Why 'What You Eat' Matters

It’s no secret that what you eat matters greatly because eating or drinking directly introduces something into your body. This can be truly nourishing or conversely has the potential of harming your well-being.  And in a world of unlimited food options, it’s your choice as to what these substances are.
It’s important to note here that every body is different and that as such putting better stuff in, requires your truly personal care. You can consistently consume better, and to do that I encourage you to be more aware of what you buy, choose to eat, and how you flavor and prepare it.  Eating is the next best thing to sex, so enjoy it.

If it makes you feel bad, don’t eat it

Our ancestors, animals and birds chose to eat the fruit of one tree from another by trial and error. Then cultures also developed customs of what to avoid eating handed down through generations. Equally, people living around the Mediterranean who were generally poor, worked hard and enjoyed long, healthy lives through family traditions of eating local fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil.  And here in the states, sitting down to a well-cooked meal was a core part of our daily activity until only a few decades ago. Then TV and other media bombarded us with messages for which cereal, soda, hot dogs, potato chips or cookies we should eat. Eating more meat became a status symbol. Fast food became a part of everyday life. And in the Mediterranean and other places, they try to imitate the U.S. and life changed there, and with it health has taken a nosedive.

If you feel bad after eating the chips or pork chile, uh, why are you eating it?

What you eat affects your body and your brain

You know that good nutrition makes you feel your physical best. But did you know that as part of your body, feeding your brain with the right foods can help you think more clearly, stay alert, improve your concentration, reactions, decision-making and your attention span?
-Simple carbohydrates provide a source of energy but do not make your body work for it. Trade sugar, soft drinks and candy for whole grains, beans, starchy vegetables and fruit and notice the difference.
 -Amino acids and protein in fish, nuts, beans, eggs are the building blocks of organs and stimulate the brain.
-Fatty acids found in fats in fish, walnuts, corn oil are essential for the brain and nervous system.
-Vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron in beans, fruits and vegetables improve memory, concentration and mood.

But there is much to avoid as well.

How to think about what you eat.

I can give you a whole list of foods to eat or not but that’s not enough. When you reach to buy something or take a bite do you think about what is in it, where it came from or how it was prepared? When we had our chocolate shop in London we classified customers into ‘tasters’ or ‘poppers’, those who savored or those who simply ate.
To help you think about what you eat, being aware helps you make better food choices.

Here are a few suggestions for how to size-up different food choices:
- The less processed, the better. Avoid anything refined, processed or fortified; that goes for pretty much everything, including sugars, flours, cereal, vegetables or dairy products.
-The less salt and sugar the better – they are added to kill bacteria and hook your taste buds.
- Avoid products that have several ingredients that remind you of chemistry class. Get good at reading the labels.
- Grass-fed beef in moderate amounts can be good for some, although a diet higher in plants is better.  Learn about drugs in meat and chicken, and what they are fed.
- Organic is good but home-grown is better.  Support healthier practices of your local farmers.  

Healthy eating begins with preparation

Beautiful green veggies cooked in a pool of lard becomes green-flavored lard. Consider some of the following when choosing recipes and preparation:
-Choose your meals for variety and satisfaction. Avoid monotony.
-Spice up your plate. We tend to stick with what we know – try some different spices (especially fresh ones) and you will love what it does for your eating experience.
-Put away the fryer.
- Bring out the juicer.
-Go for color.
-Bake your own.
-Count the fiber not the calories.

A little attention goes a long way in getting true nourishment. Make sexy choices. Turn your meal to food for the soul. What you eat matters a lot! Here’s to your good health and happy eating!

Why 'How You Eat' Matters

 “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”  ~Luciano Pavarotti
In my NASA days, at the start of the manned space program we got lots of scientific advice about feeding the astronauts quick energy foods that came in tidy, compact containers. So we ended up with advancements like Tang, Tootsie Rolls and high sugar fruit pastes, which worked well enough for short missions in tight living quarters, and the need to eat whenever possible. The Russians, in their larger spacecraft and with longer stays in space, had established mealtimes when they ate together as a group. We took the Russians’ lead and soon made sure our astronauts took a break to eat prepared, more nourishing food.  It was important for them to feel they were taken care of. And who wants food that looks (tastes and smells) like it came off a Star Trek set!

If Napoleon was correct about “armies marching on their stomachs,” should not space ex-plorers float on theirs?

In the news media today when it comes to food and eating, what you eat gets all the attention. How you eat is rarely addressed despite its significant impact on what you end up consuming and how well nourished you feel.  While I’ll cover the important subject of 'what you eat' in my next post, let’s attend here to the “how” of eating.

Consider this: after that first gasp for air, finding a source of food is the next reflex action for newborns. Your mother is your first call.  Breast or bottle-fed, you start off by associating food with nurturing – warmth, physical contact, love, comfort, smell, taste, the sense of fulfillment. After weaning, and once a toddler, these psychological elements associated with eating often diminish. The relationship between family, food and nurturing may fall apart.

That being said, I offer a few key suggestions below for how you can get a lot more from your eating experiences. As a nation, our eating habits are doing us few favors. The good news is that adopting or further developing some of these practices will likely moderate the amount of food you eat, as well as increase the enjoyment of every bite on the way to a happier, healthier you.

Rediscover the Joys of Eating

• Set aside the time for eating. Yes, just like the astronauts. By pausing for meals you can again begin to touch into the enjoyment of the eating experience. If we read, text, watch TV, or drive while eating, it is impossible to fully attend to the meal.
• Sit down for meals at the dining table joined by your family, and even your friends whenever possible. “Breaking bread” is a wonderful way to connect with the people that matter to you. Share the duties of setting the table with plates and cutlery, as well as clearing and washing up. Suddenly, it’s an occasion rather than another expedited activity.
• Practice giving thanks for whatever moves you. Gratitude is a feel-good mechanism to bring back awareness to forgotten positives in one’s life.
• Pay attention to what feels right for you when eating. Being active or sedentary prior to meals, or even over a period of time, will influence your real hunger. The time of day, previous consumption, and even seasonality may all affect what and how much you may truly need to eat. And appreciate that you may not know better than someone else what they need, and vice versa.
• Choose reasonably-sized plates.  Dinner plates are 30% larger today than they were 100 years ago. You can do the math. Pay special attention to plate size (and what’s on the plate) when you go out for a meal.
• Eat slowly, with a mindful attention. Take a few breaths between bites or sips. Be aware of the colors, smells, tastes and textures of food. When you slow down, flavors burst forth.  And remember that it takes the brain 20 minutes before it senses that you have eaten enough.
 Notice when you are tired at mealtimes. Sleep deprivation is common in this busy age, and leads to over-eating, especially of fat and sugary foods. When you are particularly fatigued, practice bringing special attention to what you are eating. It may well save you from one of those chow-downs you soon regret.
• Beware of eating to soothe your anxiety. When you grab that bag of potato chips or left-overs from the fridge, consider if it’s because your body really needs the food, or if you’re doing it just to ‘calm down.’ Eating is a common coping mechanism.

Here’s how confident I am that implementing these tips can have a significant impact on your well-being: I guarantee that if you follow most of these suggestions you’ll moderate your caloric consumption, and improve the quality of what you eat too. Let me know how it goes.