What Do I Eat... and Why?
In my opinion, any healthcare practitioner who is educated in nutrition and not requesting their patients bring in a 7-day food journal is not doing their job. Why? Well, if we can agree that food is medicine, which is a scientific fact, that means it is also potentially poison, hence either aggravating or helping any condition.
I almost never prescribe herbs without first feeling confident that my patient is complementing said medicine in their diet. Obviously prescribing someone herbs to help with weight loss as they continue to consume fast food and sugar is like hosing down a house fire from the front of the house while someone sprays it with gasoline from behind.
With that said, what kind of practitioner - what kind of PERSON would I be if I didn't equally share my own food journal as a point of reference, not because I eat so perfectly, but quite the opposite: Because I don't eat perfectly, nor am I a fantastic cook with an abundance of free time, I thought it might be cool to share how it is still possible to eat well.
I didn't begin cooking at home until being repeatedly told by teachers in Chinese Medical school that is basically impossible to be healthy if all you eat is take-out, no matter how organic or high end your options are. And as my sister, Jenny says: "If you can google and you can read, you can cook." Culinary ignorance is no longer an excuse. Lastly, I've heard peoples' financial gripes over how expensive quality food is, but I lived below the poverty line for over ten years and always shopped at Whole Foods and farmers' markets. This is really a matter of priority, and awareness of how harmful those white, $3 eggs really are...
So, here it is, a random, ordinary week of my 21 meals. I try not to consume any calories after 7pm, and if it's a night where this is difficult I use 8pm as a back-up; then waiting until 8am for breakfast, so as to give my metabolic system its due 12 hour rest. Although I'm uneducated in 8-hour restricted eating windows, my opinion is they are mostly executed irresponsibly, with participants starting to eat at 12pm and ending at 8, while breakfast is the most important meal, and metabolism wanes in the evening. I take room temperature beverages and no refined sugar. I sit when I eat and digest, and I chew a lot!
Eggs over easy with sauteed swiss chard with olive oil or butter. For people who think they don't have time to cook in the morning, it takes approximately 10 minutes to chop and cook swiss chard, while the eggs takes the five latter of those minutes. When I don't have time to chop garlic I might sprinkle some seasoning and/or sea salt on it, and viola! And if you're still afraid of egg yolk creating bad cholestrol you need to get out of the 80's. LDL cholestrol is caused by sugar and fried foods.
Whole Foods hot bar! Many of my patients are not so fortunate to have access to places like Whole Foods in their neighborhood , but chances are good anyone can find some cooked veggies to get through the afternoon: Here I chose cole slaw with leafy greens underneath, roasted carrots, cauliflower, and a piece of pesto tofu. I don't advise eating much soy, but I have it once in a while if I feel like I've recently overdone animal protein.
Seared salmon with broccoli romanesco in garlic and oil and organic cherry tomatoes, literally done nothing to. If it looks gourmet and fancy, that amount of broccoli was $2.50 at the farmer's market, and the wild salmon was on sale for $14/lb. Although I am not pescatarian, both my girlfriend and I experience feeling our best after meals of fish & vegetables only.
There was a time when eggs and hash browns were my typical breakfast, which when I became more health conscious transformed into eggs and yams, and when I became even more health conscious transformed to simply eggs and greens (in the interest of not starting the day with carbohydrates). This was a medley of leftover greens, quickly sauteed, as I avoid microwave radiation, even to re-heat. It's scientifically proven to be detrimental to foods' chemical composition.
Whole foods two days in a row! Not my usual, but I happened to be in the neighborhood... I kept this meal relatively carb-free: Grilled bok choy and peppers, barbecued corn, arugula, maki fish and two grass-fed meatballs. Our belief is the reason red meat's has such a bad rep is because historically we've eaten it in excessive quantity, and not enough quality. If food is medicine, then it is the dosage, not the substance we had wrong all along. Also much easier to process alongside greens then carbs, a la meat on pasta, bread, or rice.
More meals that illustrate that you don't need time or money to eat well. 1/4 pound of salmon, white rice and a wonderful pickle from The Pickle Guys in LES! Whole meal probably costed $6 and took about ten minutes to prepare. I like to do salt and pepper on fish, maybe rosemary or oregano, and sometimes dress with some kind of mustard. On white rice I like to drizzle olive oil, utilizing the healthy fat to help metabolize the carbs :)
Beets, Eggs and Avocado with salt & olive oil drizzled all over! Although avocado is obviously uncooked, it is also a super food that offers the optimum source of polyunsaturated fat. I like to get variety by cooking my eggs different ways, and although beets take too long to cook in the morning these were pre-cooked from days before. It can be difficult to get healthy food during our hectic days, so I ensure to do it first thing!
I know, I know, tilapia's the worst... but it's really not. Refined sugar is. Fast food is. Pizza, ice cream and beer are. This is a once in a while treat I enjoy while in my old hood in Harlem: Grilled African tilapia with sweet plantains and sweet and spicy grilled onions. Admittedly, too much (naturally occurring) sugar, but even this bottom-feeder fish offers some healthy fats amongst its issues, and I always feel quite warm and nourished after eating it, which speaks volumes. It's important to differentiate between bloated and satiated, the former of which we suspect when people claim to feel full from raw foods like salad and/or smoothies.
