Get Fit: Bring Some Nutrition to the Table

Photography by Adam Croce

raw brussel sprout salad and basil

What the heck is healthy anyway? You’re confronted with contradicting scientific studies, sugar substitutes, gluten-free, vegan faux meats, diets diets diets. I personally spend more time reading the nutrition labels in the supermarket than I do actually eating the products. Things can get confusing!

Luckily, this is what I live for (besides spoofing The Real L Word, obvs). I’m not one to preach and push the vegan lifestyle, because I truly believe that everybody’s body has different nutritional needs and it is up to you to figure out what works for your own self. But I’ll definitely give you some basic tips that will hopefully help when you’re trying to decide how to structure your diet.

Michael Pollan has written a brilliant little book (and it comes in an illustrated version too!) called Food Rules. I suggest buying it, reading it, and sticking to the rules that resonate with you. Here are a few of my favorites:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. 

“Imagine your great-grandmother at your side as you roll down the aisles of the supermarket. You’re standing together in front of the dairy case. She picks up a package of Go-GURT Portable Yogurt tubes–and hasn’t a clue what this plastic cylinder of colored and flavored gel could possibly be. Is it a food or is it toothpaste? There are now thousands of foodish products in the supermarket that our ancestors simply wouldn’t recognize as food.”

If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you are not hungry.

Simple, right? That’s how eating should be! Keep it simple.

Let’s move on to the topics of health and nutrition that spur the most heated debates! I fully expect you to scream your heart out in the comments. Just really get in there!

Foods to Avoid / Not Avoid

_

CARBS

Please for Gaia’s sake STOP CUTTING OUT CARBS. Carbohydrates are essential in the process of muscle building.

“Researchers found that low glycogen (carbs / sugar) levels impaired muscle protein synthesis following weight training. They measured the activity levels of genes controlling muscle growth following weight training in legs with normal or depleted levels of glycogen….Carbs fuel high-intensity exercise and stimulate the genes that control muscle growth.”  According to the Journal Applied Physiology.

I don’t care if you’re on the Paleo Diet, Atkins, or South Beach — carbohydrates get such a bad rap, even though they’ve been around since our ancestors started eating. Brown rice, oatmeal, beans, fruits, vegetables — all these things contain carbs. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid carbs when eating. I think a better idea is to stay away from highly processed carbs, such as white bread, white flour, white anything. Actually, the only white thing in your diet should be cauliflower (and tofu or almond milk, in moderation).

shot of raw almond milk

 

PROTEIN

If one more person asks me how I get enough protein as a vegan…

Most people don’t know what “enough protein” actually is, as the meat and dairy industries have been the ones making these rules since the beginning of nutritional education. Recent studies are showing that:

“Muscle protein synthesis maxes out after a meal at 20-30 grams and anything in over will actually not help stimulate more muscle protein synthesis.” (A Moderate Serving of High-Quality Protein Maximally Stimulates Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis in Young and Elderly Subjects; Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 9, Pages 1582-1586)

Wait, 20-30 grams!? I had a guy tell me this week that we should be eating 1 gram of protein for each pound we weigh, which is totally idiotic. I would have to eat a field of spinach a day for that many grams of protein. Luckily, I knew better. Guess what happens (especially to women) when you eat more protein than your body can synthesize: it turns to fat.

Oh, and if you’re still wondering, vegetarians and vegans get protein by eating vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains. The aforementioned carry many of the amino acids that make up a full protein. We don’t need to eat all of the aminos that make up a full protein at every meal, we just need to eat different foods throughout the day.

Peanut butter and whole grain bread make a full protein, as do rice and beans. Hummus is also a full protein (beans and sesame seed paste). BAM.

quinoa and sweet potatoes

 

SUGAR

This is a sticky subject [laugh]. My own personal rule is: don’t eat things with added sugars. I put this rule into practice by systematically break it on the daily. However! The main goal is to keep your sugar intake to a minimum. Sugars are really problematic when it comes to derailing our health plans, and while fats aren’t great for us either, it really comes down to our sugar intake. I try to get the majority of my sugar kicks from fruits, end of story. But I can’t seem to quit the almond milk in my morning coffee, so I let that one slide.

If you’re worried about your sugar intake, keep a running tally of the grams of (non-fruit based) sugar you consume throughout the day. Then try to cut that in half for the next month. Then try to cut that in half the month after that. Ideally, women shouldn’t be eating more than 25 grams of sugar per day. Eventually you will lose your addiction to sugar, which will make naturally sweet things — like fruit, and ladies — taste like an explosion of joy in your mouth.

Also, read the labels. Sugar is hiding in a lot of the foods we consume, and keeping it out of your diet will save you, on average, over 400 calories per day. While you’re at it, cut out the artificial sweeteners, too. This will really help wean your body off of its addiction to sweets.

 

FATS

Fats are confusing. Some fats are good, while others aren’t — kinda like your ex-girlfriends.

