8 Laws of Health Series | Nutrition

Let’s begin with a puzzling thought: A recent article by a financial analyst suggests that it is now cheaper to eat at a fast food restaurant than to cook at home.  I don’t know about you but my first thought that crossed my mind was: How is this possible? Has our food system really come down to this?

Shortly after the article was published, the New York Times published an op-ed that compared a typical McDonald’s meal for four people against a meal of pinto beans and rice for four people.  Not only was the nutrition of the beans and rice (which included onion, pepper and seasoning) much better than the McDonald’s meal, but it was also 67% cheaper.

Recently, I heard someone say that we should be eating more like our great grandparents.  Think about it—it makes a lot of sense.  Eating the way our great grandparents did would significantly reduce the cost of food for the average person, not to mention curtail our astonishingly high intake of preservatives and hormones.

Take my great grandmother for example.  Nearly all of the meals she created were made using her old wood stove.  She canned hundreds of quarts of fruits and vegetables, usually plucked from her own garden.  Not only that, she and my great grandfather could probably count on their hands the number of times that they dined at restaurants each year.  She and my great grandfather would eat a huge breakfast, a large lunch and a fairly small meal in the late afternoon.  They ate things that they could grow and had a huge garden, a variety of berries, and a large orchard.

Obviously, eating this way would require more time to prepare the foods.  Over the last several decades, we’ve been trained to want a “faster” and “easier” mode of doing everything.  We have timesaving gadgets and options so plentiful that the idea of cooking a filling, healthy meal rather than driving to obtain one in a paper bag might seem old-fashioned and impractical.

The goal for those of us trying to maintain or improve our health is to prepare most of our foods from ingredients that are healthy.  Ideally, many are products that we grew in our own gardens, or from a farmers market, or, at the very least, aren’t packed full of chemicals and disease.

We like to tell people to shop at the edges of the store because that’s where a lot of the good stuff lives.  Things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains are often found around the edge.  Ironically, the things in boxes often live in the center of the store.  These are often highly processed and their origins, as well as their nutritional value, can be ill-defined.

In our fast-paced society, we need to develop strategies that reduce prep time.  Cooking can be a social thing, but usually people just need to get it done and move on.  By eating more of our foods raw, we can obviously reduce prep time while getting the highest nutrition possible from that product.

Other strategies can be developed that make prep time about the same as going to a fast food restaurant. For example, you can cook a large meal and store the second half of it in your freezer for another day.  Cooking meals ahead of time and freezing them is an excellent way to provide you with an easy meal on a busy day.  Some foods, which are used in many different dishes, can be prepared at the beginning of the week and stored in the refrigerator.  This will save you the step of chopping, cutting, or peeling later on.

Ultimately time, not money, seems to be the biggest excuse.  People state that they simply do not have time to eat right.  They are too busy to shop for food and fix it for themselves.  If you are part of this group, consider this:  Calculations have shown that for every minute of exercise, you gain two minutes in longevity.  Doubtless, the same positive adjustment will be found when you choose to cook and eat healthy food instead of a hyper-processed food product tossed into the deep fat fryer by a nameless someone.  The average American, regardless of income level, watches no less than 90 minutes of television per day.  Take 45 of those TV-watching minutes and dedicate them to cooking yourself a beautiful dinner.  You’ll be able to do it with time to spare, I assure you.  The time is there; we simply need to prioritize.

Here are some simple rules for eating healthy and living longer:

Eat a large breakfast.

Eat 75% of your calories in the first two meals (breakfast and lunch).

Have only a light meal in the evening with foods such as soup, cereal, or a small sandwich— mainly foods that are easy to digest.

Remember to consume plenty of water.

Consume 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

Eat a level handful of nuts each day.

20% of all calories now come from snack foods—eliminate snacks.

Choose whole grains—whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, and brown rice

Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit juice.

Eat more legumes.

Learn to read food labels.

The subject of nutrition can be confusing and appear daunting, especially with the conflicting opinions people throw around on the Internet and TV.  This program is designed to be simple and easy to follow, given your dedication to bettering your life. In our desire to live longer and feel better about ourselves, remember that good nutrition is one of the best ways to get there, and you can get there.

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Randy Bivens, MD

Dr. Randy Bivens graduated from Loma Linda School of Medicine, completing first an internal medicine internship, then a diagnostic radiology residency. In addition to serving as president of Life and Health Network, Dr. Bivens is also president of Bivens Medical Corporation, an imaging consulting service.

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