#JUNKFREEINJUNE Nutrition & Supplements

Transforming our Eating Habits

June 9, 2019
Transforming our Eating Habits

#JunkFreeInJune has started and I’ve asked several guests to share different ways we can clear our lives of ‘junk’ for a healthier and happier lifestyle.

I recently conducted a poll in the Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond – Let’s Thrive Facebook Group and asked the question:

What is one change you would make to your eating style?

The results were:

40% wanted to cut down the sugar in their diet

25% wanted to cut down the amount of processed food they eat

15% wanted to cut back on unhealthy snacking

10% wanted to eat the recommended 2 servings of fruit each day

5% wanted to eat more raw food

These results show that we all can and want to make changes to eating healthier and remove the ‘junk’ food from our diets. It shows that we are wanting to change unhealthy eating habits for healthier ones.

I’m delighted to introduce my first guest for #JunkFreeInJune is Nancy Dobbins from Defining Third Age. Nancy and her husband recently embarked on a course to transform their eating habits. I asked Nancy to share her experience, their journey and also a favourite recipe.

Transforming our Eating Habits

“Eat Food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

I actually have a graphic of this quote hanging on my refrigerator.  In our quest to be more mindful of what we eat and where it comes from, this little phrase succinctly summarizes and reminds us of the nutritional goals in our house.

“Eat food.” 

By this Pollan means cook from scratch.  Reject anything with unpronounceable ingredients – if your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as a food, it probably isn’t (another Pollanism).  Local is better; local organic is best – avoid ingesting chemicals, including pesticides and preservatives.  Avoid anything sold in a box or sealed bag.  The less processed before it reaches your kitchen, the better.

“Not too much.”

This is self-explanatory.

“Mostly plants.”

Again, no one is surprised by this.  Everyone has been told to “eat your veggies.”  Yet there also is a growing body of evidence that animal products are not good for us and we should avoid them, or at least crowd out their place on our plate with fruits, veggies, WHOLE grains, nuts and seeds.

This seems simple on its face.  But, let’s face it, making these food choices is sometimes difficult.  Fresh, local, and organic is not always available or is expensive.  Add to this the frenzied pace of our lives and the feeling that cooking healthy meals, where we are in charge of pulling together the ingredients in those meals, seems time-consuming & overwhelming.  And we are addicted to processed “junk” food as our taste buds have been conditioned to crave them.  So it is both a challenge and a balancing act at times to adhere to this way of eating.

Dan and I are on a journey to transform our eating habits. 

Eating habits that were developed over a lifetime.  Eating habits acquired through family/society/culture.  And eating habits contributed to by BIG Food and BIG Agri who engineer the products they make to create addiction.  Yes, addiction.

We get it.  We know the challenges.  But we continue on our journey…and are proof you can change these lifelong habits.  And the health benefits are significant.

I recently read a New York Times Magazine article by Michael Moss from Feb. 20, 2013.  You can find the full text of the article here (https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html

It is entitled, “The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food.” I highly recommend this read.  It sheds some well-researched and documented light on some of the food industry practices that contribute to these facts:

 The prevalence of obesity in 2018 in the US was 39.8% of the adult population and affected about 93.3 million of US adults in 2015~2016.

Type 2 diabetes has increased dramatically, such that it is now a major health issue.  Consider that before 1980 this was a relatively uncommon condition and one virtually unheard-of for children who are now its fastest-growing victims.

Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death.

The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 US dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight  -US CDC

This is a health crisis of epic proportions.  And it is all related to how we eat. 

Easy fix.  Pitch the “Junk Food.” Right?

Except if it were easy, the statistics above would be far less staggering.  We are all now conditioned for food, in order to taste good to us, has to hit our “Bliss Point”… that exact combination of sugar, salt, fat, and “mouth feel” that makes us LOVE a food product and crave more.  This is the engineering of foods by food companies that exploit our natural brain chemistry to get us to eat more and more of their unhealthy products.  Processed food is engineered to make us want it, eat it, and buy more of it.  And it is a hard habit to break.  This is the crux of the NY Times Magazine article.

If you are reading this post, it is likely that I am “preaching to the choir” and that you already are aware of the benefits of healthy eating, and the risks of consuming junk food.  Given the difficulty of eliminating processed food full of SOS (salt, oil, sugar) and chemicals (preservatives and pesticides) from our diet, what should we do?

Try.  Make an effort.  And if you slip, forgive yourself and try again.