Good fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—lower disease risk

Examples:  fish, oils (from vegetables), seeds, nuts, nut butters, avocados, soy foods, and olives.

Bad fats—saturated and trans fats—increase disease risk

Examples: hydrogenated oils, dried coconut, coconut oil, butter, shortening, red meat, chicken (with skin), dark chocolate, dairy products (ALL), fried food, commercially baked pastries, and candy bars. 

Essentially, if you’re eating high portions of meat and dairy in your diet,you’re eating a lot of bad fats. If you’re not in the market to go full-scale-veg, consider just scaling back on those types of foods and replacing them with vegetables and legumes.

For a Body That is Working Out

+

Food Tip #1: REFUEL

Always refuel within 45 minutes of a workout. Your body needs the nutrients it’s been depleting while working out.  The best thing to refuel with is fast-digesting carbs, such as fruit and vegetables.

 

Food Tip #2: ADD COLOR TO YOUR LIFE

Eat as many colors as possible! A bowl of Lucky Charms doesn’t count, sorry. I’m talking bright yellows, reds, and greens that come from the earth. Put them on your plate and in your mouth. NOMS.

tomato salad and marinara

 

 Food Tip #3: EAT BEFORE YOUR WORKOUT

If you’re working out later in the day, make sure you’ve a meal 2-3 hours before your workout. The meal should have a mix of carbs, protein (amino acids), and fats (the good ones, duh), such as a salad with hummus and avocado.

If you only have 15 to 30 minutes before a scheduled workout, pick a snack that is simple to digest. Specifically a snack that has about 25 grams of carbs, like a tablespoon of raisins, a banana, or a small serving of applesauce.

No matter what you do, make sure you’ve eaten something before your workout. You shouldn’t be training on an empty stomach.

Now it’s your turn to share your nutrition feelings in the comments! As usual, please keep in mind that this is a safe space for discussion and ideas, so keep it kosher (LOL SEE WHAT I DID THERE).

Disclaimer: Obvs this isn’t medical advice — this is just one person talking about eating whole foods for more energy. If you have questions about your personal nutrition, please speak to a healthcare professional. 

Sarah has written 14 articles for us.

95 Comments

  1. Thanks for this! I recently became a vegetarian (can’t go full vegan, loves cheese too much)and I was kind of freaking out about the carbs. I’ve never been a fan of “frankenfood” saw an advertisement yesterday for cookies infused with vitamins. Who eats cookies for the nutrition? really?

  2. If a food has to convince me that it’s healthy, I’ll put it back. Any supposed benefits that these “healthy” foods may have are offset by the processing and preservatives used to make them.

    Also Aaah. Talking food.

  3. YAY FOOD!
    Food Rules sounds cute and along the lines of something I’d like. The book Twinkie Deconstructed is not the best science or writing but it will scare you out of processed foods. I’m an audiovisual learner so I also love food documentaries.
    I think the more real, actual truth people know about food, the healthier they’ll be.

    I started seriously cutting out artificial sugars a few months ago, which meant giving up my Diet Coke addiction, which was harder than quitting smoking, which I also did around the same time. Because artificial and invert sugars are in pretty much everything these days, that ended up cutting out almost all my sugar intake and almost everything processed. I had to find a new way to drink, because (…until ACamp…) I couldn’t really drink hard alcohol straight. The solution: throw fruit, vegetables and alcohol in a blender. It’s just like V8 Splash except not a nasty unhealthy scam preying on people who don’t care about, read or understand food labels.

  4. This post has some good points for sure and I think you emphasize some important elements of a healthy active lifestyle. I also like how many points emphasized positive, proactive elements of eating. And my comment is more a reflection of contemporary health discourse rather than calling out your specific article, although I do take issues with some things.

    However, I have to say that as someone who works with eating disorder patients, a lot of current food and health discourse is in fact rooted in disordered eating ideology. For those who have never had these issues with food (although I think many, many women are somewhere on the scale at some point in their lives), they often get defensive or dismissive at this claim. I think there’s this idea like, “well sure there are some crazies but most of us NEED these ‘rules’ “. In fact, eating disorders and disordered eating are highly common, and many people who have suffered from them can tell you that lots of language and ideas used in this article propelled their disorder. (E.g., the idea of food ‘rules’, of blatant ‘you don’t deserve to put food in your mouth if you’re not hungry enough’ of ‘bad’ foods, of food being scary because it could cause disease, of spending double the time in the grocery aisle reading food labels). Current health “advice” articles are something that deeply trouble patients I work with and their loved ones.

    Good ‘health’ seems to be an indicator of a good person lately. It’s all up to the individual, it seems. As long as you do ___ and ___ and ___, then you’ll be okay.

