I’m featuring guest blogger Adrian Berg for this Grow with Nutrition post. Adrian is a fellow foodie with a fantastic lifestyle approach to healthy eating. Adrian’s health journey, relationship with food and key takeaways will inspire and motivate you to recognize a series of small steps can equal big outcomes. Find out more about Adrian from his bio at the end of the post.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu
I don’t think I’m a typical healthy/clean-eating blogger. You see, for the first few decades of my life, I didn’t eat very well at all. Healthy eating was adding a slice of tomato and lettuce on my burger. After a major birthday, however, I decided it was time to visit my doctor and find out where I stood in terms of my health. Not surprisingly, the results of my blood tests weren’t great. While I was knowledgeable about nutrition and I knew what I had to do, I just couldn’t seem to change my habits.
This all changed when I stumbled upon a book by Jane Goodall, called “Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating” which marked the start of my journey which I continue on today. I started thinking about food in a different way, and motivated by the message of this book, decided that I could take at least one small step towards a healthier diet.
For me, the first step was cutting back my intake of red meat. Not giving up red meat altogether, mind you, just cutting back and eating it sparingly. This principle of taking one small step at a time, over several years, has incrementally but drastically changed my eating habits. One week it might be: challenging myself to eat leafy greens every day; eating no deep fried foods; or cutting back on my sugar intake.
Another principle that has also been instrumental as I have slowly but surely expanded my commitment to a healthier lifestyle is the 80-20 rule. I realized that I don’t have to give up my guilty pleasures; I just need to eat well most of the time. Rather than follow a strict vegan, paleo, or other regime, I do as Michael Pollan suggests: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” And don’t stress if I indulge in a favourite treat from time to time.
I’m still a work in progress to be sure, but it has been several years now since I took that first step and I now have little trouble eating (and enjoying) healthy, nutritious and delicious plant-based food most of the time. My old self would never have imagined I’d choose a kale salad or lentil soup on purpose. And my cholesterol is now in the normal range, without any medications.
I must add that my journey has been made easier by discovering that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring. There’s much more to a vegetarian diet than salads and carrot sticks. Credit for this personal epiphany goes to Chef Doug McNish and his Public Kitchen in Toronto, who has inspired me by showing that “real food” and plant-based dishes can be diverse and delicious.
Most of the time these days, I cook at home and take pleasure in learning to make healthy versions of dishes including vegan lasagna, kale pesto, and cashew-based salad dressings and sauces among others. And I keep taking small steps in the right direction.
- Small steps count. Try making just one small change in your eating habits each week.
- Moderation. You don’t need to become a vegetarian or follow a special diet. Even Meatless Mondays is a great start!
- Eat real food. Shop the periphery of the grocery store. And remember, “real food” doesn’t need an ingredient list.
Here’s one of my all-time favourite plant-based recipes. I hope you enjoy it!
14 Carrot Soup Recipe
Modified from a recipe by Bob Blumer, I prefer to use all organic ingredients and add beets for a rich red colour in this vegan soup. My preference is to use no-salt added organic vegetable stock, and then season the final soup to taste as desired. It makes a large pot’s worth of soup, which freezes well. My tip – I use two large frying pans for the sautéing step, and divide the carrots and celery between them, to easily sauté the vegetables.
30 mL (2 tablespoons) grape seed oil (divided)
14 medium carrots (peeled and sliced)
4 stalks celery (diced)
1.5 L (6 cups) boiling water
2 cubes of low sodium (or salt-free) vegetable broth
1 sweet potato (peeled and sliced)
2 beets (sliced)
1 small knob (approximately 2 inches) ginger (peeled and small diced)
3 leeks (sliced)
3 ml (½ teaspoon) cinnamon (optional)
Once you’ve done the hard work of washing, peeling, slicing and dicing the vegetables, in large frying pan(s) add oil. Sauté carrots and celery for about 10-15 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, stirring as needed. Add small amounts of oil as needed if veggies start to stick.
In a very large sauce pan add boiling water and vegetable broth cubes, stir until cubes dissolve in water. Transfer the sautéed carrots and celery mixture into the sauce pan with the broth. Add beets, sweet potato and ginger to the sauce pan. Turn down heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. In the empty fry pan (from the carrot celery mixture), sauté leeks until tender, then add leeks to sauce pan with other vegetables and broth. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
In a blender, add the vegetable mixture from the saucepan in increments. Blend until thick and very smooth. If too thick, add another 125 ml (½ cup) water to achieve desired consistency. Add 3 ml (½ teaspoon) cinnamon and season to taste as desired. Heat over medium heat, and then serve immediately.
Adrian Berg is a Toronto-based foodie and home cook with a focus on real food and organics who believes you can have your cake and eat it too. Adrian believes the path to healthy eating is a series of small steps in the right direction and simply eating real food most of the time rather than following a particular diet. When not working his day job at the University of Toronto, Adrian writes Berg’s Bites, a blog about healthy eating and local food suppliers in Toronto, and tweets about food via @adrianberg.