My girlfriend and I are both part Italian-American and share in common no greater weakness than pasta and bread (the latter not shown, but admittedly present!). However, in our recent surge of health consciousness when ordering Italian take-out we now just share one plate of pasta and a bunch of vegetables: Cauliflower, and broccoli rabe is the perfect bitter green to reduce inflammation. A couple of arancini (rice balls) on the side for further flavorous indulgence!
Another rare indulgence, though not as bad as some might think. Maybe once a month I'm too late in the morning to prep breakfast and instead grab from the Dominican spot by my job... and boy, do I love it! Salami and eggs, avocado, and mangu (mashed plantains) & onions. If only it were organic/hormone free, from a Chinese Medicine view this would actually be healthy: Warm, cooked protein and healthy fats - just a bit carb heavy; but again, I had energy for hours on this day.
As I went super hot and heavy for breakfast, light and cool was an easy choice for lunch. There are less healthy options by my office in the Bronx than there are in the city, so once a week I opt for cold over carbs (as the lesser evil) and get a Greek salad from the diner. I add healthy fat via avocado so as to get enough qi to metabolize the cold temperature, and viola! Cold foods are okay in moderation, also preferable in the summer time and in the afternoon instead of morning or night.
Seared swordfish, steamed cabbage and quinoa, all covered in sea salt and olive oil. Normally I like to add more veggies to my quinoa, maybe some chopped cherry tomatoes and avocado, but today I had plenty of avocado! Personally, I'm still learning to like cabbage - a bit bland for my taste - but like most watery veggies (zucchini, asparagus...) it's supposed to be great for inflammation. This is another semi-gourmet appearing meal that costs about $10 and takes about 10 minutes.
If you're gonna go cold, go big! Even I get tired of eggs, so maybe twice a month we have yogurt. It's important when buying yogurt that the fat content outweigh the sugar. We get dairy-free, coconut milk yogurt, and I add sugar-free vanilla extract, flax seed, 100% cacao powder, almond butter, cinnamon, and topped with blueberries and strawberries. You should sue Coca-Cola for ruining your palette if you don't find this delicious. But such a breakfast is rare in the winter.
Kind of an Asian/soul food hybrid here (again recall, I am by no means a great chef): Collard greens with rice and beans, curiously dressed with sesame oil. Why? Because I just love sesame oil and I get tired of the monotony of olive oil. Since breakfast was cold, lunch had to be warm and I felt like keeping it vegetarian. You'll notice I eat almost no chicken, a) because I don't cook it much, and if you get take-out inorganic chicken is probably the filthiest product in all of western society.
Kale and hormone-free roasted duck with some red pepper slices! While most animal proteins are considered very "warming" in Chinese Medicine, duck and pork are more "cooling," which makes them more my go-to in the summer than red meat. I also have a warm constitution. If you're more cold, by all means eat plenty of steak and bone broth, as I do more of in the winter. The only apparent issue with this meal is the portion of animal protein, which is why I ate only half and saved the rest.
Eggs and swiss chard, sauteed with butter, sea salt and red pepper flakes, the latter of which is my cheat: For my constitution, especially in the summer time, I should not be eating any spicy food... but I love it... just like all people who are best advised to avoid it (not sure why life is like that). Other than that, a next to perfect breakfast. Anyone who says butter's not healthy is also stuck in the 1980's with the fat critics :) Butter's great for the brain!
CONGEE is a slow-cooked rice porridge, where instead of 2 cups of water to a cup of rice it's 8 cups of water to one of rice. For this recipe my intention was to nourish my kidneys, so I put goji berries, walnuts, garlic & sesame oil - a rather sloppy recipe, but easy to cook & gentle on the stomach. Chinese Med believes white rice is not as bad as believed and brown rice not as good as believed. Brown may have more nutrients, but we should get our nutrients from greens, protein and fat, not carby grains.
Apparently today was Asian day, also a low calorie day, which means I must have had some fat heavy snacks in the afternoon: most likely nuts and scoops of almond butter and/or coconut butter and probably some 80% dark chocolate. This is a delicious bok choy soup, with celery (also a nice cooling vegetable), garlic, tofu and seaweed, which helps reduce inflammation. I love this dish, as it is warm & nourishing, but light for dinner, and can be done with carb-free or with rice/noodles.
WEEKEND FRITTATA! Green beans are great for strengthening the stomach qi, and I just threw in whatever other vegetables were present - red peppers, mushrooms, etc. On the side we may have had some bacon, but surely hormone and nitrite free, as the disparity in health quality between good bacon and bad might be greater than any such food on the market.
An incredible tuna salad recipe from a friend, with avocado, cucumber, salt and pepper and olive oil, and I added some radicchio leaves to it for a refreshing, COLD lunch on a hot summer day. Pickle Guy pickles on the side, and again, ensuring to have enough fat in the meal (i.e. wild tuna and avocado) to break down the cold. I know, I know, the mercury, but I don't eat much tuna & it does offer many benefits too.
Leftovers and remnants from the other night. I told you I'm lazy and busy, and not so good a cook. Appearances and quality ingredients can be deceiving. I reheated the quinoa, seared the swordfish for ten minutes and did almost nothing with the salad ingredients - just threw it together on the plate and drizzled high quality oil and vinegar on it... and all parties were content! Shop at farmer's markets or just good markets in general, and you don't have to come up with great recipes.