I Ate Fast Food – I must confess!

tuscan chicken panini

I know, I know, how could I? Especially after everything I’ve been going on about all this time, including writing a book on healthy eating. I’m a little ashamed, but what’s done is done, and now all I can do is let you know why it happened, share the experience and make sure I don’t do it again.

We all fall from time to time, and we almost all have a guilty pleasure or two. I know I do, but fast food is not one of them. For me, it’s just too guilty and it’s simply not a pleasure. It was a senseless act…

So, why did I do it?

Because I thought I should eat something. I was on the road, hadn’t eaten much since the light lunch and a snack or two much earlier in the day. It was now past dinner and I was still two hours from home. I had a bag of almonds in the car but had already eaten a good share. I wasn’t terribly hungry but didn’t want to wait until I got home, which wouldn’t be until almost bedtime. So I chose what I hoped was the best of the fast food options. Is there such a thing? It was a family fast food restaurant, not that that really fooled me.

What did I do that was so wrong?

Pretty much anytime you eat a fast food meal, there’s a good chance that you’re also taking a taste of the following:

1. Animal cruelty (including mistreatment, inhumane living conditions, poor diet, etc.)
2. Hazardous fats
3. Highly processed and refined ingredients
4. Mystery ingredients
5. GMO corn, soy and canola oil
6. Lack of nutrients
7. Extremely high sodium
8. No fiber to speak of
9. All sorts of other enviro and eco concerns

Eating fast food is generally a lose-lose situation in one meal. I actually wouldn’t have such a problem with a few of these slipping into one’s diet on occasion – particularly if the diet was otherwise healthy for the large majority of the time – but numbers 1,5 and 9 on this list, I’m just not okay with.

Was it a tasty experience at least?

No. This particular meal, a chicken panini which supposedly offered me a taste of Tuscany, was a bland processed substance doused in salt. The processed cheese bore no resemblance to actual cheese, just runny salty stuff. The processed mystery chicken (the type that makes you wonder, “What exactly is this?” was utterly flavorless. The only marginally redeeming factor was the veggies: a slice of tomato and a few scrawny shavings of onion. I have to say I liked the tiny bit of onion—flavor finally and a wee crunch.

Then what happened?

When I finally did get home, the panini was a lump in my stomach, just sitting there with no apparent intention of digesting. I pulled the sauerkraut from the fridge and ate a large spoonful. With one of the important missing ingredients—enzymes—now added to the meal, panini digestion began and the stagnant, heavy feeling soon lifted.

Note: If you’re used to eating mostly home-made whole food and then you throw a processed meal into your system, you can usually notice the difference in how it makes you feel. If this should ever happen to you, you can count on fermented food to come to your rescue. Sauerkraut, kimchi (and other unpasteurized fermented vegetables), or kefir can all tackle the job. Buy these at your local natural foods store and keep refrigerated. A raw veggie salad eaten with your meal would also assist with digestion.

So what should I have done to save myself from this bad experience?

Well, I could have remembered these few simple tips I usually follow for eating well on those days or long drives, when you just don’t have time for a proper meal:

– Keep a container of healthy snacks (nuts, seeds, fruit, dried fruit, healthy baked goods, etc.) in your vehicle, at your desk or in your bag.
– Bring a large thermos of water or herbal tea with you. Perhaps even a healthy smoothie.
– Plan ahead if you can. A day or two in advance, stock up on nutritious meals-to-go, for when non-junk food options may be few.
– For long days or long trips in the car, bring a small cooler or thermal lunch bag, filled with nutritious food that keeps well.

Vegetable Inspiration

vegetable inspiration

Do you ever fear you’re too often falling short in eating enough daily servings of vegetables (and fruit)? Who doesn’t? That’s why every once in a while it’s good to be reminded of why it’s important to ensure you’re getting your daily dose.

Even though I really do like all vegetables, the problem for me (and many others) often lies in putting the time and effort into utilizing a wider range and actually preparing and eating them regularly. I so often find myself resorting to the same-old-same-old… A salad of mixed greens (with tomatoes, avocado and coloured peppers) and then the handful of every-day basics: onions, carrots, broccoli, celery, garlic. Fruits are never a problem, on account of how delicious and easy to grab-and-go they are—little to no preparation necessary. Vegetables (most of them) are the challenge, but they are so worth it to consume.

I too, needed to be reminded of why I should eat more veggies. My reminder came in the form of a Ted talk. A medical doctor with multiple sclerosis explains how she improved her health condition considerably through diet. She discusses at length, the large amounts and different types of raw vegetables that she would regularly eat.That was all I needed to hear to become quite excited about vegetables again. I envisioned the raw veggie salad I’d create that same day for dinner and made a mental list of the vegetables I’d use.

Oh those amazing vegetables! Every part of our body needs the goodness that veggies offer; from the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes, to their high alkaline content, and all sorts of other good health and healing agents that vegetables contain. They are extraordinarily beneficial to us, especially when we eat enough of them, and regularly.

Yes, it’s a little more time-consuming, but preparing and eating real food is and has always been the natural and necessary thing to do. Think of vegetables (and fruits and herbs) as nature’s pharmacy. If you currently need to get chemical prescriptions filled, you may want to try reducing or eliminating your dosage by increasing your intake of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbal medications instead. There are many verified accounts (some of which I’ll share in another post) of people healing themselves from a range of health problems, strictly through diet.

It’s advisable to get your vegetables as locally as possible. It’s unnecessary to have every conceivable fruit and vegetable from all corners of the earth be made available to us. A wide local(ish) range will do nicely. During the winter months, I do often extend the local reach to include more of the continent. Luckily the continent I’m living on is North America, and areas of year-round growing for many different vegetables, but also for things like oranges, avocados and lemons, aren’t really that far away.

I made the envisioned raw salad later that day and fed it to my two teenagers and some of their friends. Everyone really liked it. The salad:

• chopped red cabbage and kale
• diced fennel and cucumber
• grated celeriac, carrots, and beets
• cilantro

The dressing:

• raw apple cider vinegar
• Dijon mustard
• a drizzle of sesame oil

I’ve since added chopped jicama and avocado, dried cranberries or raisins, and hempseeds or sunflower seeds to the blend, but really, the possibilities are endless. My plan is to keep switching things up and make a big bowl of raw veggie salad every second day.

Exceptions to the raw salad rule:

Not all raw vegetables (i.e. cabbage, kale, and broccoli) agree with everyone’s digestive systems. They can cause intestinal discomfort and be particularly gas-producing. For some people, these and some other vegetables are often best cooked.

Cabbage, kale, and other vegetables in the brassica/cruciferous family, such as broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and Brussels sprouts contain goitrogens. Goitrogens are naturally occurring compounds that can suppress thyroid function and are best avoided when raw by those with hypothyroidism. Cooking the “goitrogenic vegetables” reduces the goitrogen content considerably. (I personally prefer to eat the brassica family of vegetables steamed or cooked (i.e. soups, stir-fry, etc.) most of the time.

Want to see the TED talk?

Click the link below to hear about this medical doctor’s (Dr. Terry Wahl) phenomenal healing journey and to learn how and why vegetables are able to heal us as they do.

Something to keep in mind:

This is one person’s story – and a great one at that – but different things work for different people. Personally, I won’t be eating quite as many vegetables as Dr. Terry Wahl did/does each day. However, if I were to be diagnosed with a moderate to serious illness or disease, after consulting with a physician, I would likely follow a very similar food regimen. This TED talk provides a lot of excellent and important information, but the amounts and types of foods mentioned are not always possible or perhaps necessary for everyone to consume in the same way.