Category Archives: Nutrition

Weston Price

While looking up something else on the internet today, I stumbled back on the website of the Weston Price Foundation.  Again, I found that I almost couldn’t see what they said that was right because they were so heavy-handed.

Things about which they are right:

  • Saturated fat is important, not the enemy.
  • Whole milk and eggs are important, healthy foods for many people.
  • Trans fats are the enemy.
  • The current nutritional guidelines push us to consume too much grain.
  • Many people consume too much processed sugar.
  • Soy is also a food that is unhealthy if much of it is eaten.

However, they entirely ban many foods.  I think any plan of eating that forbids anything has gone off track.  Other specifics I can’t agree with them about:

  • I think even industrial, ultrapasteurized skim milk is better than no milk.
  • Most people do not need supplements, such as cod liver oil
  • No food should ever be banned in a meal plan,  Instead, the less healthy things should be eaten less often.
  • I think coffee, tea, and chocolate are fine in moderation.
  • I think cake, pie, and any other sweet treat we crave is fine in moderation
  • I don’t think it is necessary to sprout all grains.
  • I think that the breast milk of any woman whose body is able to make milk is still healthier for her baby that any formula made from another species’ milk.
  • The occasional consumption of fried foods is OK, particularly if you fry it yourself without canola or soybean oil.
  • I use a microwave.  However, I try to avoid cooking acidic or fatty foods in plastic containers in the microwave.
  • Any meat, even meat from current large conventional farms, is better than no meat .

What I say here is not meant to minimize the important work that Mary Enig did to make sure we are aware of the dangers of transfats.  This particular group’s nutritional philosophy is just too extreme and too rule based for me.

What milk is ideal?

I posted a few days ago about why we don’t drink organic milk.  This post is meant to balance that.

The minimum standards I have for milk, in addition to freshness, are rbst free and not ultra-pasteurized.  This level of ‘pickiness’ I do not have trouble meeting.

Other things that I would like are the following:

  • low heat/vat pasteurized (a few dairies still do this, it’s even a slower and lower heat process than standard pasteurization)
  • not homogenized (this is a different process than pasteurization.  Pasteurization is heating to kill pathogens.  Homogenization is breaking up the fat particles so they stay suspended)
  • reduced use of antibiotics (not quite as strict as organic; I mean that a cow is only given antibiotics when sick, and the milk is not used until a few days after the cow is no longer on the antibiotics)

I would consider the following to be nice, but probably too expensive:

  • organic
  • cows eat grass in a pasture during the summer
  • local, small dairy where I can see where the milk comes from

Why we don’t drink organic milk

I know that among the real food community, organic foods can be very popular.  However, there are two reasons that we don’t buy organic milk.  One is the cost.  The other is that the organic milk in our stores is always ultrapasteurized.  Not only do I find ultrapasteurized milk unpalatable, but also the higher heat makes many more changes to the milk than the lower heat of normal pasteurization.  Thus, I consider non-organic but RBST-free milk to be more natural and less processed than ultrapasteurized organic milk.  I’m sure that if I bought milk from a source other than the normal grocery store I could find some that is not ultrapasteurized and organic, but that’s simply not an option for my family right now.

Tastes good = unhealthy??

I’ve been reading The Taste of Sweet by Joanne Chen, and it has me thinking.  Do many people really equate ‘tastes good’ with unhealthy?  I don’t know that this is something I would ever have agreed with.

Of course, before you can answer this question, you have to decide what is ‘unhealthy’ food.  After reading and thinking, I’ve come to a conclusion that doesn’t agree with either the current orthodox opinion or the main competitor.  I do not believe that fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol in food is any measure of its healthiness.  I also do not believe that carbs, sugar, or wheat are unhealthy.  It’s processing and chemical ingredients that I have suspicions about.

What this means is that a homemade chocolate chip cookie isn’t on my ‘awful for you’ list.  It’s something that can be quite healthy in moderation (i.e. the family sharing a batch of homemade cookies or two a week).  A package of cookies from the grocery store is much more unhealthy, with the hydrogenated oils usually used, preservatives, and the fact that much more of the preparation is done in a factory.

How does this relate to taste?  Homemade chocolate chip cookies do taste much better than anything from the store.  So in this case, healthier and tastes better are the same foods.