    • As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder for 15 years, I have to say that I agree with your comment. Reading articles about what I should and should not eat is often distressing. After finishing the article I immediately panicked and began to mentally go through the “bad” foods that I might have accidentally eaten this week, some of which I had thought were “good” foods. That being said, I know I should probably avoid these types of articles because I know they will lead to anxiety. After working with a dietician specializing in disordered eating, I am trying to realize that everyone will have different ideas about the best diets and nutrition. My dietician and I have discussed what is best for me and that’s what’s important.

      • I really respect your ability to come back from the anxiety response and regain your focus on the diet is best for you. That is amazing.

        Fwiw while I appreciated the article I also disagreed with a lot of it, especially the good / bad fats section. I know you probably know this already so I hope I’m not being a patronising schmuck when I say that what your dietician has advised you is going to work better for you and be tailored for your specific needs.

    • Well said. I am constantly disturbed by what my female colleagues say about food – they go on about “bad” foods but eat them anyway and feel ridiculously guilty. It makes me sad.

      • Word. The time is coming when I will finally tell the next lady who conspiratorially tells me she’s going to be ‘bad’ by eating the chocolate cake that she’s eating a piece of cake, not committing genocide.

    • As someone recovered, I agree 100%. While I recognize that my college senior diet of pizza, pad thai, and copious amounts of alcohol is not the greatest for my body (also why I gained a little bit of weight this year, though not nearly proportionate to my calorie intake/ lack of working out), I worked my freaking ass off to get to a point where the very thought of those foods didn’t send me into a panic attack/ major binge. I recognize that for a large portionof Americans, some nutritional guidance would be good. But I am VERY opposed to this idea of cut-and-dry rules. My body didn’t recover (read: stabilize at/lose to a normal weight, not gain) until I allowed myself to eat ANYTHING, in moderation. Moderation is the key, not arbitrary rules. (Though I will say yay carbs, thanks for including that)

      Honestly, I’m incredibly disappointed in Autostraddle for choosing to post this.

      • Unfortunately it is impossible to please everybody and tailor a nutrition post to everyone’s specific history and needs. Please keep that in mind when you read this, it is a generalization because it has to be. I started the article off saying that “I truly believe that everybody’s body has different nutritional needs and it is up to you to figure out what works for your own self.” And I stand by that 100%.

        In this article I am simply giving a few tips about food and healthy eating. If anything, I’m praising food and trying to help people enjoy it in it’s most natural state and I fully support eating as much healthy food as possible, I would never support any kind of eating disorder as I have many friends who have history’s with them. I’m not talking about societal ideals about beauty or weight, I’m talking health here. Veggies. Nutrients. Vitamins. Again, everybody’s body is different, learn what works for you or see a nutritionist if you are unsure.

        • I keep hesitating to ask this because I don’t want to seem rude, but Sarah, do you have any credentials, like any training in nutritional science, that might allow you to give this advice?

          • I have about as much experience as Riese did with starting a website for queer women, or as much as Annika has to write articles about Trans life, that is to say, real life experience, constantly reading, learning, evolving and overall being absolutely passionate about it. I’m not writing this to be a doctor. I am simply attempting to help and inspire the community I love and caer for deeply. It’s not advice nor medical in any way, it is an article of suggestions. Thank you for asking, there is now a disclaimer at the bottom of the article.

          • Yeah. Unfortunately the reason the Internet has become such a dangerous place for cultivating eating disorders of late is that anyone can get on (and so many people just love to do it) and start giving advice and food rules to large audiences of young women, under the guise of some sort of authority and pseudo-scientific knowledge. I get that your intention was positive, and I imagine many readers rolling their eyes at my comments and thinking ‘shutup already!’. But the fact is that many parts of this article contain disordered eating practices and have, as several readers have pointed out, triggered eating disordered panics among some readers. That has to indicate that maybe, just maybe, something is amiss here. I mean, the byline on the front page literally reads: “If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you are not hungry.” God I hate Michael Pollan. I get that you are passionate about healthy eating… I am passionate about disorder prevention. Which is why, try as I might, I could not stop myself from writing this reply!

            And in terms of ‘tailoring’ this to everyone’s ‘needs’… It’s not that we’re saying ‘hey have a section on this for people with eating disorders too!’ It’s that perhaps we need to really critique and interrogate what we’re told about “good eating!” and “health!” and what sort of norms that perpetuates.

          • you are right about so many things and yeah really good but just FUCKING FINALLY SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT THINK MICHEAL POLLAN IS A FLAWLESS GOD

      • i think it would be really great if autostraddle could just publish this kind of article with a warning, cuz this can be pretty triggering. and yeah, eating nothing but pizza is maybe not the most nutritionally sound eating plan, but it’s not inherently “bad”, sometimes they can be the only food that doesn’t send me into a giant anxiety attack.

        • I agree. I think it does make sense aimed at the general public, but more than one in 20 people on this site are personally affected with eating disorders, statistically, and that’s quite a lot of people.

  5. This is awesome. I keep trying to eat healthy, and it’s not that I need to lose weight so much as I just need to get in shape. It’s really not cool when you can’t run more than a few strides without getting winded.

