Friday, May 06, 2016

Orgasmically Organic Oranges

Beginning about ten years ago, I have slowly been altering my diet and moving away from processed food. My transition started when I was reading Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, which examined the food served at fast food restaurants.  Thanks to Schlosser’s book, I became more aware of the food that I was eating and started eating at far fewer fast food restaurants.

Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma introduced me to the dangers associated with high fructose corn syrup while Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream, and Theo Colborn’s Our Stolen Future, which was co-written with Diane Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers, emphasized the hazards regarding plastic and artificial food dyes, such as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, all of which are derived from petroleum. I now make it a point to avoid foods packaged in plastic as much as possible. Also, I read the ingredients on food labels and avoid food containing high fructose corn syrup and artificial food dyes, which the Food and Drug Administration has chosen not to ban.

My diet primarily consists of multi-grain bread, peanut butter, and mostly fruits but some vegetables, too. Trips to the grocery store are primarily spent in the produce section. Recently, I bought some reusable mesh bags for produce and manage to avoid using plastic bags to carry oranges or apples. With the exception of things like cheese and peanut butter, I manage to avoid most processed food during the day. I cannot classify myself as a vegetarian because each night my wife and I usually eat some kind of meat product. Occasionally, we buy a few pieces of baked chicken or a whole roasted chicken from the grocery store and pair it with a salad. A whole chicken lasts a couple of days because we use the leftovers for chicken and noodles, one of my wife’s favorite foods. Other nights we might have stuffed peppers or chili made with chunky salsa, hamburger, and organic pinto beans and organic black beans. Less frequently, we have my rice concoction recipe with ham, broccoli, mushrooms, onion, cheese, and quinoa. My favorite meal consists of a banana, dates, baby French carrots, a piece of toast with peanut butter, and a small bowl of blackberries and blueberries or an orange and a kiwi. I could easily eat that assortment for all of my meals.

Eating a meal outside of the house has become more difficult. Usually, my wife and I choose Chinese, Mexican, or Mongolian barbeque during those occasions when we eat out. She may have a glass of wine or a margarita while I order water. Genghis Khan, our favorite Mongolian restaurant, is about an hour away in Kansas City, and during peak times on weekends, it can require an hour’s wait to get a table. My students had recommended this restaurant when I was teaching at U of Missouri-Kansas City many years ago. This family owned Mongolian restaurant offers a wide selection of fresh vegetables, noodles, and meat, all of which are cooked on the griddle. At other times when we eat Mexican, for example, I usually order chicken fajitas, which is what I had on my birthday.

Through trial and error, I have learned which grocery stores in the area carry the freshest produce at a reasonable price. My town has three grocery stores, but only Dillons has a large produce section and carries the widest assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables—both organic and non-organic although the organic produce is usually much more expensive. This same grocery store is the only one that carries an assortment of Lara bars and the coarsest multi-grain bread. Shopping at Wal-Mart is usually a waste of money because their produce pales in comparison. Once in a great while, my wife and I may make the hour long trip to Whole Foods in Overland Park. Whole Foods carries the best produce in the area, and it’s a real treat to have one of their oranges.  I like to think of their oranges as orgasmically organic, that is, full of juice and full of flavor.

My wife is more apt to eat crackers, corn tortilla shells, and tortilla chips than I am. She also likes the convenience of eating a can of soup at lunch. Thanks to my urging, she has gotten away from eating those canned soups that contain bisphenol-A in the lining. More recently, she has been willing to get away from most processed foods and to adopt more of a plant-based diet. Like me, she has her favorite foods, such as radishes, raw turnips, cauliflower, and watermelon. She is reluctant to eat as much fruit as I do because she says it raises her blood sugars. Even so, she sometimes loves my homemade fruit salad at dinner. This salad usually contains lots of berries, along with sliced orange, kiwi, and banana. It’s a great meal in the summer when these berries—raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries—are in season and relatively inexpensive.

I cannot say that my diet has made me skinnier. My upcoming goal is to reduce my consumption of sugar by drinking more water and by getting away from fruit juices and the occasional Izze, a drink containing fruit juice and sparkling water. Chocolate is one of my weaknesses, and I need to eat less of it.  Overall, my diet has kept me out of a doctor’s office and has kept me relatively healthy, even at the age of sixty-five.  I am hoping to have a few more years of good health ahead of me.