I think it’s pretty safe to say that anyone who knows me knows that I love to cook.  What most people don’t know, is that love was born out of years in a tumultuous  relationship with food.  For over a decade I was a chronic dieter – one week it was only grapefruit, the next it was only fish and veggies or protein shakes.  But even if I lost weight, it never stayed off. And outside of my physical appearance, I constantly felt tormented – I love food and never felt like I got to enjoy any of it.

My passion for cooking frankly started as a way to gain some control over the one part of my life that I often times felt controlled me.  At first it was hours upon hours of Food Network and cookbooks, and later included food blogs and cooking classes.  But as I found my confidence and way around the kitchen, something unique happened: it became easier to eat healthier.  And I wasn’t obsessing about it.  At least not in the negative ways I was before.

Instead of relying on food that was low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb (I could go on) and ultimately low-nutrient, my view on what “healthy” means has evolved to wholesome, fresh, local ingredients.  That’s the amazing thing about cooking.  Once I started to touch, taste and see the actual ingredients going into my meals, I naturally gravitated towards things that were better for me.  The even more amazing thing?   No. More. Dieting.

All that being said, I am still a human being.  Adapting to a healthy lifestyle is not without it’s challenges.  I’ve found that the key is this: moderation.  I try to eat well 80% of the time following some general guidelines below. But if I’m enjoying dinner at the best Italian restaurant in town, you can bet your butt I’m ordering pasta, and on my birthday, I’m diving face first into a red velvet cupcake.  I don’t have to feel guilty about those moments anymore; instead I savor them.

My Approach to Health:

Nothing is completely off limits.  The more I tell myself I can’t have something, the more I want/crave it.

Eat loads of fruit and vegetables, especially the green ones. I usually try to include a generous serving of veggies in two meals a day (but usually more).

–  Incorporate good fats, like olive & coconut oil, avocado, nuts, etc.

Reduce the consumption of white flour, sugar and processed foods as much as possible.  These are the three worst offenders when it comes to long term health.

Chose more whole grains.  Not just whole wheat, but actual whole grains, like bulgar, quinoa, rice and my favorite, farro.

Eat less red meat.  It’s absolutely terrible for the environment and also happens to be harder for our bodies to digest.  I’m not a vegetarian, but I do firmly believe if we all ate a little less meat, it would add up to make a big difference.  If I’m at a nice steakhouse or a BBQ, I’ll indulge, but I almost never buy or cook it for myself.

Choose better starches, like legumes (beans & lentils), sweet potatoes and squash.

-Use dairy sparingly.  There are few things in this world I love more than indulging in a cheese plate, but in general, I try to keep my dairy intake down. Whenever possible I use nut milk or coconut milk, and when cooking, I like to use cheese more as a seasoning than a main ingredient.

Drink moderately.  A glass of wine or two a night likely won’t do you much harm.  Five sugary cocktails probably will.

Be active.  Chose physical activities that you enjoy; exercise shouldn’t feel like punishment.

Be mindful.  This is perhaps the most difficult and important thing for me.  As someone who has always inhaled their food, leading to over-eating, it’s taken a lot of effort to reprogram habits so that I actually slow down, chew and truly taste my food.

Food for Thought:

On this blog you will certainly find recipes that fall into the above guidlines.  But as I continue my own food education, I also hope to share and engage on some bigger picture topics as it relates health.  See this is the really important (and scary) thing:  being overweight/obesity are the leading risks for global deaths. Think about that for once second: the leading cause of death is preventable.

To be fair, our understanding of food and it’s affects on our health wasn’t always what it is today, not to mention the harmful products the big agriculture industry has been trying to push like drugs.  Things have to change.  People like Jamie Oliver, Mark Bittman and Ann Cooper (to name a very small few) give me hope that change is possible.  But we can all make a difference.  So let’s cook.

– Ashley

PS.  I’d love to hear from you.  You can reach me at palateevolved@gmail.com.



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