30 Days to 40—Lesson 3: You Are What You Eat

Food. Some people are obsessed with it. Some eat with a lot of forethought, others only as means to an end. Some make a political or lifestyle statement through their food choices. Some eat very selectively. Some play it safe, never venturing into the exotic. Some eat “on the edge.”

Me, I’m somewhere in between. And being that my parents are 100% Greek, I grew up never missing a meal, and always thinking about the next one, cause they were damn good. Every event was centered around a meal (my Instagram feed is proof of my foodie ways). That’s both a blessing and a curse for someone who has a voracious appetite, enjoys the ritual of eating, but is constantly watching the pounds, calories, and fit of their clothes.

Despite the common conundrum of finding balance between food, health, and fitness—what I have learned in my life so far is this: not all food is equal, and you should be mindful of what you put in your mouth.

Lesson 3: You Are What You Eat

One could go a million different ways with this post, but as an admitted foodie, I ‘m not going to preach about what you should eat or shouldn’t, because that is a highly individual choice. No matter what you choose, your body eventually tells the story of your choices—either through shining health and hair, or lumps and bumps, disease, inflammation, stretched skin, and more.

All you need to remember is that there is a lot of truth in the saying that you are what you eat. I’ve found that a lifetime of mostly clean eating (and an everything in moderation approach) has served me well. I can’t take that much credit for it, though. Since my parents are Greek immigrants, a Mediterranean/paleo diet was all they knew. Home-cooked meals that included a wide variety of lean meats and vegetables were the norm. Growing up, it was actually cheaper to use natural foods in homemade meals versus eating meals from a box. How unfortunate that today, it’s the opposite.

Recent clean eats: boiled shrimp • breakfast at Jackie’s Cafe • homemade brekkie of eggs, smoked salmon, and spinach

My Food Philosophy

Nothing ground-breaking here. I try to eat healthy and occasionally I indulge—life is too short not to! But I try to keep the indulgences limited to once a weekend or for a special occasion.

Eat three meals and have a healthy snack or two.

  • Breakfast: My favorite meal! I usually have an egg white, veggie, and turkey omelette,  or two soft-boiled or fried eggs with smoked salmon or spinach. Sometimes I also have a tomato salad, or an avocado with lemon on the side.
  • Lunch: A salad with lean protein and olive oil and vinegar, or fish with veggies.
  • Dinner: Lean protein (chicken, pork loin, baked fish, boiled shrimp, or lean beef) and boiled or steamed veggies, beans, or a salad with olive oil and vinegar.
  • Snacks: A few slices of turkey breast, Smoothie King Lean-1 chocolate smoothie, homemade banana and peanut butter smoothie, avocado, yogurt, cottage cheese, olives, or celery and hummus.
Another breakfast fave: soft-boiled eggs with caviar.

Avoid carbs—bread, pasta, and rice. Occasionally I’ll indulge in sushi, whole grain toast or pancakes, or a crusty French baguette. I only have pasta a handful of times a year. It makes me feel bloated and sluggish, so I don’t have a problem avoiding it. I find the more you eat refined carbs, the more you crave them.

Limit sugar and dessert. I love sweets, but tend to have them only for special occasions, which actually makes them taste extra special! When I crave a sweet treat, nonfat Greek yogurt (FAGE is the best) with almonds and honey hits the spot. Or a tablespoon of natural peanut butter. Though I will admit that I need to wean myself off having Splenda in my coffee…one day, I hope. That’s my vice.

Watch the fat. For several years, I was in an Atkins diet mindset: if it wasn’t “carbs,” it was OK. I ate meat, including bacon and sausage, and cheese with wild abandon. After a couple years of this and slacking on my diet, I looked in the mirror and saw weight on my hips…and OMG…major cellulite, despite a regular regimen of cardio and weight lifting. ARGH!

I got back in touch with my trainer and after tracking my diet for a week or two, I realized my “clean” diet was 50% fat! (More about this in my next post). I stopped eating cheese with everything, and you know what? Less cheese in my mouth has equated to less cheese on my a**. Rude, but true.

Stick to clear/light alcohol. I do love a martini or a glass of wine. If I’m going to imbibe, I tend to stick to white wine, a vodka or gin martini, vodka with cranberry juice, or champagne. Clear and cold is my preference, and those alcoholic beverages tend to have the least calories.