  • Try to buy minimally processed foods.  If it has more than 4-5 ingredients or ones unpronounceable to you, do not buy it.  Avoid the SOS.
  • Try to cook from scratch where YOU control the ingredients, particularly the salt, oil, and sugar.  This will naturally reduce the amount of these items, and over a relatively short period of time, a few weeks really, you will find you crave them less.  You will break your addiction.
  • Try to buy organically grown, fresh, LOCAL food.  If you cannot find it or afford it, frozen is often your best bet.  Be aware, as much as possible, where your food comes from.  Closer is better.  Organic is even better.  Best by far is to grow it yourself – most delicious, too!
Transforming our eating habits

When Dan and I made the decision to try to transform our diet, we were motivated by what I suspect is the motivation of those reading Sue’s blog:  being the best, healthiest versions of ourselves.  We took the additional step of working towards being “Whole Food, Plant Based” eaters which also involves the elimination of animal products from our diet.  I have published a number of posts on my blog that address the hows and whys of this decision, so if you are interested in reading more you can find info there.

Basically we, like many of you, were starting to be plagued by some of the diseases of culture and lifestyle.  Dan was obese, both of us had bouts of diverticulitis, I had IBS and borderline hypertension, and cholesterol was a concern.

And, now, while Dan could stand to lose a few more pounds, other than that our health concerns have disappeared.  Gone.  I have avoided medication for hypertension and high cholesterol (with all the concerning side-effects!), as well as surgery for diverticulitis.  My IBS symptoms are also gone.  Both Dan and I had recent full physicals where all of our exams and tests were perfect, including our cholesterol.  Perfect.

Here is my disclaimer:  Your results may vary.  I am not a health professional.  I am only relaying our results and my belief that a healthier diet was a contributing factor.

One of the most prevalent arguments given against this diet is that healthy eating is bland and boring.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Plant-based, delicious options are all around you, you need only be open to the possibilities.  We do not feel at all deprived; in fact eating this way seems like something of an adventure.  We have tried many foods that never graced our table in the past.  In fact, we had Jerk Eggplant steaks on the grill the other night that were just delicious.  And, in the past, eggplant would NEVER have been on the menu!

Our taste buds are evolving.  Yours can, too.

Sue asked that I share a recipe that we like.  A new favorite is a quinoa tabouleh.  One of the great benefits of this journey is the exposure we have gotten to the flavors of different cultures, many which routinely use healthier, plant-based ingredients.  Tabouleh is a middle-eastern salad that traditionally uses bulgar and parsley as its base ingredients.  Sometimes mint is also added.  This is a twist on that recipe, using quinoa instead of bulgar.

Quinoa Tabouleh

Transforming your eating habits

Ingredients:

2+ cloves minced garlic (use more if you like it as we do!)

1-2 medium tomatoes

Bunch fresh parsley, chopped

4 scallions, white and green portions (in other words, the whole scallion)

1 cup (uncooked) quinoa – about 2-2.5 cups cooked

Juice of one lemon, more if needed, to taste

Salt to taste

Optional:  splash of organic olive oil

Directions:

Prepare quinoa as directed, being sure to rinse well before cooking; cool

Chop all veggies.

Mix cooked quinoa, parsley, tomatoes, garlic, and scallion in a large bowl.

Squeeze lemon juice over all and mix.

Add optional olive oil if desired. (go easy with this)

Salt to taste. (go easy with this, too)

Mix all together and enjoy.

Health benefits of parsley:

  • Reduce the risk of cancers such as breast, digestive tract, skin and prostate.
  • Improve your immune function. Parsley may help to modulate the immune system.
  • Beat inflammation.
  • Fight disease.
  • Protect your blood vessels.

Health benefits of quinoa:

  • High in protein
  • One of the few plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids..
  • High in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.

Remember, you are in control of your SOS (salt, oil, sugar). 

Using the least you can get away with and still enjoy the flavor is key.  Work to reduce the amount of SOS in your cooking.  Experiment with different spices in your cooking.  Believe me, you will NOT be sacrificing any flavor.  Pinterest and whole food, plant based blogs are great resources for finding recipes that you like that will help you develop a new repertoire of go-to meals.

Enjoy the adventure!  Healthy food is all around you!