    But alas, I am weak. My healthy kicks tend to last around a week or so. Someone told me that it generally takes 2-3 weeks of consistent effort to form a solid habit. So that’s my goal I guess, if I can hold out that long maybe it’ll slowly get a little easier.

    Also, how healthy are melons? I eat TONS, like several whole watermelons, cantaloupe, and honeydew each week. I think I’m an addict.

    • As far as running more than a few strides without getting winded, unfortunately no diet in the world will do what exercise will.

      The REAL trick to getting into a healthy habit is to start out small…really, ridiculously small. Can you exercise for 5 minutes a day, every day? I bet you could, you wouldn’t even have to change clothing if you didn’t want to (or alternately, strip naked, it’s only 5 minutes!) “Challenge” yourself to do that for a month, and BAM! You’ve got an exercise habit.

      Same thing goes for eating healthier, little things. Get veggies on your pizza next time, etc. Gradual change is the best way to get something to stick, because you don’t really notice the change 🙂

      Also: I’m trying to figure out how to slip in ‘kitten cups’ subliminally into work conversations.

  6. Thanks for this article Sarah, it was super useful!

    Can we have an article that’s just about smart, effective grocery shopping? I feel like this is a skill I should have acquired in Home Ec or something, but I never did so whenever I go into a grocery store I have no idea what to get and just wind up buying hummus and cans of soup.

    • Time to sound absolutely crazy, I apologize. I am not a vegetarian/vegan/dieter… but I am still aware of what I put into my body. Also, I like making plans.

      From the OH DEAR GOD THIS IS TERRIFYING problem.
      – Spend one day taking an entire inventory of your kitchen to find out what you normally have. Use this time to throw away anything you don’t recognize/don’t want to recognize. If you have a smartphone, get a grocery app (Hensoft’s Shopping List) or put a checklist on your fridge. Whenever you or a housemate realizes something is low, just tick it off.
      – If you’re finicky when it comes to cooking and don’t like to stray from recipes, make your meal plan for the week before you go shopping. Again, you can do this as a spreadsheet or use an app like Meal Planner or Food Planner.
      – Eat beforehand so you don’t shove EVERYTHING in your cart.
      – Buy one new ingredient each trip. You’ll discover new flavours, learn to improvise and eventually the entire produce department looks less daunting.

      For the OH GOD I CANNOT AFFORD GROCERIES problem:
      – Stock up on aromatic vegetables (ie. onions, carrots, garlic, celery). They’re cheap, store well and most dishes use some combination as a base.
      – Buy unprocessed grains (ie. brown rice > white rice > instant rice). It’ll be cheaper since they didn’t process it as much and you’ll eat less due to the additional fibre.
      – Buy pantry staples from the bulk section (ie. beans, legumes, nuts, seeds grains, pasta, flours). It’s cheaper since you aren’t paying for the marketing. As a bonus, you can choose the amount you need so you won’t waste as much.
      – Look to old cuisines for recipes. Rice/soy, bean/corn, grain/legume combos exist in ancestral cooking for a reason. They provide complete proteins on the cheap.

      For the IS THIS HEALTHY ENOUGH problem
      – Start in the produce section and be adventurous. Take health food advice with a grain of salt and follow your own tastebuds. Orange juice may contain a lot of sugars, but it’s still a better option than diet/regular soda. Pomegranates may contain a lot of antioxidants, but so do a lot of other fruits and vegetables that you can actually afford. Eat fruits and vegetables that you LIKE because you like them. Otherwise, eating will become an arduous task and freak you the fuck out. Keep it all in perspective, whatever you grab will be healthier than the fruit snacks or cookies with added omega-3s.
      – Avoid the processed food in the middle of the store. Grocery stores/food manufacturers increase their profit margins everytime they process raw ingredients. Then they can afford to pay their marketing department to extole the virtues of their product (Cerealy sugar now fortified with 10 vitamins!) and pay the grocer for premium shelf space (eye level and generally at the end of aisles). If you look to food blogs/recipe books, you can find ways to make tasty alternatives/shortcuts to packaged food.
      – Get flavour from naturally shelf stable condiments (ie. vinegars, oils, soy sauce, hot sauces, spices). This is the one time I’ll buy labelled foods.
      – People died of vitamin deficiencies when nutritionists thought they had solved the nutrition problem by discovering the macronutrients (ie. carbs, fats, proteins). Margarine, sugar, shortening and coca cola were all thought to be healthy at one point. Food is more than the sum of its parts and the research is constantly evolving.

      I’ll get off my fruitbox now…

    • I’M A PRO AT GROCERY SHOPPING!! I could probably write this article. In university, I used to survive on about 150$ of food per month and I eat 6 balanced meals a day. And I eat meat.

      • Well. First of all, Kristen already said most of what I do.