Actually, this is probably an almost universal rule.  For any food which has both a packaged and homemade version, the homemade version is healthier because it is less processed.  It also can always be better tasting, if enough time and money are put into the effort.  However, none of us have the time and energy to do this for all foods.

Then we should consider the foods that just can’t be made at home.  Some foods can’t be made without the use of processes that we just can’t replicate at home.  In my mind, many of these are also the most unhealthy foods.

Some of these considerations also apply to ingredients.  White flour that has not been bleached or bromated has been made for over a century.  It’s not far beyond what we could do at home, if we wanted.  We at least can make whole wheat flour.  Canola and soybean oils require industrial processes that we cannot possibly do at home.  Olive oil and lard were made at home, or at least on family farms, for centuries if not longer.

Do I want to live on a farm and eat nothing that I have not grown and processed every step of the way myself?  No, of course not,  But I do want to eat foods where I could conceivably make that food truly from scratch myself (i.e. plant a seed or raise an animal), if in the proper climate.  Like other grand ideals, I need to do what I can and be at peace with the fact I could always do more.  This afternoon, the way this looks is the following:

  • My crockpot has been working all day on corned beef.  I brined it myself for the last week and a half, but I used a purchased spice mixture.
  • I just put two loaves of homemade white bread in the oven.  They could have been whole grain, but that wasn’t what I wanted today.  I did use unbleached, unbromated white flour from King Arthur Flour.  The recipe I used called for shortening, and so I used a palm oil shortening instead of hydrogenated or interesterified shortening.  I’m making bread of the kind I want to eat, using the best ingredients easily available to me.
  • I’ll be steaming a fresh vegetable later.  Not organic, so I could have done better, but still a fresh veggie.  I’ll probably serve it with a little butter and and herb or two.

As the above set of examples shows, I do what I can about nutrition, and refuse to feel any guilt for the things that I can’t or choose not to do.

Returning to the original question, I think that given my definition of healthy food as less processed, and a variety of foods, tasty does not in any way imply unhealthy.

I would like to hear what you, the reader think.  Do healthy and tasty conflict?

Why eat real food?

With all of the easy and tasty industrial food available, why eat real food?

  •  Real food tastes better.
  • You know what is in real food.  Most modern food has hard to pronounce ingredients that most of us don’t know much about.
  • Cooking real food can be fun.
  • By some theories of nutrition, real food is healthier.
  • Real food can bring back memories of cooking with family.
  • Preparing real food can give us confidence in ourselves.
  • Making real food together can be a good way to spend time with someone.
  • Real food is often less expensive than modern food.  Yes, ramen noodles are cheaper than a home made roast beef dinner, but homemade cookies cost significantly less than store bought cookies.

What is real food?

(To give credit where due, my thinking here is greatly influenced by Michael Pollan.)

Real food is food that is cooked or prepared, rather than manufactured.  Most of it would be recognizable to our great-grandparents.  If they wouldn’t recognize it (such as for ethnic foods) then someone else’s great-grandparents would.  A homemade chocolate chip cookie is real food, even if its nutritional value is a little questionable.  A chocolate chip cookie bought from the store in a plastic tray covered in foil is not real food.

I’m not saying that we should never eat anything else, but that most of what we eat should be real food.  Closer to real food is better, but we all sometimes get that craving for factory produced fake food.

I’m going to be using the term ‘modern food’ to refer to the food products that aren’t real food.  These are produced in a factory.  The alternate terms ‘fake food’ or ‘industrial food’ both are more negative than my attitude toward modern food.

As another example, consider yogurt.  In the strictest sense, real food yogurt is homemade, with no dry milk added (dry milk is a factory product by nature).  A quart carton of plain, full fat yogurt without added gelatin or other thickeners from the store is one step away from real food.  More chemicals or sickly sweet fruit flavors are more steps toward an industrial product instead of real food.

Sometimes modern food is the best we can manage.  I think most families go through a time like this if a family member is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  The carbohydrate counting is just so much easier from the package of industrial food.  As time goes on, those families that want more food cooked from scratch pick up various methods to carb count real foods.  My hope is that this blog will make this transition easier.

Meat can be real food.  Meat raised more naturally is perhaps more in line with real food, but for me that’s not required to be real food.  Real food means that to make a hamburger, you buy ground beef (or even better buy a roast and grind it yourself), shape it into a patty, and cook it.  A premade patty (only meat, not seasonings or flavors) that is cooked at home is almost real food.