With millions of Americans hunkered down in their homes doing most of their own cooking, the coronavirus crisis is giving us a chance to change how we eat.
I had begun cooking a lot more last year when I lost my journalism job in New York City and began free-lancing part time from home, but my wife and I would still go out to eat a couple of times a week. I would try to be good, but often ended up eating a steak or a hamburger.
No longer. With the coronavirus lockdown, Clarissa and I are eating all our meals at home. We want to stay as healthy as possible. No one wants to get sick in the middle of a health crisis.
I asked Christopher Gardner, a Stanford University professor who does nutrition research, for his advice on how to eat to improve our health. “More vegetables, less added sugar, less refined grains, and more whole foods,” he replied.
Gardner thinks people worry too much about the wrong things. “You can have healthy vegetarians and unhealthy vegetarians,” says Gardner, who hasn’t eaten meat in 37 years. “I know some vegetarians that eat horribly.” For example, a diet laden with white flour and sugar is vegetarian, he says, but it’s bad for you.
He says people should start with a foundation of healthy foods and then personalize their diet to find the one they can stick to. “Don’t go on a diet. Because if you go on a diet, that means you’ll go off it and everything will go back to the way it was. Move toward an eating plan that you can maintain for the rest of your life.”
You can keep tweaking that eating plan, he adds, as you learn more about what you like and your nutritional needs. “There should be a way to tasty enjoyable food that works for you and your health,” he says.
Living in Retirement
Diet is a powerful medicine. Gardner says we can treat health problems by changing the foods we eat. To lower blood pressure, for example, he tells people to eat less salt. To lower bad cholesterol, he has them eat less saturated fats. And to raise their good cholesterol, he has them eat more healthy fats and fewer refined carbohydrates.
And what if we want to do all those things?
Start by eating lots of vegetables, which are a good foundation for all healthy diets, Gardner says. Eat healthy fats like avocado and olive oil and walnuts and fatty fish. Stay away from refined carbohydrates like white bread. Eat whole grains and fruits but don’t overdo it.
I want to enjoy a long, healthy retirement. If that means eating my vegetables, I guess that means eating my vegetables.
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