        Let’s say I make make a roasted chicken over the weekend. There are at least 6 portions of chicken in there. (When I cook a whole chicken, I usually just shove things in it (one whole lemon, couple cloves of garlic, some herbs, whatever) and then look up online how long to cook it cause I never remember. So far I haven’t burnt anything or gotten salmonella.

        Then I could roast some veggies (sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, peppers, whatever) and save the scraps!!

        Then I cut up more raw veggies, whatever i have on hand, throw them in a big sealable bowl with some sort of dressing situation (oil, vinegar, lemon, dijon maybe, herbs). Again, save the scraps.

        THEN, I take all those scraps and all the chicken bones/skin/inedible parts, throw them in a pot with some water, bay leaves, another lemon, bring to a boil and then simmer for anywhere between 30 minutes to 3 hours. Magic: chicken broth.

        Anytime during this process I cook 2-3 whole grains (quinoa, kamut… barley is good cooked in chicken broth, so obv you can wait til that’s done)

        I usually make the quinoa in just water so i can use part of that in my big salad bowl, and the rest i use in a coconut milk cinnamon porridge thing (boil cooked quinoa, coconut milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins or diced apple until porridgy)

        So you can use your grains in that big salad or not, use them as sides during the week. I usually have some kind of salad greens mix so in the morning i spoon some of that big salad on that in a container.

        Another thing I make is mini quiches (about 2 cups of eggs/egg whites, ANY OR NO VEGETABLES AND OR CHEESE AND OR SPICES, pour into muffin tins (fill them halfway) throw in oven for as long as the internet says)

        So in one day I’ll eat something like:

        Breakfast: mini quiche + fruit

        Snack 1: peanut butter toast

        Lunch: salad from the big bowl with grains and leaves of some sort

        Snack 2: small serving chicken+roasted veggies

        Snack 3: protein shake (only thing i can digest before going to the gym 3 hours later)

        GYM

        Dinner: Fish, whatever veggies and grains I feel like eating.

        • So my shopping list for that week would be:

          Staple items I try and always have on hand (buy in bulk and or on sale):
          Quinoa
          Barley
          Kamut
          Coconut milk
          Peanut butter
          Eggs
          Bread
          Protein powder
          Frozen fish

          From store:
          fruits (banana, apple, mango)
          veggies (leafy greens, sweet potatoes, green onions, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, brussels sprouts, onions, whatever!)

    • I’m from Canada and never took home ec or anything of that sort. But when I was in grade 8 and 9 I had this math teacher who took it upon herself to teach us “real life math skills”, and we had assignments where we had to actually go grocery shopping. It was probably one of the most practical things I ever learned in school.

  7. Great article! Lately I’ve been trying more consciously to live a healthy lifestyle. One of the things I’ve noticed when I try to read up on nutritious food is that it’s nearly impossible to find information out there that doesn’t fat shame or talk about food in a creepy eat-that-chocolate-and-you’re-going-to-hell kind of way. It’s so great to read something different!

    There are a lot of different things out there to consider. Something I am noticing has a bit impact is eating low-GI, high-SI (satiety index) foods. If I eat three low-GI meals a day with snacks in between I don’t get food cravings or massive energy fluctuations. In this way, although a lot of people avoid white pasta it can actually work well, because it’s low GI and does a good job keeping you going.

    So far I’ve found conscious eating to be fun and tasty, but now that I’ve hit pre-period week it’s beginning to fall apart. If anyone has tips of surviving the chocolate and cheese cravings… halp!

    • When a craving hits, first, drink water. I’d say a full 80% of my cravings go away when I take a sip (which turns into a chug) of water.

      Don’t avoid the chocolate and cheese if you’re really craving it, focus on portion control and quality.

      Don’t get a giant piece of chocolate cake or a package of ho-ho’s, get real, actual chocolate, you won’t need to eat so much to get the same fix.

      Instead of cheetoes/Doritoes/other fried cheese-like products, get actual cheese and crackers, or whole grain goldfish (watch portion control!)

      If you’re gonna do mac and cheese (My personal PMS weakness), make the pasta whole grain, you probably won’t notice. A cup of chopped cooked cauliflower is usually unnoticed too. Again, drink water with it, and you get full surprisingly quickly.

      I hope this helps, I’ve always been interested in nutrition and now finally going for a Master’s in it 🙂

      • @Randahl I thought this was great advice! Thank you very much. I am sure you will do well in your Masters 🙂

        I really like your approach because you’re suggesting an approach to food where it’s not about “breaking the rules” and also there’s a place for everything in moderation. I think that’s a very emotionally healthy way to look at it.

        The only thing I’m not going to follow you on is whole wheat pasta. Maybe it’s a cultural thing (Italian background) but for me it only has a place in very specific recipes.

        • @Dizzy , thank you! Any votes of confidence are much appreciated 😉

          I definitely don’t believe in forbidden foods. If you forbid something, and think about how you can’t have it, the harder it is to resist it. It’s much better to satisfy whatever craving that is (preferably in the healthiest way possible, but that isn’t always necessary) and move along.