Avoid soft drinks. I rarely have them, and if I do (usually when I’m sick), it’s a diet Ginger Ale or Sprite. I quit drinking dark soft drinks in high school. Once you do and you taste Coke, it tastes like syrupy sludge. Disgusting.

Give me water. I need to drink more water, but it is my default beverage. During the day, I drink coffee in the morning, and water throughout the day. I avoid fruit juice because it’s full of sugar and calories that are better spent actually eating the raw fruit itself. I can definitely see a difference in my skin and overall health when I haven’t had enough water.

Food is life. And love.

I’m grateful to not only have been reared on a diet of natural foods made by two incredible cooks, but to have grown up in my favorite uncle’s restaurant—a place where food quality was of the utmost importance, and every milestone was celebrated with a spectacular meal. It’s through my Greek family that I learned to cook without fear, and that a homemade meal is more than just sustenance—it’s an expression of love. Greek women took pride in their creations, because back then, it was all they had to give.

I’ve often told my husband, when feasting on some little delicious morsel—or even enjoying a rocking martini—that I can tell when something has been “made with love.”  These days, crafting meals really is a labor of love, especially when takeout or dining out is so much easier after a long day. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding. We all know someone— a grandmother, mother, friend, or father—whose food didn’t just nourish us, but comforted and fulfilled us. That’s food made with love!

I was recently treated to a day of love-filled, homemade food while in Sydney, Australia. Most of you know that blogging bestie Lee Oliveira and I have met (and dined) in person in New York a few times. Through Lee I came to know his friend, Peter of Souvlaki for the Soul, a Sydney-based Greek who is an astounding trifecta of Greek culture, photography, and gastronomic prowess.

Me enjoying one of many glasses of champers, iPhone at the ready • Peter and Lee •  Peter’s fantastic pastitsio

Peter and Lee were so sweet and cooked up smorgasbord of fantastic food—and kept my champagne glass filled all day.  Not shown: Lee art directing our iPhone snaps, blog chatting and gossip, Instagramming, and my supremely full belly. Thanks guys (and you, J!). I love you!

With Lee • Peter making ladenia bread •  Peter’s otherworldly revani cake

What’s the last thing you ate that was made with love?  Read the rest of my 30 Days to 40 series >>

30 comments

  1. Looks like you guys had so much fun! I personally love Greek food! I used to eat it all the time when I was growing up in NYC.

    The last time I ate something made with a lot of love was the dinner my husband cooked for my family and I on Mother’s Day. He is an awesome cook! He baked a turkey with homemade mac and cheese and a fresh salad. It was amazing!

  2. i totally agree! moderation is key and i always stick to organic and as unprocessed as possible. basically, purchase most of your groceries on the outer ring of the grocery store avoiding any inner aisles whenever possible! x

  3. Everything my family did revolved around food so I grew up in very simliar circumstances and am also a big foodie as a result – totally relate to what you’re saying about knowing when it’s made with love!

  4. I think all of this is pretty excellent advice! I also would add that when you decide to indulge in carbs, go with the rice option. Unlike carbs with gluten in them it is much easier to digest and acts similar to a veggie (plus there are some very yummy brown rice pastas and breads on the markets these days!).

  5. As I’ve said before I looove food, and photos of people (you+Lee + company) enjoying themselves with good cuisine! Dinner seems to always lasts forever with my family, haha! I enjoy cooking more now than I did growing up, since my family cooks a lot. I agree, you can tell when it’s a labour of love, as it’s should be intended. Glad that you enjoyed your holiday V!

  6. So true so true! I like a sandwich for lunch, with chicken on white bread, but other than that our food choices are similar. When is the last time I made a meal with love? I do it almost every night of the week. My children, husband and I sit down to a home-cooked meal most week nights. I only serve frozen junk if I’m too tired to move. My meals are pretty simple, this time of year it’s a lot of different grilled meats and a vegetable plus some sort of grain. I do like my bread!
    I love this series. Looking forward to the next one!

