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Volume 20 Issue 4
November/December 2014

Our Daily Food – Choice or Chance?

Everything is About to Change

Beyond Right and Wrong: Using Mediation to Transform Conflict

Adventures in Lucid Dreaming

The Secret to Good Health and True Happiness

Geothermal and Solar as Heat Sources

We’Moon 2015: Wild Card


Our Daily Food – Choice or Chance?
by Sandra Brandt
Sandra Brandt

Food is a major aspect of everyone’s life—in fact perhaps THE most important thing in some respects. First, of course, it’s a basic and regular requirement for our very survival. Much of our daily thinking and planning revolves around food—where and when we will acquire and partake of it, what we will choose to consume, as well as who we will share the experience with since much of our collective personal consumption of food is carried out in the company of other people.

It is said that we make more than 250 decisions about food every day. Countless factors enter into these choices. Some may not seem like much of a decision, being influenced to a large extent by ingrained habits and assumptions, but our actual choices as adults are often much broader than we may realize, encompassing factors such as

  …the sensory properties of foods, such as taste, smell, or appearance; social, emotional, and cognitive factors, such as likes and dislikes, knowledge and attitudes related to diet and health, habit, or social context when eating condition our choice. Personal values, life experiences such as marital/co-habitation status, or skills (e.g. cooking), a person’s beliefs (e.g. about issues like organic and GMO), and perceptions, such as perceived barriers to eating a healthy diet, may be particularly important for certain individuals. Cultural, religious, and economic factors also constrain our choice. Education, ethnicity, and availability, visibility or prices of products play a major role in our food choice. (taken from www.eufic.org)  

The extent of individual food-related choice we accept as normal is a fairly recent phenomenon in our human history—earlier influences were more a matter of survival, limited availability, and culture for most people. We now have an unprecedented range of food products from which to choose. Our senses, which originally developed to let us know which basic foods would serve us best judging by the sight, smell, and feel of a potential food item, are now bombarded by a deluge of extraneous information. The irony of the modern food industry, according to well-known food journalist Michael Pollan, is that in spite of the vast range of food choices facing a consumer in any average grocery store, the number of actual ingredients is surprisingly small. The same small group of cheaply extracted or fractionated ingredients, with the help of a lengthy list of chemical additives, are used over and over to produce a dazzling palette of packaged products which give us the illusion of endless choice. Most of us have heard the advice concerning basic staple foods being located along the outer walls of a supermarket, with the inside aisles being mainly a jungle of highly processed, attractively packaged offerings which yield an especially high profit margin to the food industry. And consumers continue to purchase these “fabricated foods” in record numbers.

In an article called Complexity and Food, Kenneth Fielding Morehead explains how modern farming practices and food production are geared toward stripping food down to its simplest components and a relatively small number of species and nutrients, whereas our bodies have evolved over time to prefer the high complexity of a large number of synergistically combined nutrients and processes, many of which have likely not been identified yet, and therefore cannot be artificially added back into commercially produced foods. Although many argue that deliberately choosing food purchases based on their health value is too expensive, this is rarely the case when comparing the cost based on nutritional value rather than cost per serving of food.

Another question that arises is that of eating for health versus eating for pleasure. Often, we seem to derive a certain inexplicable satisfaction from foods that have very little nutritional value, as well as fast food that is obviously produced with profit, rather than nutrition, as the goal. Is it best to soldier on with a strict discipline of healthy foods or to allow ourselves some less healthy treats? A blog posting entitled, “In Defense of Emotional Eating,” makes the point that eating for comfort starts at a very early stage of life. We know that infants suckle for comfort and security probably almost as much as for nourishment, so it would seem that this tendency is ingrained in us right from the start. Many people also notice that certain foods they remember from their childhood hold a particular emotional pull for them. The trick is, according to the post, to realize that our comfort foods fill a true hunger of the soul and to learn to use it to our physical advantage as well. As an example, they suggest recognizing the following links between contributors to better mood and the biological components in food:

  • Foods high in B12: Think shellfish, grass-fed beef (particularly organ meats), full-fat dairy, eggs
  • Foods high in magnesium: Think leafy greens, soaked nuts and seeds, avocado, raw dairy, dark chocolate
  • Foods high in conjugated linoleic acid: Think pastured butter and cream, grass-fed lamb and beef, wild game
  • Foods high in tryptophan: Think wild game, turkey, duck, asparagus, seaweed
  • Foods high in lycopene: Think guava, watermelon, tomato, papaya, cabbage, carrots

If we can learn to find comfort in foods that are essentially good for us and that also have the capacity to make us feel good emotionally, there’s a better chance that we won’t have to fall back on over-processed, addictive “junk food” in order to get that needed mood fix.

