Fed for comfort is eating well so we live with comfort in our bodies. And what’s more comforting than finding the foods we love and that love us back?
But what is best for our bodies? There’s an obesity epidemic in the Western world, so some may argue we clearly don’t know what to eat. But I argue we have a “seeking” epidemic just as rampant as obesity that misplaces our energy and focus. We know what’s best for our bodies. But we discount this inherent wisdom and turn to diet and detox books, the media, and medication for answers instead. Informing ourselves is essential. But if we’re constantly seeking out the newest cleanse or superfood because it promises health and happiness, we’re missing an opportunity to truly heal and nourish our bodies. Who can blame us? We’ve not been taught how to gather insight from our own body and mind. I’ve had to learn this over the years and now I help others on this journey as a Health Coach. I don’t tell clients what they “should” eat. I guide them in discovering those answers for themselves by offering adaptable, everyday solutions for applying nutrition fundamentals in real life and practical strategies to tap into and trust their intuition.
And I want to start you on that path today too. I’m sharing what nutrition experts – whether promoting a vegan diet, paleo diet, or anything in between - can agree on, so you can stop obsessing over the controversial and free up some brain power to focus on what benefits you - your body and lifestyle - the most.
NUTRITION CONSENSUS HIGHLIGHTS
Prompted by public perception that nutrition experts cannot agree on how to eat well, the world’s leading nutrition scientists gathered at the Finding Common Ground conference in November 2015. What resulted was a Consensus Statement detailing 11 points of consensus about eating well. Below are three points worth highlighting.
Experts emphasize the importance of being mindful and conscientious consumers, for our own well-being and that of the planet’s. When we care about the quality of our food and where our food comes from, we not only encourage sustainability, but we also create a mindful ritual around the entire eating experience – from shopping, preparing, and sitting down at the table. A mindful eating ritual is a more pleasant and pleasurable one, which makes it easier for us to be aware of what we’re eating and how we feel afterwards. This willingness to prioritize our food and food experiences and the self-awareness that comes with it is the first step to finding the right foods for our own body.
Experts who promote eating meat now believe that eating large amounts of red meat are not compatible with the pressing issues of sustainability and the health of our planet. Even Dr. Boyd Eaton - one of the first to promote a hunter-gatherer type diet (i.e. Paleo diet) encouraging plenty of animal protein – is now a self-proclaimed Paleo-Realist who encourages a diet high in protein but mostly from plant-based sources. He also concluded that grains and legumes were consumed by our Paleolithic ancestors and that they can be part of a healthy diet.
All have agreed that a diet primarily consisting of plants (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) is most beneficial for health and reducing risk of chronic disease. In other words, vegetables have permission to hog the plate - no pun intended. ;-) The best news is this still allows room to adapt what’s on our plate to individual preferences, health and dietary needs, lifestyle, and culture. Here are some questions we can start asking ourselves and noting how we feel after experimenting. Greens or starchy vegetables, such as sweet potato, beets, carrots, or both? Lentils and legumes or some animal protein, or both? Wheat and gluten-containing grains such as pasta, bulgur, and couscous or gluten-free pseudo-grains such as quinoa and buckwheat? Nuts and/or seeds, a little or a lot?
Whether you’re just starting out on your Whole Nourishment journey, or you’re well into it but need to declutter thoughts and refocus on the fundamentals of eating well, these are timeless guidelines for finding the foods we love and that love us back. When we’re focused on eating what’s best for our own body and the bloating, fatigue, brain fog, and skin issues disappear as a result, we’ll have more energy and enthusiasm to give and literally feel more comfortable each day. With more physical energy, we’re able to tend to the other areas of daily life I mentioned last week – our mind, home environment, and community – that will allow us to live with even more comfort.
Come back next week when I'll share easy strategies for wiring our thoughts and turning emotional intelligence into eating intelligence to sustain a healthy diet and weight for years to come!!