          I’ve actually stumbled across a study or two that show the healthiest people choose healthy options about 80% of the time, with about 20% ‘wiggle room’

          Being of Italian background myself (raised on pasta and wine) I feel you on the pasta thing. I swear you will not notice a whole wheat switch in the heavier dishes like lasagna or mac and cheese, especially if you use a high quality whole wheat pasta. I do use white pasta myself often and just add veggies to whatever I’m making to balance out the carb:fiber ratio, which is why dietitians are always harping about whole grain everything.

    • Why do you think you’re using too much butter/oil?

      Is it for heat conduction/to prevent sticking?
      – Preheat a heavy pan so your food will release when it’s done cooking. I am wary about the effect of Teflon on my health, so I don’t use non-stick pans. However, I do love a well seasoned castiron pan. It’s a bit fussier to clean, but imho well worth it. (Also, if you don’t eat a lot of meat, it’ll work as a bit of an iron supplement).
      – Try other cooking methods such as broiling/steaming that require less fat.

      Is it for moisture?
      – Try subbing in vegetable stocks/juices (ie. veggie stock in mashed potatoes). Try using apple sauce instead of butter in baked goods.
      Is it for creaminess?
      – I puree caramelized onions in place of cream/ghee/butter in soups/curries/sauces. Avocados and yogurt can provide the same mouth feel… I’d recommend googling yogurt substitutions, since it will curdle if overheated.
      Is it for flavour?
      – Try to experiment with different herbs, spices, vinegars and citrus juices. Look at traditional recipes to get an idea how different flavour profiles work together.
      The Cook’s Thesaurus (foodsubs.com) and Niki Segnit’s Flavor Thesaurus are awesome resources.

      Or do you just feel awkward playing with that much fat?
      – Use “healthy” oils such as olive, grapeseed or avocado so you feel less guilty.
      Is it portion control?
      – If you feel like you’re too heavy handed, use a spray bottle/brush/teaspoon.

      • I blend something to eat/drink at LEAST once a day every day. Immediately after I pour the beverage into a cup/container/ whatever I put the blender in the sink under the tap, and turn on the water all the way. I let it sit for a few seconds until the water in it looks clear. Then when I go to wash it it’s super easy because nothing is hardened or stuck inside it.
        TA-DA!

      • My favorite way to clean blenders is to rinse it out, fill it halfway with fresh water and soap, and blend THAT for maybe 30 seconds. Rinse again and you’re usually done! Our house blends stuff every day and the blender sees a sponge maaaaybe twice a month.

  8. I really enjoy the health/fitness topic.

    It’s a refreshing subject in the LGBT community since we are prevalent to obesity, drug abuse, and unhealthy habits overall.

    Great article!!

  9. Croce, after watching you complete an eight minute medium intensity CrossFit interval on the basketball court, I will neve ask if you’re getting enough anything. There ain’t nothing you’re lacking girl!

  10. It makes me sad when people turn food into evil things and bodies into things to be hated and tamed cause food is so amazing amazing wonderful and the bodies are so amazing amazing wonderful so can’t we just love food and love our bodies and take care of them without being full of hate? Yes we can, and we are doing it right here. I <3 Sarah Croce. BAM.

  11. THANK YOU for this. I’ve been thinking I really need to get in shape lately and eat a healthier diet and I really appreciate that this is so point blank the do’s and don’ts.

    Also: “Eventually you will lose your addiction to sugar, which will make naturally sweet things — like fruit, and ladies — taste like an explosion of joy in your mouth.”

    BEST MOTIVATION hahah

  12. I’m a recent vegetarian convert (FU little brother for making me watch Food, Inc) but I still eat eggs from my own chickens (Yes. I’m that person). I buy local grown produce as it’s available. The staples of my diet are seasonally driven in this way as well. I’m discovering foods I never knew existed. White rice was a staple in my Moms kitchen but in mine it’s brown rice, quinoa, farrow, bulgur and the list goes on. About the only “white” food in my diet is greek yogurt. I’ve never felt better, had more energy, performed better (I’m a runner-get your mind out of the gutter) Oh Hell, gutter be damned, I’ve got more stamina, endurance and staying power in that category as well! I just FEEL better over all. It may not be for everyone, but for me: This is living. I love that you wrote this. And I love that you referenced Food Rules! That book is amazing. I also recommend The Omnivores Dilemma. It was really thought provoking. Stepping off my soapbox now.

  13. This. Thanks Croce for the great summary of what I have been trying to explain to the many girls around me, now I can just link them to this article!
    I’ve noticed that my body now rejects/doesn’t crave overly processed and unhealthy foods now that I have been eating in the aforementioned way. (Though every body is different)
    It is difficult at first to get into a habit of eating healthy and nutritionally, just like getting into a habit of working out regularly, but once you get to the top of the climb it becomes easier and soon you will be passing up In-N-Out for the hard boiled egg you brought with you on the way to A-Camp!

