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