Moroccan Vegetable and Meatball Soup (Vegan)
Notes: Warm bowls of soup (and curry) are my go-to comfort food. But the playful combination of everyday ingredients in this Moroccan soup brings a level of comfort like no other. It’s partly due to the deep, enticing flavor achieved from combining cumin, cinnamon, and allspice. It’s also due to the layers of toppings that harmonize perfectly but keep me going back for more. Between the fragrant vegetable broth, tender couscous with plump golden raisins, sweet potato meatballs/falafel, zesty herb sauce and nutty pistachios, it’s a party for all the senses. I like to make the sweet potato falafel ahead on the weekend and store in the fridge for a few days until I make this soup – chimichurri could also be made ahead. With the falafel already made, this soup can be served in less than 30 minutes.
For more soupy comfort, check out another favorite: this coconut curry.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- Scant 1/4 tsp. allspice*
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 7 cups (1.7 L) water
- 4 carrots
- 2 zucchini
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
To Finish (Recipes below):
- Sweet potato meatballs
- Couscous with Golden Raisins
- Pistachios, or toasted almonds
- Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and add olive oil, onion, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice. Stir to coat in oil and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
- Halve carrots lengthwise and slice into half-moons. If carrots are thin, slice whole carrots into coins. Add water, salt, and carrots to the pot; cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
- While soup is cooking steam couscous, make chimichurri, and cut zucchini lengthwise into quarters and chop. Add zucchini and vinegar to the pot; recover and cook 5 more minutes, just until zucchini is crisp tender. Taste and add more salt or vinegar if needed.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Top with couscous, a few falafels, a generous drizzle of chimichurri, pistachios, and dig in!
*Allspice: If you’re looking for allspice here in German-speaking Switzerland, it's usually called Nelkenpfeffer, Gewürznelken, or Englisches Gewürz.
Sweet Potato Meatballs (a.k.a Falafel)
Makes ~ 22 falafels
Notes: I like to make these ahead on the weekend and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature or warm before topping soup. If you make nothing else from this post, try these falafels. You'll find yourself using them to top salads, pair with roasted or steamed veggies, or stuffed into a wrap or pita. And once you see how easy they are to have on hand, you might just want to try them in this soup. ;-)
- 1 small sweet potato (.35 kg)
- 1 1/2 cups (210 gr) cooked chickpeas
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Handful (10 gr) chopped cilantro (leaves + tender stems)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. buckwheat flour (or any flour you have on hand)
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 425 F/220 C. While oven is preheating place sweet potato on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a fork to prick it several times all over - this allows steam to escape while cooking. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until completely cooked and a knife is inserted easily.
- Cool slightly, remove skin, and add flesh to a food processor along with remaining ingredients. Pulse until everything is broken down and the consistency of a thick, chunky hummus.
- Use a mini cookie scoop or a spoon to scoop and roll out small balls - slightly smaller than a golf ball. Place on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet and press down slightly.
- Bake at 400 F/200 C for 12-15 minutes until bottom begins to crispen. Flip and bake another 12-15 minutes, or until outside is crispy and no longer soft when gently squeezed.
Couscous with Golden Raisins
- 1 1/2 cups (270 gr) couscous
- 3 Tbsp. (30 gr) golden raisins
- Heaped 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) boiling water
- Add couscous, raisins, and salt to a large heatproof mixing bowl.
- Pour boiling water in and stir. Cover bowl to trap steam; let couscous steam for 10 minutes. You can cover bowl with plastic wrap or what I usually do is use an equally wide plate that sits just inside bowl to trap the steam.
Notes: Many herbs work in this spiky herb sauce. Here are a few ideas: 1:1 cilantro and parsley; 2:1 basil and mint; 1:1 basil and dill. This time I used an equal combination of cilantro, mint, and dill. This can also be made ahead and stored in the fridge for 5-7 days, or frozen.
- 1 packed cup (26 gr) herbs
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes or 1 red chili (halve the amount for less spicy version)
- 2-4 Tbsp. water (depending how thick you like your sauce)
- Add everything to a small food processor and process until smooth.