I think we all have a bit of curiosity about how “the experts” eat…heck, millions of magazines are sold because they write about what celebrities eat. I, in no way, claim that the way I eat is the “right” way. It’s just what I do. And as a dietitian and writer of a food blog, I thought you might be interested in my “food story” to get an idea of the kind of recipes I’ll be sharing here.
So, here we go…
First off, I do not eat meat. I stopped eating meat 20 (!!!) years ago. A bit of background about that…. I was a dance major at a school in NY, and I had, frankly, not been eating much of anything at the time. Black coffee in the morning, 3+ hours of dance classes, a yogurt and more black coffee for lunch, academic classes, then a green salad with egg whites for dinner, then 2-3 hours of rehearsals at night. Most of the time, as a “diet plan,” this worked. But, sometimes it would result in eating too much Sbarro’s pizza or coffee cake from the school coffee bar late at night when I was starving and a cup of tea just wasn’t going to cut it. I knew at the time that this wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle, but I didn’t know what to do instead.
So, when my kinesiology professor mentioned that she was a vegetarian, and recommended the book A Diet for A Small Planet, I figured it had to be better than what I was doing. I read the book, gave vegetarianism a shot, and I’ve never gone back to eating meat. It was my first step in seeing food as fuel for my body, and my first spark of interest in nutrition (although I could tell you the calories in pretty much any given food…it’s an unwanted superpower).
What I eat has evolved over time. I started off with no meat or fish but still eating eggs and dairy. That lasted until I graduated (I figured it would be too hard to be vegan at school…and at that time, it would have been—things have changed so much now in school dining halls!) Once I graduated, I went totally vegan. No meat, fish, eggs, dairy at all. That lasted for about 2 years, but I did not do well eating that way. My blood sugar would often drop and I would get shaky.
In 1999, I decided to attend the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which was still a brick and mortar school in New York City back in those days. (I may or may not share more about that experience in future posts…for now, suffice it to say that I ultimately ended up completing the certification process to become a registered dietitian). Anyway, the school did help me open my mind about what I was eating, and at that point, I started eating fish and eggs again. My blood sugar problems resolved, I had more energy, and overall just felt better.
Ethically, I’m okay with eating fish…I don’t think a shrimp has the same rich world view as, say, a cow, does. For an interesting read, check out The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer. FYI, the most ethical animal food we can eat? Mollusks. Like clams, oysters, mussels. Not only do they not have a nervous system and feel not pain, but they also clean the environment around them by filtering the ocean water. I make sure the fish I eat is wild or sustainably farmed, and that the eggs I eat are pasture-raised and preferably local. Currently, we get eggs from our landlord, who has 9 chickens in our backyard (and 3 ducks, a pig, and 2 dogs, but that’s another story….) I can’t wait till we live in a house of our own so I can have my own chickens. Matt has already decided to name them after the ladies of Baywatch (CJ, Caroline, Stephanie, April, and so on). Funny guy.
I didn’t eat dairy for a long, long time, but it had crept back in again in the last 3 or 4 years. Unfortunately, I think dairy is a major contributor to my horrible allergies (they’re not really “seasonal,” as they happen year-round), and I’ve tested positive for a casein allergy, so I’m currently dairy-free. This makes me very sad. I miss cheese a lot. I’m still kind of in denial about it, and will occasionally order something with cheese in a restaurant, but then regret it the next day. So, you may occasionally see recipes containing a bit of goat cheese or sheep cheese…just know that this stems from my continual deep denial that I shouldn’t eat it.
I’m also currently gluten-free. It started with a low-FODMAP diet, which resolved my (and Matt’s) GI symptoms nearly completely, and even though we’ve phased back onto most “normal” foods, the gluten is staying out for now. This also causes me pain, deep in my soul. Both of us were raised Italian, people! Gluten runs in our blood! Anyway, don’t expect to see any recipes containing gluten any time soon, although I would do truly despicable things just to be able to eat a piece of wood-fired NYC pizza again. Sigh.
Another note: no booze for me. That’s another long story. But I’ve been 100% alcohol-free since 2014. I’m not crazy particular about ingredients I use (vanilla extract, etc.) or ingredients used in restaurants, but you’re not going to see any fun cocktail recipes on here or my take on vegetarian coq au vin. (But if anyone has a good idea for a vodka substitute for vodka sauce, I’d love to hear it!)
So, that’s my food story! I eat mostly whole foods, mostly plant-based, locally grown whenever possible (which is impossible like 8 months out of the year here in New Hampshire), organic when I can afford it. I avoid added sugars, but when I do eat a treat, it’s made with natural sugar.
Here’s what a typical day looks like for me:
Breakfast (at home with the man)
2 eggs (from the backyard chickens), tempeh bacon, tomatoes, and pea shoots. I always try to get in some veggies with breakfast.
OR Breakfast (alone in the car on my way to work)
Lunch (either working from home or at work)
Usually a HUGE salad of some sort. This one was lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, hearts of palm, lentils, and avocado. I’ll whip up a quick dressing of olive oil or avocado oil and a fancy vinegar (lately it’s been Summer Peach White Balsamic from Le Roux…if you’re ever in downtown Portsmouth, NH, check out their swanky oils & vinegars!). While we’re on the topic of local recommendations, this salad was topped with Kauai Alaea Red Dirt Salt from Vervacious in Portland, ME. Worth the trip!
Afternoon Snack (at work or in my car…I do a lot of car eating)
I don’t often snack. I’m more a believer in eating solid meals that get you through to the next one. But sometimes, I’ll eat lunch at noon or 1:00 and then, for whatever reason, not be able to eat dinner till 8:00, so I’ll get a snack in. It’s often a handful of nuts and a Kind Pressed Bar, or sometimes I’ll do rice cakes with nut butter. Oh yeah…forgot to mention that I’ve also tested positive for an allergy to almonds…which I’m also in denial about. So, it’s usually peanut butter for me. 🙂
Dinner (at home with the man)
I cook 5-6 nights a week and the rest of the time we’ll eat out or the man will cook. I generally use a “whatever looks good in the market” or “whatever I have in the pantry” approach to dinner. If I’m on the ball, I’ll pick out a couple of recipes at the beginning of the week or order a
Sun Basket delivery. But more often than not, it’s spur of the moment. This was a grain bowl I threw together the other night with black Japonica rice, roasted broccoli, tempeh, leftover honeynut squash, fresh cukes, avocado, and a peanut sauce I buzzed in the Nutribullet. A solid argument for always keeping the fridge and pantry well-stocked!
Dessert (rarely, at home with the man)
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but Matt does, so I occasionally indulge him with dessert. We have dairy-free ice cream maybe once a week, and every so often, I’ll pull out all the stops and make something fancy. I am really a terrible baker, so I stick with things like easy fruit crumbles. This was a grain-free blueberry crumble I made for his birthday in July (that was maybe the last time I made dessert).
That’s it! Thank you for reading this very long post! I hope you found it interesting! Anything surprise you?
UPDATES (February 2019): As we are all works in progress, so am I, and I just wanted to include a few updates here…
After 22 years, I have actually started to include small amounts of red meat in my diet for health reasons. The thought of chicken and poultry in general is still revolting to me, so for now it’s been local, grass-fed, organic beef or bison only, once or twice a week. This was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I listened to what my body was asking for and I can’t even tell you how much better I feel just including that small amount. My iron & B12 are better than they’ve ever been, my thyroid is under control, and I have more energy than I have literally ever had. It’s been completely revolutionary for me. I thank the cow every time, and I will ONLY eat humanely raised meat. No compromising on that.
I also have (sadly) realized that corn is an issue for me. After taking it out for 4 weeks and adding it back, every single time, I get hives. So, corn is gone. Which greatly limits my processed food intake. Guys, it’s freakin hard to find gluten-free products that are also corn-free.
Thank you for reading!
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