  14. I really love this post and your approach to nutrition because it is sustainable and sensible, instead of limiting and frustrating.
    I’ve been into “clean” eating for quite a while, although I admit that sometimes my motivation for cooking something that is really delicious looking AND healthy is so that I can take a picture of it. And then post that picture on instagram/tumblr to (hopefully) trick cute girls into wanting to wife me……
    That and the fact that I feel good when I eat clean and plant-based, and don’t feel good at all when I eat french toast and gummy bears for breakfast.

  15. I used to hear things like this article all the time and think, wow I really need to start doing this. I kept thinking it’s something I’ll get to, and continued to put it off. I am a picky eater, and not mildly, like to the point of disordered eating. But recently I saw that I can’t put it off, cause every day without change was adding to the problem. So while I am still picky, I’ve at least cut out the processed foods and eating foods I was willing to eat that provide a far greater nutrition value. I found I can’t really make these changes without a drastic change in my way of thinking.

  16. I personally have never struggled with disordered eating, so please excuse me if I have failed to fully understand the desire to avoid “food rules”. That being said, I have a point of clarification:

    “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan is not a big scary book of rules.

    “While I call them rules, I think of them less as hard-and-fast laws than as personal policies. Policies are useful tools. Instead of prescribing highly specific behaviors, they supply us with broad guidelines that should make everyday decision making easier and swifter… Think of these food policies as little algorithms designed to simplify your eating life. Adopt whichever ones stick and work best for you.” (page 25 in the illustrated edition)

    His advice (and it is just that, advice) boils down to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It is not a list of proscribed ‘bad’ foods and vaunted ‘good’ foods. It is just a help in thinking through your own decision rules. And, as he says, you chose the ones that work for you. I highly, highly recommend it. Also, there’s a new edition illustrated by Maira Kalman, which is fabulous.

  17. I am actually offended that people consider eating vegan on par with disordered eating. My friend suggested that to me a month ago — I should include that she said this directly after I picked her up from an in-patient eating disorder treatment center; she was projecting her eating disorder/past disordered eating patterns on me. Chooseing to eat a whole foods plant based diet is not disordered eating if it is healthy for my body. Nor is it for anyone else to judge what is disordered as long as I am meeting my nutritional needs. Nor is being vegan about being on a diet, though many might suggest that. Being vegan is about living as compassionately as possible and choosing not to abuse animals. Let us recognize the way in which so many of us in the LGBT community have been abused and make that connection to the suffering of nonhuman animals. We have the option not to add to the suffering of human — or nonhuman– animals.

  18. I love when health and fitness come up on this website, first because we as a group DO seem to have some unhealthy habits…

    I do take a small issue with the fats section, though. Labeling fats as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is over-simplifying things. This doesn’t really apply to anyone who eats animal products, but vegans beware: you actually DO need a reasonable amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. I could go into real details but will suffice to say that cholesterol is necessary for digestion, vitamin D production, hormone production and several other functions. Our brains are made up of a reasonable amount of saturated fatty acids, and saturated fat helps to provide structure to cells. I’m not saying you have to go out and get a bacon cheeseburger, but a small amount of butter won’t kill you.

    Read: small amount, and aimed at vegans. Just about everyone else (myself included) could do with LESS meat, LESS cheese and butter (and sugar, don’t even get me STARTED), and more fish, beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and whole foods in general. I love all of Michael Pollan’s work, even though he’s trying to put dietitians out of business 😛 Oh well, if he succeeds I’ll just open a restaurant.

    And with that, I’ve officially commented WAY too much on a single article, so I’m getting off the fruitbox.

      • @Ami Avocados are great, but you’d have to eat a lot of avocados…I’m a supporter of cooking with coconut oil at least occasionally (or salting it and using it as a substitute for butter…so good!)

        I understand the humane aspect behind veganism, I’m an organic/free range/grass fed and finished/local-small-farm eater myself…but the fact remains it’s a bit difficult to be really healthy on a vegan diet. Iron, protein, calcium, essential fatty acids, phosphorus, and several B vitamins, most importantly B12, are all easily accessible in meat, eggs, and milk.

        I’m not saying it’s impossible to be a healthy vegan, it just takes more work and more thought. The iron, phosphorus, and calcium found in plants are not as absorbable as animal versions, so you need to eat even more.

        My main concern for vegans, though, is B12. You need to be taking a B12 supplement if you’re not eating animal products, because that’s the only food that contains it. Some people have experimented with algae and fermentation and sea vegetables…with no luck, as I understand it. B12 deficiency can cause a type of anemia and neurological damage, it’s nothing to mess with. Please take a vitamin! 🙂

        • YES! Absolutely 100% on the B12. It is so important! If you are becoming Vegan or thinking about it you should be researching it. It is a lifestyle choice and there is a lot to know about it. Also, there are a lot of arguments about B12 right now and some people say that methylcobalamin B12 gets absorbed into the human body better than cyanocobalamin but as far as I know there hasn’t been sufficient proof proving either side right. I would say keep your eyes out for more scientific proof and until then just keep taking B12.

