Making Home a Healthy Supportive Food Environment

7 01 2017

Recently I moved into a new apartment and I decided that I wanted to make a few changes to support my long-term health and wellness. One of these changes involved designing my kitchen to be an environment supportive of health and wellness. When I counsel patients to make changes to their everyday nutrition, I recommend getting rid of the foods that will be unsupportive of their goals. There are enough places outside of our homes that will tempt us without bringing that temptation right into our own homes. I don’t want to be restrictive in saying “I will never eat sugar or fast food ever again” but I do want to be able to come home and know that the things in my home will benefit me and allow me to nourish my full potential in energy and brain clarity. This way I can have a bit of freedom when I leave and eat elsewhere. I decided I would not bring foods into my apartment that are unhealthy for me. For me personally (everyone is a bit different) that means no dairy (other than grass-fed butter), no sugar (except for just enough to make my fermented kombucha tea), no eggs (they are a food sensitivity for me specifically), and no gluten (I am trialing this for a time).

My one other goal this year is to start transitioning to organic produce. I know the research on chemicals and pesticides in foods but I’ve never actually tried consistently eating organically. It is important that I know how to eat this way since many of my patients are required to eat this way due to being negatively affected by chemicals or pesticides. I also believe it is important for my health and the health of the environment even if I have no noticeable adverse effects from eating non-organic. And really, I’ve never given organic a proper trial so who am I to say organic won’t benefit me? Without a comparison, I do myself a disservice considering the research on endocrine disruptors in food and my tendency to hormonally imbalanced skin.

One of the best resources for environmental toxins and chemicals in food (they also have resources and guides for household cleaners, sunscreens, personal care products, etc.) is the Environmental Working Group (www.EWG.org). Each year they test fruits and vegetables to see which ones contain the most chemicals and pesticides and toxins and which ones are relatively low in these compounds. Their list is referred to as the Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen. The dirty dozen are the 12 most important foods to eat organically. The clean fifteen are the safest produce to eat conventional versions. Because organic foods can be expensive, this list helps me make the most critical choices as well as the most cost effective choices.

I have really been enjoying my new space. It’s beautiful, albeit tiny. I feel supported, energized, and healthy when I’m at home and knowing I can walk in the door and not have anything to tempt me in my resolutions is incredibly freeing. Of course, I know it would be more difficult if living with a family, but small changes add up and I believe it is extra important to train children to have healthy lifetime habits that will optimize their potential. It’s not that certain foods are off limits, it’s that the available foods in the home are those that support optimal health. Moderation and making healthy choices when unhealthy foods are available can be taught in other ways. A healthy home environment that fosters health and wellness in nutrition and lifestyle allows kids to be their best selves at school, with friends, and in the future at their workplaces and careers. This is why I wanted to put into practice what I talk about every day with patients. And someday I will be able to carry these habits forward into my own family life.

Challenge: Join me! Peruse through your kitchen cupboards, fridge, freezer, and pantry and mark any foods that list sugar (cane syrup, honey, rice syrup, maple sugar, glucose, fructose, sucrose, agave, etc.) in the first 5 ingredients on the ingredient list. When these foods are used up (or you may decide to get rid of some right away rather than eating them), do not replace them. Search for healthier alternatives or simply add more vegetables and fruits to your diet. I don’t typically replace unhealthy foods with alternatives; I just choose a different meal selection. For example, I’ve never tried gluten free bread. It’s never crossed my mind as an alternative. I simply don’t eat bread or toast or sandwiches. I eat whole grains instead like quinoa and wild rice. I do, however, use a small amount of stevia as a sugar replacement occasionally and I do indulge in gluten free crackers as a carrier to transport delicious guacamole from bowl to mouth. Lol. Mmmmm…guacamole. Let me know what works for you!

I bet you want to know what I have in my kitchen cupboards, fridge, and freezer! Stay tuned for the next post: What Does My Crazy Licensed Naturopathic Doctor’s Kitchen Look Like?

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