I started this post with a Michael Pollan quote, so I would also like to end with one:

“Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”

Ageing Well, Living Well

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24 Comments

  • Reply Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond June 10, 2019 at 07:39

    Thank you Nancy for your informative post and sharing your healthy eating knowledge. It is always great to have you as my guest and I think the Quinoa Tabouleh will certainly be a recipe I will try. It is amazing how we can transform our eating habits or any habit really as long as we have the determination and commitment. Have a fabulous week. xx

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 10, 2019 at 23:29

      Thanks for this opportunity, Sue. I am so appreciative of your efforts and those of my growing “blogging friends and family”!
      We love the Tabouleh…tangy yet somewhat filling from the quinoa – and full of ingredients that are good for you!

  • Reply Joanne Tracey June 10, 2019 at 08:21

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ll def be giving your tabouleh a whirl – and like you I’ll be adding extra garlic!

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 10, 2019 at 23:30

      Hi Joanne,
      You are so welcome! The tabouleh is delicious and full of things that are good for you. Hope you are inspired to try more plant-based recipes.
      Yours in good health!

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee June 10, 2019 at 09:10

    I’m upping my plants due to a vegetarian teen who I cook for but never comes home to eat, so I eat it to avoid waste. Can’t say I’m noticing a difference in health or weight but it has to be better for the environment and animals, so I’ll settle for that. 🙂

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 10, 2019 at 23:37

      Hi Lydia,
      In addition to being healthier overall, this diet IS better for the environment and animals. These are not the reasons that we adopted it, but they certainly are important reasons to go plant based.
      The biggest shift for weight loss that folks notice is when they eliminate added oils in recipes and cooking. Yes, oils are plant-based, but all are added fats and concentrated calories. And even the touted Mediterranean diet has not been found to be healthier due to the effects of olive oil, but rather that the volume of plants eaten counteracts the effects of the oil.
      Food for thought (pardon the pun!)

  • Reply Sydney Shop Girl June 10, 2019 at 09:14

    Eating ‘not too much’. Perfect advice really. I’m trying to stay on track through this weather and my craving for carbs. But I know enough to do it in moderation rather than going without. Deprivation is no way to live!

    SSG xxx

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 10, 2019 at 23:38

      Hi Sydney,
      Any diet in which you feel deprived will not be sustainable over the long run. Which is why we are being successful, I think, because we do not feel at all deprived.

  • Reply Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au June 10, 2019 at 11:37

    I don’t think I’ll ever go completely meat free Nancy, but I definitely agree that plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables make a huge difference for eating healthy. A lot of people seem to be going Keto and I don’t see that as long term sustainable (or good for you for long term) introducing less sugar and carbs and more veggies is definitely the way to go.

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 10, 2019 at 23:43

      Hi Leanne,
      Just fill your plate with veggies and crowd out the meat into a small side dish!
      I really worry about the Keto diet.
      Less sugar is definitely the way to go…complex carbs such as found in WHOLE grains do not contribute to carb loading in the same way as the fiber, etc. they contain slows the blood sugar spike.
      The more natural plant fibers one eats the better for this and many other reasons. Whole plant foods and grains also are excellent sources of protein. That is one question we always get – protein does NOT have to come from animal flesh. Where do you thing the animals got their protein??

  • Reply Debbie Harris June 10, 2019 at 16:45

    Very informative and helpful thanks Nancy! Like Leanne I don’t think I’ll ever go meat free either but I am cutting down and eating a lot more unprocessed foods. It’s amazing when you read labels. I like the tip, that if your grandmother wouldn’t recognise it as food, the it’s probably not! Great post for the month’s theme Sue 🙂 #lifethisweek

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 10, 2019 at 23:45

      Hi Deb,
      I’m so glad that you found it helpful. The more mindful we are of our food sources the better off we are, in my opinion.

  • Reply Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid June 10, 2019 at 19:52

    I’m a huge Michael Pollan fan and loved his food documentary. We’ve actually watched a number of food documentaries and although we haven’t moved over to a plant based diet, we have become more conscious about the food we consume – choosing more plant based and meatless meals and cooking from scratch. I have followed Michael’s advice and I draw some comfort in that most of the junk food I make, I make myself 🙂 Your story is so inspiring!

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 10, 2019 at 23:51

      Hi Sammie,
      We love Michael Pollan here! We find his advice and research so relatable and practical. He has been at the forefront of what is becoming a “food revolution”…you need only look at the growing number of healthier, organic and local choices in your grocery store to see the impact this movement towards healthier eating is having – even in the mainstream.
      Whole food, plant-based eating seems extreme to some, but we have seen personally the results. We are not perfect by any means, but we do our best daily to choose plants and reduce SOS.

