France, Food, and Fat

Oh, the french. They smoke like chimneys, drink like poissons, and bread and cheese is practically a religion there. But I can count on one hand the number of obese people I encountered on my trip— and two of them were from Texas. Now, I’m not suggesting these habits are a path to health. Indeed, the idea of the “French Paradox”— that coronary heart disease death rates are low despite high consumption of saturated fat— has been pretty well put to bed (here,  and here). Yet still, obesity is not the problem there that it is here. Why are Americans fat and the French aren’t?

You’ve heard it before, but in my observation, it’s true:
  1. Meals are an event. They are eaten at a table, in good company and with plenty of time. Hardly ever on the go or in the car or at the desk.
  2. Food is high-quality. Organic, fresh, made in farms and shops and kitchens more than factories.
  3. Portions are much smaller than what you get in the U.S. It’s always enough, but it’s less that we’ve come to expect You don’t have to feel completely full to be nourished. Indeed, by lingering over the meal, you often realize you are, in fact, satisfied.
  4. They walk, bike, skate, and otherwise get around using their legs.

Nothing here is surprising, not even a little. But it’s powerful.


FROMAGE

hello, lover.

I just got back from a week in Paris, and despite my living the vacation life, wine,cheese, and croissants included, I don’t feel gross. I like this food, when I have it. BUT: I like it in small portions, when I’m walking six miles a day and enjoying the beautifully crafted and plated meals. And interspersed with beautiful veggies and fruits, of course.

I don’t have the same love for this rich food that I do for fresh vegetables, light flavors, greens and berries and flowers and fruits. Some of it is in the taste and the aesthetics, certainly, but most of it is in my body, my energy. Maybe my spirit too, if that isn’t too woo-woo (I know. I know. It is). I don’t live the French life all the time— sometimes I eat at my desk, or watching Netflix. Sometimes I’m in a rush. So eating a primarilty plant-based diet works for me, at home. But I sure enjoy the reminder to put that food on a pretty plate and sit down for a few minutes to enjoy it.

Delicious, yet malicious: Reading Salt, Sugar, Fat

No one, as far as I know, will be surprised to find out that highly processed, manufactured food isn’t the healthiest option. No, what’s compelling about Michael Moss’s Sugar, Salt, Fat isn’t some surprising revelation. Rather, it’s the breadth and depth of an issue we kind of already knew about, laid bare. And it ain’t pretty. Here are the take aways, in the cliff’s notes version:


  • Food companies are not interested in your well being. They’re interested in their bottom line. They will make things healthier if and only if it helps them sell more. They are for-profit companies in a cutthroat competitive market. Capitalism, folks!
  • The executives and scientists who make processed food and drinks generally don’t partake of the products they design and sell. Make of that what you will.
  • The copy on food packages is disingenuous. The only information about a food’s
    Ginsburg_11565-006-Crop

    keeping supremecourt.gov fly.

    nutritional value is on the actual nutrition facts and ingredients labeling.

  • The history of the government’s dietary guidelines is apalling— this isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s pretty blatent. The department of agriculture steers the ship— and this department’s primary mission is not, in fact, health. RBG knows— Moss wrote of Ginsberg’s opnion in a 2005 case about the checkoff program for beef marketing that the USDA was simultaneusly promoting beef (advertising paid for by the government program) and telling people to eat less meat (in the USDA guidelines). She couldn’t square that circle, and neither can I: these folks have a texas-sized conflict of interest.

Bottom line: if you want to eat healthy, you have to pay attention, and it’s up to you because neither the food industry nor the government has your back. Bon appetit!

How to turn healthy eating into quality time

People tell me a lot that they’d like to eat healthy, but it takes time that they want to spend doing other things– spending time with the family, seeing cool things in the city, relaxing after a hard day, working on personal projects, learning new things. Or, it just takes a lot of ideas and it’s hard to think of something to make at night when you get home and you’re beat.

For me and Max, our meals are part of all this. We have amassed a collection of recipes culled from food blogs, and gorgeous hardcover cookbooks with glossy pictures. We often sit around over press-pot coffee on a weekend morning, after a run or walking the dogs, and plan out a week’s worth of meals. Recipes we know and love, ones we haven’t tried, ones that use an ingredient we saw at the market last time, ones that come together fast if it’s a busy night. This planning is like a ritual in itself– we look at the pictures, we enjoy it. We think how good that meal will be. We think about the week ahead– what’s going on?– and get our feet on the ground. We make a plan for some lunches, some dinners, some breakfasts– not usually 7 days worth, but enough to give us great options for most days and night.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 3.28.04 PM

Evernote recipe library, lovingly curated over years

Then we do a weekend trip to the farmer’s market and/or sprouts and stock in everything we need to do the plan. This can be kind of fun in and of itself– the farmer’s market with its music and dogs and food trucks and, well, farmers, and the grocery store with the clerks who know us and the aisles laid out just so, where we know where to find exactly what we need. We’re really efficient shoppers by now 🙂

veggies

summer farmer’s market haul

Finally, we’ll spend a little time prepping food, usually on Sunday. The kitchen smells good and there are some tunes, maybe a little dancing. Maybe we’re cooking lentils or beans or bulgur or wheat berries. Maybe we’re soaking cashews and freezing bananas. Maybe we’re roasting some veggies and washing some greens. Maybe we’re feeling ambitious and we’re making homemade vegan sausage and raw sauces in the blender. It might take half an hour, if we kept it simple. It might take a few hours, if we went all in. This step is awesome– it’s quality time together, but it also makes the weeknight dinner or the midweek lunch for work come together in 10 or 15 minutes– faster than ordering pizza (which is still tempting sometimes!).

Will this work for everyone? Of course not! But it shows on a broad level how we’ve integrated meals into our lives as a centerpiece of time together and relaxing and creativity, rather than a drain on us and a chore that gets in the way of those things. It serves us well!

sunday smoothie: sweater weather

you thought it was going to be pumpkin, didn’t you? don’t get me wrong, i love pumpkin, but it’s a little. . . . well, played out. here in arizona, it won’t be “chilly” for another month or so, so i need to get my fall-fix in another way. this smoothie tastes like apple picking and jumping in leaf piles!

sweater-weather smoothie recipe

add to the blender, in that order. put the lid on. press play.

(oh, and that gadget in the background? it’s a nutmeg shaver, not a pepper grinder! fresh nutmeg is amazing and you should try it).

Sunday Smoothie Returns: Smoothie Bowls

We’re mixing it up this week, humans. (no pun intended). Do you ever want the nourishing goodness of a smoothie, but you feel like you want something a little more substantial, something you can eat with a spoon, something with a little crunch?

Look no further: Smoothie Bowls are for you. This pinterest/juice bar juggernaut is satisfying, fruit-based, and almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Just make sure you have a blender that’s up to the task, because you’ll want to make this a little thicker than an average smoothie. Have fun and be healthy!

SmoothieBowls