The Healthiest Foods Are Simple Ones.
Years ago some friends of ours came to visit with their young daughter who had a lot of food allergies. There were so many things she couldn’t eat that her parents made sure they had plenty of foods she COULD eat on hand at all times so they never got stuck — necessity made it a habit. To make things simple and ensure they were feeding her uncontaminated foods they kept things REALLY simple.
I was struck by the simplicity, and how healthy that simplicity made things! Most of the foods she ate were whole, fresh plant foods – a lot of them were raw and unadulterated by additives like preservatives or extra salt, sugar or fat.
I have been thinking about this lately, and the fact that the longer I work with plant-based nutrition, the simpler my every day foods are becoming.
This has several different benefits.
First, it’s easy and quick! I often “jokingly” tell people who take my classes or who consult with me that nature’s perfect fast food is a piece of fruit or a fresh vegetable, but truly it’s no joke! It requires minimal – or no – cooking or preparation when you snack on fruits and veggies. And if you’ve already washed it, it’s all about the grabbing and eating. Instant snack!
Even if we’re not eating simply and cleanly out of the necessity to avoid an allergic reaction, the longer a person focuses on eating this way, the more habitual it becomes.
Easy, quick, healthy-habit forming — and good for you!
As veganism has become more mainstream and popular there are all kinds of delicious fat-, salt- and sugar-laden “vegan” products popping up, making it just as easy to be an unhealthy vegan as any other type of eater. Even the term “whole foods plant-based” is sometimes used to describe recipes and dishes that contain a lot of processed foods and additives.
I’m a huge advocate of making healthy foods taste great and making sure that people don’t feel deprived as they try this new way of eating out, but unfortunately if you just swap regular junk food for vegan junk food you’re not going to be much further ahead. And worse, you may find yourself throwing your hands up in the air, saying, “Well, I tried this vegan/plant-based thing, but it just didn’t work for me.”
It’s critical that people understand that in order to reap the health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet it’s best to be eating (at least MOST of the time!) plants that are as close to their WHOLE form as possible.
This is not to say that all you can eat from here on in is carrot sticks! The photo above is an example of “healthier choices” — an edamame spread (recipe below) served with fresh cut veggies (the crackers aren’t so applicable to this topic 😉 ). The point is, it’s about getting into a mindset of simpler eating. Adding less, enjoying the natural flavours of whole plant foods more, and training yourself away from the hyper-palatable food landscape that is today’s norm.
There are many great reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle beyond our own health, but if being healthy is among your reasons do yourself a favour and keep it simple, easy, and whole.
In case you’re inspired to put out a plate of fresh veggies with edamame spread tonight, here’s some inspiration for you:
Incredibly Edible Edamame Spread (GREEN)
inspired by The Blender Girl by Tess Masters
Makes 2 ½ cups
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 2 cups lightly steamed shelled edamame beans
- 2 cups loosely packed greens such as fresh spinach
- juice of 1 lemon (2-3 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 ½ tbsp finely chopped white/yellow onion
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
- sea salt or salt alternative to taste
- Garnish: 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- Put garlic into your food processor and blend until garlic is minced. Add all the rest of the ingredients, except sesame seeds and blend until smooth. If you’d like a “dip” rather than a “spread”, add a couple tbsps more water.
- Season to taste. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired and serve.