I really enjoy my smart phone. It is incredibly handy when I can't think of the name of an actor in an early 1980's movie, when I want to know the weather, and who doesn't love the GPS app? But smart phones are extremely addicting. When faced with a few moments of silence, it has become natural to reach for my phone and scroll. Natural, but not healthy, as I miss opportunities to meet new people, have conversations, and see the world around me. My smart phone has the potential to make me stupid. The choice to allow an addiction to my phone and the Internet is not something I am proud of and I am ever-aware of this addiction and striving to break it without breaking my phone.
The same can be true for my food choices.
I can choose to fill my plate with smart foods or stupid foods. The stupid foods are easy and delicious, but oh, so bad for heart health, blood sugar control, weight management, and can even destroy the feeling of joy. Or, I can make the choice to focus on the smart foods, the foods that actually help my brain function efficiently; truly ‘smart food’!
When I decide to eat smart, it means that I am eating food in its natural form, not processed or altered. For example, a salad of greens, cheese, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, topped with vinegar and oil and microgreens is food in its natural form. Yes, the cheese is milk that has been ‘cheesed’ and the eggs have been cooked, but the health of the food hasn’t been changed. Processed foods would include: white bread, pasta, crackers, Lunchables, cookies, protein bars…essentially everything that can be purchased at the store in a box.
The benefits of eating smart foods include: better natural energy (not reliant on caffeine), improved gut health, clearer skin, optimal weight, heart health, improved blood sugar control, and an overall sense of happiness in life. Why do smart foods have all these amazing benefits? And why don’t more people eat this way? Good questions!
Why we should eat this way: Smart foods are easily recognized by our bodies which were designed to eat foods in their natural form. Sweet apples, crunchy peppers, sugar snap peas, juicy tomatoes, chicken, pork, beef, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, beets, potatoes, and all those amazing herbs that grow and take over my garden…they are all designed to be easily converted into energy by our bodies. Processed foods are designed to last forever on the shelf and to taste good (thus the additional salt which raises blood pressure and increases inflammation).
But why is it such a challenge for me to eat smart food? It’s basic. Carrot sticks, celery sticks, beets on a salad, another salad, chicken breast with a salad, microgreens on a salad. Good grief, the salads are overwhelming! All those foods and set them on the table...no one will eat. That is the other challenge for clean eating: the amount of time it takes to make anything. I do my best to plan ahead, but when a snack attack hits, I really try to stick to the basics.
When I open the fridge at 4:30 in the afternoon wondering what’s for dinner (or any meal), I look for three things: a protein, a vegetable, and a carbohydrate. In choosing a protein, lean and clean is best. Chicken breast or even chicken thighs over bacon or sausage. (Our family enjoys bacon and sausage, but when I serve it, the amount of vegetables on the table is huge!) Baked fish, pork chops, or eggs served a dozen different ways. Then the vegetable. Eaten raw in a salad or, when salads turn me green, I roast root veggies with mushrooms and zucchini. A Schaub Family favorite is to sauté any vegetable in Italian dressing until it’s glazed and a little crispy.
As for carbohydrates, this is where it gets a little tricky. As a Type 1 Diabetic, carbs are the enemy. I can't digest them well without insulin, and I can only get insulin from injections. Carbohydrates are naturally found in fruits, grains, beans, and in lesser amounts in vegetables. Those are the carbs I want, according to my body’s ability to process them. At all costs, I avoid the carbs that come highly refined: flour, pasta, any prepared food that is boxed, as well as potatoes. I avoid carbohydrates by mixing vegetables: mixing black beans with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion and toss it with my favorite oil-based dressing. Or a
variety of root vegetables coated with olive oil and roasted at 350F until crisp.
Good health comes down to my attitude on food and how I move. If I accept the challenge to be smart with my choices, to overcome the temptation of stupid food, to move with purpose every day, the heathy body I crave will surface. I will take steps every day toward health: set my phone down, stroll through the farmer's markets, and meet the people who grew the food that will change my life and ask them for recommendations and recipes.