Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New year, new diet

This week, I embarked upon what is turning into a yearly event: the post-holidays detox diet. For those of you who don't know me, I never eat as much meat as I did at the end of this past December. The sausages? The fish? The three kinds of meat dishes my mother served at Christmas Eve dinner? That's not my usual dining style. Plus all the sweets and boozy drinks! (Admittedly, that was not all that unusual.) By the time January rolled around, it was time to overhaul my diet and go back to a more healthy way of eating.

This is the second year that I'm following Whole Living's 28-Day Mind + Body Challenge. I don't usually go in for diets or cleanses — it doesn't make sense to me to drink only liquids or deprive myself in any serious way — but I find that the "action plan" is fairly sensible. It basically requires that you cut out certain things (dairy, gluten, meat, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods) and eat only fruits and veggies, grains, beans, and eventually fish. It's just for two weeks. Then you start introducing the "banned" foods back into your now-healthy diet in a way that will hopefully be sustainable.

To be honest, I liked last year's plan better. This year, I find that I'm hungry all the time, and it has become clear to me that the plan wasn't designed for someone who has to be on her feet several hours a day. So I've been tweaking the diet plan a little, adding non-wheat grains to what is supposed to be a week of only fruit, vegetables, and seeds, so that I'm not passing out on the classroom floor. But I've been learning a lot, and as I move away from this "detox" and into my usual way of eating, I plan to eat as many fruits and vegetables every day as I am now (somewhere between six and ten servings!). I'm enjoying starting the day with a fruit-kale-flax smoothie, and I like the notion of starting dinner with a salad or pureed vegetable soup. What this detox is also teaching me is to return to reasonable portions, so that I'm not gorging on restaurant-sized platters of food at every meal.

This week, I was chatting with my assistant director, who, after being vegetarian for the last two years, is aiming to go vegan in the next couple months. Her reasoning is that a vegan diet can cure cancer and reverse the signs of aging. I'm not sure about the science behind either of those things, but I do agree that a plant-heavy diet is the way to go, diet-wise. I don't agree, however, that meat, dairy, and other animal products are the root of the health problems of Americans, since humans have eaten those foods for a long time — it's the kind of meat/dairy and how much you're eating and how often that's the problem. Cookiecrumb over at I'm Mad and I Eat wrote a thoughtful commentary on vegan eating that further convinced me that I ought to bring ethically-raised, local animal products (and protein!) back into my diet sooner rather than later.

For one of this week's detox dinners, I made roasted broccoli and butternut squash with peanut sauce over quinoa. It was my own take on the magazine's Steamed Broccoli and Squash with Tahini Dressing. First of all, all vegetables taste better when roasted. And I had to swap butternut for delicata because that's what was available at the farmers' market. And I never stock tahini but I always have peanut butter on hand. Finally, I needed something to serve with the veggie dish because I can't really get used to the idea of eating only vegetables for dinner. The dish was wholesome, and I felt virtuous. Plus I really love peanut sauce.

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