  • Reply Candi Randolph June 10, 2019 at 20:43

    Excellent post with such helpful information! I’ve been working toward eating food that I prepare rather than processed, and I can absolutely feel the difference in my system. I still eat some protein, mainly chicken or fish, but try to eliminate the foods with all those nasty ingredients. Fortunately my health is good so I hope it will stay that way. The quinoa recipe looks delicious, Nancy, I will put that one on my menu! Heading over to check out your site now. 🙂

  • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 10, 2019 at 23:56

    Hi Candi,
    I’m so glad that you found the article helpful…and that the further info on my site will be so as well. We love the quinoa tabouleh and now make it often as it is both tangy and satisfying. I have been eating it for my lunch recently. And there is more than enough protein in the plants we eat…our protein needs are actually very modest. The cows seem to get enough from their plant diet, lol!
    Cooking from scratch takes some dedication, but it is so worth it, isn’t it! Both for flavor and health.

  • Reply Jill Weatherholt June 11, 2019 at 06:37

    Living with Crohn’s Disease for over 30 years, maintaining a healthy diet has always been a priority. My coworkers call me a rabbit because I eat only raw veggies for my lunch. Like you, I’m leery of the Keto diet. Thanks for the informative post, Nancy.

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 11, 2019 at 22:55

      Hi Jill,
      Living with Crohns is such a challenge, I know, as I have had acquaintances with that condition. Being careful with diet is even more essential for you! Raw veggies are great, aren’t they? Dan and I have raw veggies with hummus for lunch often.
      Thank you for the kind words; I’m glad you found the post informative.

  • Reply Erica/Erika June 11, 2019 at 12:09

    Hi Nancy, I always look forward to reading your articles. I know you are passionate about staying healthy and eating healthy. I like that you have Dan on board with transforming eating habits. My husband will eat healthy by default, yet still do his own thing. A wonderful, informative, realistic post. Like you said, it is a “journey” and not necessarily an all or nothing approach. Another great post, Nancy!

    • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 11, 2019 at 22:58

      Hi Erica,
      It is a journey…and I am finding that I am using that word a lot lately, to describe our nutritional lifestyle as well as our choices in retirement. It does help to stay realistic, yet get back on track as soon as possible.
      Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comments.

  • Reply Miriam June 11, 2019 at 13:10

    Fabulous and very helpful post Nancy. Must admit that as I’ve got older I’ve become much more aware of what I put into my body. Eating mindfully really is the key though I also admit I do enjoy my meat. However I’m also experimenting more these days with veggies. Last week most nights the veggies took up three quarters of the plate and I just felt better afterwards. That tabouleh recipe sounds delicious! Might have to give it a go. Thanks again for sharing your dietary journey, very inspiring.

  • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 11, 2019 at 23:03

    Hi Miriam,
    I love that you are letting the veggies crowd out the meat on your plate- and that you did notice a difference! You are right, just being mindful of how our food is sourced and prepared is super important. I never think that I will talk meat-eaters out of their meat, we were there our whole lives as well (I love a good roast beef!) as this is a very personal choice with tons of cultural, family, and societal implications. We made our choice based on evidence that was compelling to us. But the evidence is pretty clear – more veggies and very reduced meat/poultry/pork/lamb consumption is the healthiest way to eat.

  • Reply Denyse Whelan June 12, 2019 at 18:49

    I sure can see the passion and results you have found via this very extensive change in eating habits. In our household we are eating far less in terms of quantity and feel well. I have restrictions due to cancer surgeries in my mouth but am enjoying a greater range of foods now I have some teeth back.

    Thanks Sue for sharing Nancy’s story.

    Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week’s optional prompt is: 24/51 Thank You to Me. 17/6/19 Denyse

  • Reply Nancy Dobbins June 12, 2019 at 21:14

    Hi Denyse,
    Coming back from cancer is a long road…I’m watching my brother go through it right now after his throat cancer treatments. Thankfully he is beginning to be able to transition back to more and more kinds of food now that he has relearned to swallow. Keep going! Glad to hear you are feeling well.
    We are satisfied that we have done our research and have chosen the best way of eating, even if it isn’t always the easiest. The biggest change is the elimination of meat and dairy, but it doesn’t seem extreme to us when balanced against the health risks associated with eating a SAD (standard American diet).

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