As acupuncturists, we spend a lot of time with our patients talking about their diets. Many people come in knowing that they could eat better, but they are not sure where to start. Shifting to a diet that is rich in vegetables, healthy fats and quality protein is one of the most profound changes you can make for your health. Old habits do die hard, but there are some ways to make it much easier, and so much more delicious.
Learn to cook vegetables
Make a hobby of it. Found a veggie dish at a restaurant that you enjoyed? Examine the ingredients and try and replicate it at home. Invest in a good chef’s knife and cutting board as veggies do require some chopping. Play around with different fats – cooking veggies in butter and/or coconut oil not only makes the nutrients inside them easier for your body to absorb but it also makes them so tasty. Here is one of our favorite combinations:
Fennel, shitake mushrooms and red onions sauted in grass-fed butter:
Cut up fennel root, shitake mushrooms and red onions into somewhat equal sized pieces. Saute in a large pan (don’t overcrowd your veggies! You don’t like being squeezed into small places and they don’t either) with some sea salt and plenty of butter (grass-fed is best) until the onions are translucent. Go ahead and crank up the heat – a little bit of browning adds flavor depth. Squeeze some lemon juice into the pan at the end, stir to get up any browned bits stuck to the pan. If you have any leafy greens laying around you can add them at this time too. This combo tastes like savory butterscotch deliciousness. So good with poached or fried eggs in the morning.
Try a produce box
So many of us are really busy, which makes cooking at home more of a fantasy than a reality. There are some lovely services that will deliver a box of fresh produce to your door. You can even specify what you want! We get a box delivered every two weeks, which gives us time to cook my way through the box. The goal is to never throw anything away, so sometimes we have to get a bit creative in order to use every bit. It’s amazing the recipes that an on-line search can reveal. Did you know that you can make your own sauerkraut out of a head of cabbage and some salt? If we can do it, you can do it too. Not sure where to start? If you search for “CSA” or “community-supported agriculture”, options in your area will show up.
Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good enough
A common challenge we see with eating a healthy diet is the very human tendency to try and be perfect, and then when we inevitably fail to meet that impossible standard we are tempted to throw in the towel. Life sometimes gets in the way of perfect self-care and that is OKAY. Food is pleasurable, food is social, food is comfort and sometimes all we want for dinner is kettlecorn. For most of us, we will be just fine eating an 80% to 20% of good stuff to junk ratio. Set reasonable goals for yourself (such as – I will eat vegetables with every meal. I will only eat out once or twice a week. I will stop eating food that came out of a box. I will stop eating sugar. I will shop at the farmer’s market and buy actual vegetables, not just kettlecorn) and don’t trip out if you don’t always live up to your goals.
What we eat is what we like to eat
There is a reason so many foods are considered “an acquired taste”. Turns out, we humans are creatures of habit especially when it comes to our diets. That’s why “comfort foods” are usually foods from our childhoods – we take comfort in the familiar and known. So even if you think you hate vegetables, the truth is you just haven’t eaten them enough to like them. So be brave and know that you do have the power to change your diet and support your good health everyday by being thoughtful about what you put in your mouth. Most importantly, you can learn to cook healthy food for yourself and your family that is delicious – and make a habit of it!
Holly Anderson, L.Ac.