Can America change is going to be the question that is asked quite a bit in the immediate future. Most of it will be surrounding the political spectrum of elections. Can we switch from a Democrat President to a Republican and have things get better? Can we change the House and the Senate and have things get better? Can your local officials change the way they have been conducting business for the betterment of the people? This is not a political blog so I will not go into my rants about any of these (Jeff – feel free to leave your opinion below as they are always welcomed.) Although if this were a political blog I would be the Secretary of Health and Human Services thanks to Kevin for nominating me for the position. Read Kevin’s post as it could lead America to change.
No, what I’m talking about is the way we eat. Can we change the way we eat? Let’s think about this for a moment. We import just about everything these days from steel to lumber to textiles so why not diet? Are we so consumed with who we are and what we do that we cannot for a moment take a look at other cultures and think for ourselves that what they are doing might be better for us? I know we are exporting McDonald’s and Taco Bell to these countries, but even there the menu items are catered to their culture. Watch this feature to see how McDonald’s is expanding overseas.
When I lived in New York and went to eat at Italian friend’s houses for dinner I knew I was in for a MEAL. A meal with conversation and laughter. A meal with many different items, all made fresh and not from a box. A meal that would take all night to enjoy because you were having fun. Eating that dinner was not just something to do but something to participate in. I loved going to their houses for meals and spending the night laughing and cooking and cleaning and laughing and talking. That is what dinner is all about. I shared the same feelings when I went to my Portuguese friends home. His mother would literally tell you that you haven’t eaten enough even though you were there for 4 hours and the fork never left your hand. You didn’t mind because you knew it was freshly grown and homemade by her hands. You would then laugh and push the plate away only to be given a to go plate.
Yesterday these memories came rushing forward when I was on Twitter and Lindsey Cotter tagged an article with the terms interesting read. Lindsey is a terrific cook and the wife to a pro triathlete (James Cotter) so you know that if she said an article was interesting I was clicking on it. As it turns out she was right. The article was about healthy eating tips from around the world. The article written by Chris Illeades, M.D. for everyday health looks at a few different cultures and points out how they eat and why it is considered healthy.
From the French we can learn portion control:
- Serve smaller amounts. Studies show that people feel obliged to eat more if more is on their plate. Make smaller portions at home, and try splitting an entrée when you go out to eat.
- Use smaller plates. Your grandmother’s plates were quite a bit smaller than today’s plates. Try serving meals on smaller plates to help keep portion sizes under control.
- “Ruin” your appetite before the main course. Start with a cup of soup or a salad and you won’t need to supersize your portions.
From the Italians we can learn to eat slower:
- Watch the clock. “It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full,” explains Blake. Make sure you eat slowly enough to know when you feel full and avoid overeating.
- Eat your largest meal for lunch. If you can, even if only on weekends, enjoy a leisurely meal early in the afternoon and then just have a light meal in the evening.
- Eat mindfully. “When you eat mindlessly on the run or in front of the TV, you are more likely to eat more than you should,” says Blake. Put aside other distractions during meals.
From the Japanese we can learn to incorporate vegetables and fruit:
- Eat fewer processed foods. The Japanese rely much more on fresh seasonal ingredients for their dishes.
- Use colorful fruits and vegetables to add eye appeal. The Japanese concentrate on smaller portions that look beautiful and are as appealing to the eye as to the stomach. They tend to eat more for the experience than to feel full.
- Favor seafood over red meat. When meat is eaten in Japan, it is rarely a main ingredient.
From the meditteranean we can learn to eat healthy fats:
- Focus on fruits and vegetables. Mediterranean diets include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, plus lots of fish and beans as protein sources.
- Switch to monounsaturated fat. Instead of cooking with butter, people in the Mediterranean rely on olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, the healthy type of fat.
- Sip some wine. People in Mediterranean countries drink a moderate amount of wine with their meals, which may benefit your heart health.
If we take one piece from each of these and incorporate it into one day of eating we would be better off. Serve your dinner on the dessert plate and you knock two of them out of the park (French portion control and skipping dessert.) While eating your dinner ask your spouse or significant other how their day went with the TV off and phones away (Italian savoring of the meal.) Do a meatless Monday so that you are skipping the red meat in favor of vegetables (Japanese.)
So I challenge you to change the way you eat today and every Monday for that matter. Make this one small simple change and within three weeks it will be habit. We might, just might, change the way America eat. At least I hope so.
WHAT OTHER CULTURES CAN WE ADOPT FROM?
DO YOU EAT SLOW AND SMALLER PORTIONS? HOW ABOUT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES?