and then you eat some raw food or say, some food with an active culture in it, that is hard on your gut because your system can’t digest food that hasn’t been sterilized and monkeyed with, and you might experience indigestion, while your friend, who might be in the habit of eating healthier, is fine. If you want to start eating more real, raw or organic food, it might be smart to wean yourself off sugar and starch and slowly introduce healthy food, so your gut can build up a healthier microbiome so that it can handle fermented and raw and unprocessed food.
Fermented foods = very good. Learn to like fermented foods, like fermented sauerkraut, yogurt, kiefer, kimchi, sour-dough bread (which might come across as too dry for you at first, but the lack of fluffiness is more than compensated for by its slightly chewy texture).
Raw, unsalted nuts = good. Any nuts are better than no nuts (seeds too like sunflower and chia), but keep them in sealed cool places or refrigerate.
Roughage: Bam! Roughage is key to a healthy diet and food with roughage can be bought in bulk and lasts a long time. You put roughage in your smoothies: milled flax seeds, chia-seeds, hemp-hearts. We don’t eat roughage for its nutritional value, we eat it because our microbiome loves it. It keeps our gut healthy and happy.
Hydrate: Water and some juices (diluted): Stop drinking orange juice. You probably eat way too much sugar as it is and the only OJ that is good for you is fresh, organic OJ which is hard to come by. Drink kombucha. Get some “mother” from someone and learn to make your own or, if you want to buy it, read the labels of the various brands. Some have more sugar than others. But kombucha (fermented tea) is a fermented drink.
Fresh fruit. (Organic.) Apples keep and they can be refrigerated. Boil sliced apples, with skins in pot with some cinnamon, make applesauce. Bananas are great and actually have a lot of roughage and are the kings of smoothies but they don’t keep; throw in the freezer as they turn brown and use in smoothies.
Granola = bad. Most granola has sugar and non-organic ingredients.
Oats = good. Oats keep and do not need refrigeration. (My brother makes the best oatmeal. He throws in dates, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and milled flax.)
Tea (organic) = good. All teas. Tea is actually medicinal, and keeps for a very long time, even bulk teas, if sealed.
Chocolate (organci) = in moderation good, but the more cacao the better and the less sugar the better.
Coffee (organic) = good.
Last but not least, greens and salads: It’s easy (not cheap) to buy mixed organic salad greens in those (damn) plastic containers. They even often over-pack them, so what I do is save a plastic container and repackage the greens from a new container into two containers with a paper towel below and above to absorb moisture, so the greens are loosely packed. They stay fresh and last longer this way. Greens are nutritious and provide roughage.
Rules of thumb:
Reduce your sugar intake.
Whatever food is in your kitchen you will eat, so stop buying junk.
Get in the habit of making soups and smoothies. Smoothies for lunch, soups for dinner.
I understand that it is important to eat a variety of colors of vegetables and fruit. You can take this advice on faith and don’t worry about why colors are important, but that goes for fruits and vegetables and roots, like onions and potatoes.