Day 13: Priorities, Not Perfection May 22, 2014

As we head into the last two days of our 14-day green smoothie experiment, I’ve been contemplating our reasons for doing this. Of course, there are the obvious benefits, which we presented to you in the weeks prior to starting this experiment in hopes of inspiring you to participate: boost your energy, improve your digestive health and the quality of your blood, reveal your glowing complexion, reduce sugar cravings and balance your moods.

And then, of course, was the motivation afforded by the opportunity to share ridiculously cute pictures of my family enjoying green smoothies.

Dad & Phoebe enjoying a green smoothie

Click to enlarge and you won’t regret it.

Our reasons for doing this experiment with you run much deeper than these cute photos ops. One of the pillars of Chinese medicine, which is something that we believe wholeheartedly, is that our bodies have the ability to heal themselves. In order for our bodies to do this, we have to create an optimum environment. Acupuncture needles and herbal medicine help to do this by dispersing areas of blockages in the body and supplementing areas of deficiency. But even more powerful than acupuncture and herbs can be the lifestyle choices that we make. If you consider how often we eat in a day, that’s an awful lot of opportunity to make a decision that will affect our long-term health. Food is medicine, and this is the core belief that guides our grocery shopping, our restaurant selections, and the nutritional advice we dole out to our patients.

Eating well is not complicated, despite the fad diets, product trends, calorie-counting and contradictory information that has become an epidemic in our culture. We chose to lead a green smoothie experiment because it is one of the most simple ways we can think of to incorporate whole foods into your life on a daily basis. Perhaps this will serve as the springboard for your continued pursuit of a whole foods lifestyle.

But first, what is a whole food? Whole foods includes foods that have not been processed or refined and are free from additives and other artificial substances. An apple (or unsweetened applesauce) is a whole food. Apple Jacks are not, as they contain (refined) sugar as the first ingredient, along with other questionable food-like substances such as “yellow #6” and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene). Side note: BHT is a gnarly preservative that the National Toxicology Program has determined, “is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Translation: cancer.

A whole-foods lifestyle does not involve math, weights or measures. We really love the common sense principles set forth by Michael Pollen in his book, “Food Rules”, which is really more like a humorous, common-sense manual (one of those, it’s-funny-because-it’s true kinds of things). For example:

  • #6: Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.
  • #7: Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
  • #13: Eat only foods that will eventually rot.
  • #20: It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
  • #51: Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.
  • #57: Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
  • #64: Break the rules, once in a while.

Is eating a whole foods diet the same as eating organic? We get this question quite a bit. The answer is no. Organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. An organic carrot is a whole food. Organic waffles aren’t, as they often contain ingredients such as “organic guar gum” and “organic caramel color.” Do you keep either of those ingredients in your pantry? Probably not.

While eating an organic diet would be optimal, it can be very cost prohibitive. However, you can prioritize your purchase of organic fruits & veggies based on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen.”  We often clean our non-organic produce with Veggie Wash, which helps remove waxes, soil and agricultural chemicals from produce.

One of the keys to eating whole foods involves a shift in priorities. For my family to maintain this lifestyle, we have to commit to sitting down once a week, planning our meals, creating a shopping list, and dividing the chef duties. We are committed to living the lifestyle that we advise many of our patients to adopt with regard to food. And yes, we sacrifice some time and convenience as a result of the prep work needed to maintain this, but it’s a small price to pay for our long-term health. However, we are neither perfect nor are we food purists. The Talenti Gelato (Caramel Cookie Crunch flavor if you were wondering) in the freezer will attest to this. Everything in moderation.

It’s about priorities, not perfection.

Here are some of the resources that have inspired us to pursue and maintain a whole-foods lifestyle over the years. Perhaps some of them will resonate with you:

Forks Over Knives: This documentary chronicles the efforts of a few renegade doctors who have successfully reversed disease by prescribing a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

simply in seasonSimply In Season: This cookbook is divided by season so you can make use of ingredients that are at their nutritional peak. The recipes are so simple and consistently delicious. A good friend once brought me a batch of “Company Muffins,” which she had made from this cookbook. I took one bite and then immediately purchased my own copy.

Front Porch Pickings
: We have a subscription to this Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which delivers seasonal organic and/or locally grown produce right to your front door for as little as $22/week.

101 Cookbooks: As a former San Francisco resident, I became obsessed with Heidi Swanson’s beautiful recipe journal. This blog is inspired by her effort to cook more food rather than purchase more cookbooks. My family fell in love with her Toasted Four Grain Cereal recipe and have been devout fans ever since.

Two days remain of our 14-day green smoothie experiment. I wonder, will tomorrow be the end, or the beginning for you?

brittany demers


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