To simplify matters, I have developed my own bag of tricks that makes it fairly easy to concoct simple, delicious, and healthy meals with minimal time and effort at times when I’m too busy or just don’t feel much like cooking, forgot to plan ahead and take something out of the freezer (and there’s no handy leftovers sitting in the fridge), i.e. when I just need something quick and satisfying.

The main strategy involved is to make a habit of always having certain basic ingredients at the ready, including healthy fats, protein foods, and carbs that keep for a long time and you dependably have on hand, which can then form the basis of almost instant meals. When you start to run low on any item, add it to your ongoing shopping list so you don’t run out. These basics can include eggs, plain yogurt (if you make your own, even better), hard cheeses, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, frozen vegetables (especially peas, corn, and loose spinach which thaw almost instantly when stirred into a hot dish), frozen raspberries and blueberries (which also thaw quickly at room temperature due to their small size), good quality bread (if you don’t make your own—keep sliced bread in freezer if you don’t use it up fast enough so you can just take out as many slices as you need at the moment and pop them into a toaster), whole grain pasta, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, apples (in fall and winter), lemons, favourite seasonings, canned seafood, canned tomatoes (paste, chunks), raw bulk nuts and seeds (keep really well in freezer), nut/seed butters, dried shredded coconut, coconut milk, canned legumes, honey/maple syrup, frozen sausages, dried fruits. I also try to keep a thawed jar of homemade bone broth in my fridge at all times, which is extremely handy and versatile; although it does require prior preparation, it can be made in large batches and frozen in pint or quart size jars.

Such basic ingredients can be combined into an endless variety of quick salads, soups, stir fries, sandwiches, egg dishes, smoothies, and snacks.

Here are a few of my own favourite quick-prep meal options, using mostly basic storage ingredients. They could be varied each time with whatever else might be at hand.


Greens, Eggs & Cheese (an ultra-quick supper dish)

Melt butter in frying pan over medium heat. When starting to sizzle, cover with a layer of frozen loose spinach leaves, straight from freezer package. Crack eggs over spinach. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese (optional—omit for non-dairy version). Cover pan and let cook until eggs are set to your liking. Season to taste—depends on saltiness of cheese (I keep a mixture of unrefined salt and mixed dried herbs on hand in a spice jar).

Macaroni & Cheese Supreme

Cook 1 package (1 lb) macaroni (I use whole grain rice pasta). Drain. 

Cheese Sauce:
Melt: 2–4 tbsp butter

Add and heat gently:
2/3 cup whipping cream
2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp unrefined salt (or to taste)

Add and stir in very small dashes of prepared yellow mustard and paprika until sauce turns a nice creamy orange cheese colour (avoids the food colouring found in orange-coloured cheeses). For a more colourful dish, you can add frozen peas, corn, and/or finely chopped sweet red pepper to the freshly cooked hot dish. Mix in the cooked macaroni.

Yogurt Sundae
(Excellent for breakfast, snack, dessert, or even an occasional meal replacement)

Place a few scoops of plain thick yogurt in individual dish(es). Stir in a dab of shiro miso (the light beige coloured kind) or a pinch of unrefined salt, dash of honey or maple syrup, and a few drops of vanilla (miso needs to be mashed in well as it is very thick and pasty.) The miso helps to achieve a nice smooth caramel flavoured yogurt. Top with or stir in your choice of frozen berries (let sit at room temperature first a bit to thaw them somewhat), chopped apple, nuts, shredded coconut, etc.—use your imagination!

The Ominivore’s Dilemma – A History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan, Penguin Group, 2006

Sandra Brandt has had a lifelong interest in whole natural foods. She lives in Regina, where she gives cooking classes, presentations, and dietary consultations. She can be reached by email: brandt.s@sasktel.net. Also see the colour display ad on page 9 of the 20.4 November/December issue of the WHOLifE Journal.


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