        • I just had my annual physical w/ bloodwork. My Dr. actually told me that I’m not getting enough salt and fats in my current diet. I know she went on to suggest potential food solutions to rectify this. But in my head I heard “Eat more pretzels and ice cream” Hey, Doctors orders…Right?

          • Lol I dunno if any dietitian could ever say the words “Yes, eat more ice cream!” I’ve seen WAY too much coming out against added sugars, and more keeps coming out…I’d suggest more eggs, Ms. I Own Free Range Chickens 😉 I mean heck, you’re getting a constant supply of them!

            Assuming that’s you holding a gun, I’d guess you’re pretty active. When people are sweating a lot (as in even your face and limbs are sweating) they need considerably more sodium (and potassium, magnesium, and calcium, but in smaller amounts) Sure, enjoy some pretzels before activity 🙂

            And please don’t ever point that thing at me!

  19. I know all of this, but there is nothing in the world that could make me give up cheese. Nothing. Cheese is the reason I could never, ever be a vegan.

    Look, you can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but you just can’t take the Wisconsin out of the girl.

  20. I really dig this article! My girlfriend and I are always looking for ways to eat healthier while still consuming some of the junk food we adore so very much. We run a lot so tips on recovery meals are greatly appreciated! I always feel so much better when I follow the “rules” in this situation than I do when I break them, though I’d usually rather eat a cupcake 😉

    As a side note: I struggled for years with an eating disorder and I’ve learned to accept that I just have to do my best to follow guidelines Re:Nutrition and avoid going to extremes in either direction. I definitely felt like this post was a good thing!

  21. I’m sure this is obvious but there are a lot of cool apps out there to help with this stuff, if you happen to own an iPhone type device. I have one that tells me which brands are GMO free and another one that tracks eating and exercise. Both were free, iirc.

  22. I love that someone’s paying attention to being and eating nutrionally. Great article but Protein turns into fat, never, darling. Shall we discuss deeper into amino acid synthesis to enlighten me?

  23. I get an intense pain in my jaw if I eat before I exercise, even if it’s just a snackish amount of food. Does this happen to anyone else? Do you know why that happens? I don’t like running when my belly is totally empty, but I can’t handle the jaw pain.

  24. I have struggled with disordered eating my whole life (it is also a great source of pleasure and passion for me and I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive) and I don’t think this article is problematic at all, so live and let live I guess. No one is going to be 100% satisfied by any one article but you know that? That is okay! Competing and differing opinions are awesome and they don’t have to be personal or hurt.

  25. “I truly believe that everybody’s body has different nutritional needs and it is up to you to figure out what works for your own self.”

    I so so appreciate that comment. It really made the article accessible for me. As a serious omnivore (my family is equal parts Spanish/Portuguese/Venezuelan, so vegetarian for them means you eat chicken, basically), veganism always seemed way too foreign to be relevant in my life. I love that this article proved me wrong. VEGGIES FOR EVERYONE!

    Sarah, any chance we can get the recipes for the food in those photos? Because I sort of really need to eat those things right now.

  26. The “not enough protein” thing infuriates me, and I’m not even vegetarian/vegan (I’m pescetarian, so most of the unsolicited evaluation of my diet comes down to “fish is ick”). I have endured one or two “discussions” about that where my consumption of two fish dishes a week and nothing but plants and grains the rest of the time was challenged as “not enough protein.” “Enough protein” is really not very much at all! People talk about it like your body needs you to cram a huge quantity of charred animal flesh down your throat every day to avoid looking like you’re anorexic.

  27. I went vegetarian about 6 months ago – I didn’t eat much meat to begin with because my wife is a lifelong veg, so it wasn’t too hard for me – and also cut out soda at the same time. It’s made such a difference. Losing weight was not my goal in doing either of those things, but it’s been a pleasant side effect. And I’m not doing any more exercise than I was before (i.e. still very little).

    The other thing we’ve tried to do in my house is to cook from scratch more, so we know exactly what’s in our food. It’s actually surprisingly easy to make things from scratch that a lot of us probably grew up using a store-bought mix for. Like pancakes, for instance. SO EASY. And if you make them yourself you know all that’s in them is flour, sugar, baking powder, oil, milk, and eggs. No weird preservatives or things you can’t pronounce. They are also super easy to make vegan, just use a non-dairy milk (we like almond) and ground flaxseed as an egg substitute. (They turn out fluffier when you make them with eggs, but the vegan ones I’ve made have been just as good tasting.) I also started making my own versions of sauces and seasonings that I normally would’ve bought in the store, like taco seasoning & sloppy joe sauce. (Allrecipes.com is a good place to look for things like this.) It’s a small thing, but knowing there aren’t weird chemicals in my food is worth any extra effort.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.