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Nutrition ... Sort of

Schools should not just serve food; they should teach it in an interactive, hands-on way, as an academic subject.  — ALICE WATERS
pixelAlice Waters began the Delicious Revolution that sounds too good to be true and it is because it’s too simple yet too bothersome for all but true believers.
pixelIn our bountiful world choosing a healthy balance of foods is the most important task we routinely ignore.  That’s unnecessary as good tasting and healthy foods are not mutually exclusive.  But eating them only when the mood strikes tricks our psyches into believing we’re on top of things.  
pixelBut we’re not and you’d think by now the few hundred trillion or so English words that have been disseminated about diet and exercise’s crucial role in feeling well and looking good, would eventually sink in and motivate this nation of couch potatoes and athletes alike, into a higher state of food consciousness.    
pixelOkay, consciousness raising is a tough sell because it’s tedious and lousy with discipline.  Mercifully, my attempt comes with Cliff Notes that make reading further almost superfluous.  Volume 1: Eat Less.  Volume 2 is a bit more complex. Eat only fresh, unprocessed food chosen from all groups.
pixelSimple enough but let’s not all rush out to do that.  If we all became healthy it’d be a disaster. The junk food industry would go belly up and even a modest downturn in the healthcare industry would take down our economy.  Actually, that’s not our problem and doesn’t diminish the real opportunity each of us has to give our protoplasm a fighting chance for good health.
pixelCivilization hasn’t altered our hunter/gatherer persona; it just makes it too easy.  Forget sustenance, excess is the universal benchmark for success.  That’s great in bank accounts but food is egalitarian; its quality dictates our health, and calories consumed vs. calories burned are ultimately the measure of us all.
pixelThankfully this audience are mostly recreational athletes and that means the harder half of the diet/exercise conundrum is in place.  It just has to be way easier to get active people, that actually enjoy vigorous exercise, to eat better food all the time than it is to get people in poor physical condition to torture themselves with unaccustomed, unwelcome, physical activity that only offers its reward somewhere down the road.  
pixelFor those that live to eat, hard exercise is a godsend. In Miami I reveled in ten glorious years of year round riding and automatic weight control.  Cuban food was dirt cheap and irresistibly healthy.  Platefuls of black beans, rice, yucca, plantains and fish or meat along with an incredible variety of tree ripened tropical fruits were the perfect fuel to burn during hours of flatland riding.  Picking ripe star fruit off a tree conveniently located at the halfway point of a long ride was like getting shots of liquid apple cider; FYI the supermarket variety is picked green and while they may turn yellow they never really ripen.
Now I’m on automatic weight gain.  In winter even with eating less I gain 10 or so pounds because I ride the bike slower and about a quarter as much.  I look for exercise everywhere but more walking and a little gym time doesn’t begin to make up for daily riding with fast people.  
pixelConventional wisdom suggests gaining and losing weight may not be the best idea but at least with wholesome food there are fewer harmful chemicals stored in our fatty tissue that the system must process as it melts.  Sure I know better but my psyche embraces this up and down cycle as unavoidable.  Come summer I enjoy watching and feeling the weight loss.  Nobody says this is easy. One of these days I’ll get it right.
pixelIt’s hard to say I’m lucky to be older but growing up I was forced to eat real food and that’s stayed with me. There were no fast food restaurants, vending machines weren’t in the school system, candy and soda were rare treats and we almost never ate out.  For years my mother cooked breakfast, made school lunch for four kids and a sit down dinner every night. Everything was made from scratch and we had to help.  I learned a lot.  
pixelBut it’s always something.  We had to eat everything on our plates before we could be excused from the table.  Choking down weird vegetables and watery fish builds tolerance if not exactly character. Listening with a straight face to a stern lecture that someday haddock would cost more than steak and I’d like it better was so absurd it invariably brought on the giggles and banishment unless my siblings joined in.  
pixelNow at restaurants I never order steak and invariably order haddock.  Truth is even as a kid I got used to eating fish and some of the veggies weren’t half bad.  Admit it—never.  They’d just pile more on the plate.  But it does prove tastes change and that’s an opportunity for those that want to begin the cycle of healthier eating.  
pixelFar removed from survival, eating is now a mind game that takes time to play well.  We are all so different and we eat for so many different reasons that specific guidelines are easy to ignore.  But here are a few tips that may work for some.  
pixelIn a supermarket shop only the refrigerated perimeter.  Produce isn’t tricky, pick only what looks good.  Broccoli crowns are always a good choice.  They’re already trimmed and as easy as fast food. Cut into flowerets, wash and drop in boiling water for 4 minutes.  Rinse in cold water and then use as needed either heated or cold. It keeps well and quickly adds a splash of color and a healthy dose of nutrients to any meal.  
pixelDon’t like broccoli? There are a host of vegetables that can be prepared the same way, or micro waved, and then used later hot or cold.  Cold veggies as well as freshly made or leftover pasta or mashed potatoes are good in salads especially for people that aren’t really wild about greenery.  
Get artsy and take a few moments to arrange something pretty.  At the very least it’ll please one of your senses.  Add a little protein like nuts, cheese, shrimp or chicken, or some carbs and if you must slather it all in a favorite dressing.  Be stingy with the dressing later, your palate needs time to accept new flavors and textures.  
pixelTruth is you can get used to anything.  There’s a Special K commercial that suggests it replace chips and other bad for you snacks.  That’s a great message but too bad the stuff is old by the time you get it. Wet or dry its texture turns to sawdust and with a flavor to match; it’s no wonder people fall off the allegedly good food wagon.
pixelOrganic food makes long term health sense but it’s hard to pay more for much less choice especially when the results aren’t immediately apparent and may never be.  In conventionally raised animals their fat and muscle are storehouses for all sorts of chemicals and certified organic is the way to go.     
BTW I’m positive all of us get a dose of mercury when eating seafood. That’s the slippery, silvery stuff from high school chemistry that we used to fool with.  It turned silver dimes super slick and shiny and then black.  Fun for the feeble minded.  Who knew?
pixelBut now we know.  Chemicals in food can bring with them disastrous health consequences; some are immediate but most take their not so sweet time.  Chemical residues are especially high in dairy fats and something to be wary of.  I always buy organic dairy product and use much less. That more than makes up for the extra cost.  
pixelFinally intellect rules and I refuse to put my system through an avoidable chemical workout.  It helps that I’ve had my fill of dairy after drinking 3-5 quarts of milk daily growing up.   I still enjoy cheese but it’s easier to eat less when I think of it as flavored butter.   
pixelRaw foods are especially nutritious.  Nuts, seeds, sprouts all taste great given half a chance.  I’ve also learned to like sorbet more than ice cream.  For the recreational athlete food is the second half of the performance discipline and just like an exercise routine it takes time to get a handle on.  Eating well is the single best thing anyone can do for themselves and once that really sinks in better food choices are sure to follow.  It’s a process that becomes not so much what you eat but what your intellect will no longer allow.  When knowing better finally gains the upper hand life is definitely better.

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