What is a healthy diet and why should I eat one? (Part II of ?)

Read Part I

Part II: Our Journey to Better Eating

Nearly three years ago, my dad stumbled on a book called the China Study. He was trying to reconcile the fact that he was an ironman triathlete, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating the recommended diet of lean meats, skim dairy, and mostly whole grains that most experts recommend… yet his cholesterol was through the roof. He didn’t react well to the medication the doctor gave him, and he worried that he would die of a heart attack like his father did and miss seeing his grandchildren grow up.

A book called The China Study caught his interest and made him wonder if maybe the “experts” he had been following had been too influenced by the deep pockets of the dairy and meat industries. Maybe it was actually the underfunded broccoli and berry councils who had the secret to better health. The breakfast cereal makers are always quick to fortify with the latest and greatest nutrient, but what about the foods that just come packed with nutrients, right from the ground?

My dad wanted our opinions on the scientific basis for the claims the book made about plant-based diets. We actually took issue with the methodology of some of the studies cited in the book, but reading it did force us to re-examine our diets and our understanding of nutrition. When we took a hard look at some of the nutritional “facts” we believed, (milk is good for your bones, you need meat for protein, breakfast cereal is a health food, etc.) we discovered they were more marketing than truth.

All this research sparked in us a train of thought we couldn’t shake: We believe God patterned our bodies after His.

Though sickness and bodily discomforts are a part of this life, we weren’t designed to be slaves to food cravings, miserable about our weight, and or dependent on Kraft foods to tell us what to eat and to fortify our mac&cheese in a plastic microwaveable cup with Vitamin C so we don’t get scurvy. Ahem. Our bodies need Vitamin C, sure, and God put lots and lots of colorful fruits and veggies on earth that come packed with it. He designed our bodies to eat real food that he put on the earth for that purpose. Fresh strawberries and pineapple, in particular, are gifts straight from God to Anne Bean to make her happy. 😉

Scott and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. One of the things that is unique about our church is that we know we have a prophet here on earth today. A modern day prophet revealed a code of health over 150 years ago that was peculiar at the time but since then, science has been catching up. He revealed then that tobacco was not good for man, that tea and coffee were not good, and that meat should be eaten sparingly. As a church, each member is left to determine how best to apply God’s commandments in their lives. Lots and lots of Mormons eat lots and lots of meat. But, when we looked closely at this code of health three years ago (and when we look at it today), it seems clear as day that for optimal health, the Creator of our bodies commands us to lay off the meat. Although I made chicken or ground turkey most nights for dinner, and Scott loved his ham sandwiches, bacon, and steaks. We decided to stop eating meat for 6 weeks.

Though it was a major change for us, we thought we needed to at least “try it and see”.

We were hooked. We could absolutely tell the difference in our energy levels, in our waistlines, and in our food cravings. Kicking the meat out of our diet left a void and we tried our best to fill it with healthier foods like vegetables, fruits, and legumes. There definitely was a learning curve. When we made the change, I hated cooked vegetables and pretty much only liked raw carrots and bell peppers. Eating salad was a chore, and cheese was a staple.

Since that point in time, we’ve really kicked out almost everything unhealthy. Those changes have come more gradually, as we’ve switched to whole grains, consciously tried different vegetables, and abandoned many recipes altogether in favor of ones we’ve discovered or created ourselves that are much more in line with our health goals. We found that our palates adjusted so now real, simple, whole plant foods are much more flavorful to us than they used to be. Honestly, I can’t describe this well enough to do it justice, but I have to try. Everything. Tastes. Better. Because we eat real, fresh food, our tastebuds aren’t constantly bombarded with sugar, salt, and fat all day. When we do indulge, it’s so much more satisfying, and we can be much more discriminating because many unhealthy foods no longer tempt us. No more mindless empty calories.

That’s our story. What’s yours?

Read Part III

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About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to three beautiful girls and one boy.
This entry was posted in Healthy Eating, Why we do it. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to What is a healthy diet and why should I eat one? (Part II of ?)

  1. denise gonda says:

    Hi Anne, Thank you for this post and the previous one. I always really appreciate your posts about food. We have been working to have a healthier diet. One of the stumbling blocks I face when trying to eat healthier is a repertoire of recipes to replace what we are used to eating. A lot of the vegetarian cookbooks I check out have a TON of recipes with eggs and cheese and I agree wtih you in thinking they should be used sparingly since they are so high in fat. Usually I can pull away one or two good recipes from those cookbooks and add them to our rotation.

    I would love it if you post more recipes. I know it takes a lot of time but it is helpful for us new people…. for example, the refried beans you mentioned in the previous post. Also, do you make your whole wheat tortillas or buy them?

    Like

    • beanland says:

      Hey Denise,

      Thanks for the words of encouragement. I love to hear about the ways you’re improving your family’s diet as well.

      Here’s my best advice on cookbooks: Try vegan cookbooks instead. I know the word “Vegan” is scary, but just imagine it as healthy vegetarian and you can breeze right through any recipes that have suspect ingredients like cheez.

      We also get lots of recipes from epicurious.com and modify them, but I agree, it takes lots of time to find new healthy recipes and try them. I will try to be better about posting them on the blog. In fact, I have quite a larger but lovely project in mind… I just need to make the time for it.

      I do NOT make our own whole wheat tortillas because every recipe I’ve seen has called for shortening and I can’t bring myself to do it. I buy them at Trader Joe’s for $1.99 for 8. It’s the only kind of “bread” we still buy from a store, actually. Hmm… we aren’t big cracker people, but I haven’t yet tried to make those either.

      Like

  2. Kimberlie says:

    Hi Anne,

    I loved your post. Thank you for sharing!
    I, too, arrived at many of the same conclusions as you and your family. I read this summer “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollen and “Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think” by Brian Wansink. The gov’t, lobbyists, and marketing ploys have indeed shaped our eating. Michael Pollens book can be summed up by 6 words (which are in the book) “Eat food, Not too much, Mostly plants”. Wow.
    As with your journey, ours and probably most peoples is a gradual process. Once we educate ourselves and process the information, we can make informed decisions. We cannot base our decisions on media information or marketing hype!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Kimberlie

    Like

    • beanland says:

      I haven’t read that Michael Pollan book yet, but I did read Omnivore’s Dilemma and it was certainly eye-opening.

      So simple and spot on: “Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants.”

      Thanks for reading and encouraging. 🙂

      Like

  3. Kelly says:

    Hi,

    As I was reading, you mentioned that you and your husband changed your eating habits based mostly on religion. I was wondering whih religion you all were. I was not surprised. Some friends from my ward ward have been looking for a Word of Wisdom based “diet”. It is challenging because you really do not know where too begin. The W.O.W says to eat meat sparingly. I could totally do without meat and dairy, I do however love fish. I would like to figure out how wean my family gradually so that we no longer eat processed foods and probably eat meat once or twice a month. This is an amazing blog, thanks for sharing.

    Like

  4. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I eat One? (Part III of ?) « Adventures in Beanland

  5. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part V of ???) « Adventures in Beanland

  6. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part VII of ?) | Adventures in Beanland

  7. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part VIII of ?) | Adventures in Beanland

  8. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part IX of ?) | Adventures in Beanland

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