  7. I absolutely love this post! I agree with you on most points, although being a vegetarian I don’t eat lean meats. I do eat carbs, but try to eat wholegrain/wholewheat/unrefined most of the time. Brown rice is incredibly good for you, and so are vegetables, which are mostly carbs! I think it’s easy to eat healthily if you are just mindful of eating fresh, ‘earthy’ food – avoid anything out of a package and you’ll be okay. More water, more veggies, some fruit, and little to no sugar = a happy, healthy life! 🙂 Thanks for spreading this message, V. I hope it makes many people take their diets more seriously.

  8. Wow! I thought I ate healthily but you really are good! My downfall is definitely chocolate and Jaffa Cakes – just can’t resist. The Better Half made me some gorgeous scallops the other day – the Fishmonger told him exactly how his Grandmother in Normandy prepares them so he did it the same way. They were divine!

  9. Oh, I love your food philosophy. But I am not conscious on my eating these days. I really love to eat this summer. Since I am not so busy I am quite focus on eating different foods. In fact, there are many parties I attend this summer so no focus first on my diet. So, my goal now is to enjoy eating delicious foods and taste great drinks.

  10. Thanks for the inspiration V! I actually feel better when I cut down on the processed food and carbs, and eat more lean protein and veggies. Great meal ideas 🙂

  11. All great advice and I believe everything in moderation as well. The organic craze has certainly put the adage “you are what you eat” in the forefront of everyone’s mind. Especially with a little one (and another on the way) I am really good about buying clean/organic fresh food over food packed with preservatives. We aren’t perservative free by any means, but getting a much better ratio of 80 to 20 percent!
    I will admit (every other day I have Kashi w fruit) BUT I eat a boston creme donut every other morning with my coffee and have for over 10 years…HORRIBLE! I think I need to see a hypnotherapist to rid me of this horrible habit, lol.
    You look beautiful in all your photos as always lady…eating well does you quite good! C

  12. How fun that you and Lee got together! I absolutely love food, but I know I need to cut out the simple carbs and sugars. I don’t have any qualms with the way my body looks, so I don’t want to diet to lose weight — but I know I need to eat healthier in order to live longer and avoid health problems in the future! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  13. I love this post on food, I’ve always kept a careful eye on what I eat since I’ve been in my early 20’s thanks to a subscription to menshealth magazine. Although I always grew up with home cooked food, I’ve gone through phases of eating clean, eating like a monk and eating junk.

    I’ve often had some sort of nutrition plan that I’ve stuck to accompany an exercise regime, but I hate that fact that most ordinary people seem to find it bemusing that a skinny guy like myself doesn’t just eat whatever I want. Luckily my close friends share similar outlooks on food so we are always looking at what we eating sharing tips on diets and recipes.

    The latest diet that I tend to follow is the Paleo diet it’s great. Growing up I’ve always ate bread so that is the toughest thing to give up, but I noticed that when I cut out grains and other starchy carbs like pasta and potatoes that I feel a lot sharper. You don’t get that insulin spike then drop that then leads to you feeling tired and craving sweet things. Which means even if you do have a sweet tooth (I do) you don’t feel the urge to grab a dessert. I did have some white rice the other day and immediately afterwards got really bad cravings for something sweet.

    I tend to eat dark chocolate with around 70-95% cocoa content. One or two squares as a snack is actually meant to be good for you.

    If you do follow a paleo diet I really recommend checking out the blog nom nom paleo. I recently got the app for the iPad and it’s probably the best app I own.

    1. Hey Arash, thanks for your comment! Totally going to check that app out!

      I’m actually convinced that some people can process carbs better than others. My dad is really fit and 74, and he can eat a loaf of whole grain bread in two days with no repercussions, and actually can’t live without carbs. Me, my body (like yours) craves protein, mostly. I pretty much follow a Paleo diet myself, as does my husband. We see the best results and feel best on it as well.

  14. Totally love this because I’m on board… and bc you have a photo of an incredible egg with caviar. MMM! Haha. In truth, I am working toward eating a better diet. I’m pretty good, and a WW liftetimer, but want to move toward a gluten-free diet to see if it helps some neurological issues and because it will encourage me even more to eat ‘whole’ foods. I now get an organic share of fruits and veggies which I’m loving!

  15. This is very important information most especially for those people who are on diet. This could help them to achieve their diet plan. I really get a lot learning on this post.

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