I was recently asked to write up my thoughts on eating healthfully. Me, talk about health?! I ate ice cream last night and have a roll of cookie dough lounging in the the fridge because you never know when the urge might strike. And then I started thinking a little deeper, beyond my sugar cravings, and realized that I do have a lot to say on the subject.
First of all, I have no rules. There was a time when I put a lot of limits on the way I eat. You know what happened? All I could think about was food. All day long I would sit, hungry, dreaming about the food I told myself was off limits. I’m terrible with rules. Give me a rule and I’ll obsess over it. I thought about food day and night and yet never felt satisfied. I limited myself so much that it became my obsession. I counted calories, knew everything that was entering my mouth and planned my day around the few things I allowed myself to eat. When I broke a rule I felt terribly guilty and shameful. These rules took the joy out of food and nearly made it my enemy. I became my own enemy and was terribly unhappy.
With a diet of no rules I can think more clearly about eating that cookie. Do I really want it? Today, maybe yes. But I don’t sit around dreaming of the cookies I can’t have so I don’t crave them nearly as much. When I do enjoy them I savor it. Feeling good about it’s sweetness. I don’t fret over the calories. I enjoy the moment and move on.
I also listen to my body. I know that I feel much better when I eat meals laden with fresh produce. There’s no denying it. I feel strong, alert, energetic and healthy. I like that feeling. So when I’m not feeling those things I take it as a sign that I need more vegetables and good food. Those are the times when I pack the blender with fresh spinach and toss in an apple, carrot and lemon juice.
When you listen to your body you are also aware when it says, “I’m done.” There’s no need to keep eating when I’m full. Again, when there are no rules it’s much easier to avoid overeating because you have no reason for an unhealthy binge. You’re free to stop and look forward to the next meal when you’ll feel hungry again.
I practice radical moderation. What’s so radical about it? Sometimes even my moderation needs moderation. I’m a firm believer in Julia Child’s great quote, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” There are vacations, and birthday parties and holidays which make healthy eating difficult. Enjoy the party then the next day recover with salad. I’m not talking about plainly dressed greens here. Salads are fun. See here, here and here. If salad isn’t your thing how about soup?
Just like everything else in life, it’s all about the little decisions. Do I really need to find the closest parking spot? Why don’t I take a few moments to walk around the block? Is that second latte the best idea? One cookie really is enough, mostly. These little decisions add up to big changes over the course of a few months, years and a lifetime. It’s not about big, radical changes that fall by the wayside before dinner is ready. It’s about a lifetime of little decisions that value yourself, your health and the health of your family.
People also ask how I teach my kids about health: I live a life following the advice I just gave you. My kids are watching. They see me choosing to walk to the store rather than drive, they see me happily enjoying a produce-packed smoothie and a colorful salad for dinner. They also see me enjoying a bowl of ice cream. I want my kids to see food for the gift it is. Not a burden or a set of rules that need to be governed. My desire is for them to respect food and to love their bodies well. I teach them by doing the same for myself.
This roasted cauliflower soup is the perfect reset meal. It’s for those times when I eat a pork sandwich for lunch and then another for dinner. It starts with a tray loaded with vegetables; leeks, celery and cauliflower. In the oven the vegetables soften on the inside and crisp and caramelize along its dimpled exterior. The original recipe comes from my friend, Aran. She made it for me once and I sat marveling at its richness with each bite. Richness, I often assume, comes from cream. Here, it’s coconut milk. She’s a brilliant one, that Aran. When she fed me that soup I had made her a jar of scallion kimchee and together they made magic.
The perfect texture you see there is from my new best friend, my Vitamix. And here’s the best part, one of you can get a new best friend too. I’m giving away one blender thanks to the Vitamix folks (U.S. and Canada). I had been thinking of the perfect way to treat myself to a Vitamix just before they contacted me and sent one my way. I’ve talked to so many people who say they use it everyday and don’t remember what they ever did without it. I’m now one of those people. I make quick work of smoothies, juices, dressings, soups, and healthful milkshakes (the kids had no idea it was healthy). I even made corn muffins that began with wheat berries and popcorn kernels before the grain grinder whipped them into a fluffy flour. I’m hooked. Just leave a comment below to enter. I’ll randomly select a winner Wednesday, March 12.
Roasted Cauliflower with Scallion Kimchee
1 medium head cauliflower,
1 large leek, white part cut in 1/2-inch slices
4 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch pieces
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 russet potato, diced
1 tsp thyme leaves
pinch chili flake
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400° F.
Toss cauliflower, leeks, and celery with 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for an hour or until vegetables are tender and there is a good deep color on many bits of the vegetables.
In a large pot add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers add the onions and garlic then cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, potatoes, thyme, chile flakes, stock, coconut milk, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to the heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Carefully puree the soup in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped scallion kimchee (recipe below).
Quick Scallion Kimchee
Makes 2 cups
From One Good Dish by David Tanis
Besides this soup I’ve found that scallion kimchee is great on eggs and sandwiches and when blended with cream cheese it makes a pretty addicting spread.
4 bunches scallions
2 teaspoons salt
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon raw sugar or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated ginger
¼ cup Korean red pepper flakes*
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
*I used 1/2 tablespoon chile flakes, you can use more or less. The first time I made it I used 1 tablespoon – spicy, but good. The second time I used 1/2 so the kids could try it out.
Trim the scallions and cut into 3-inch lengths. Put them in a glass or ceramic bowl, sprinkle with the salt, and let stand for 10 minutes.
Mix together the garlic, sugar, ginger, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, sesame seeds, fish sauce, and rice vinegar. Add to the scallions and toss well to coat.
Lay a plate over the bowl and leave in a warm place (at least 70°F) for 24 hours. Or, for a stronger-tasting kimchee, let ripen for up to 72 hours. It will keep for a month, refrigerated.
Excerpted from One Good Dish by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Gentl & Hyers