It happens to us all. We stock our kitchen with every high quality food available only to stare blankly at the contents of our pantry hours later. Befuddled, discouraged and honestly reflecting on our inability to complete a task that a well-adjusted 4th graded could manage, we head to Chipotle to inhale a three-pound burrito and a large sweet tea. More determined the next go round, we spend hours developing a weak long meal plan predicated on the ‘ideal’ macronutrient breakdown and calorie count only to return to canned soup and crackers after four laborious meals. As a the Chick-Fil-A pounds begin to creep on and the piles of abandoned food accumulate in the recesses of our cupboard, stress and discouragement overcome our well intentioned plans and we succumb to the convenience and familiarity of our comfort foods.
Well fret no more, my friends. Utilizing one simple dietary technique will help us develop the ability to create beautiful, well-rounded and nourishing meals while eliminating the stress often associated with planning, preparing and eating healthfully.
Foundation foods are whole, healthful and nutrient dense items that are easily combined to create tasty, harmonious and well-balanced meals. The ideal foundational foods can and should be eaten every day as they provide all the nutrients that nourish the mind, body and soul. These foods include:
- Whole Grains – Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Teff, Millet, Oats, Farro and Barley
- Legumes – Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Pinto Beans, Adzuki Beans, Peas, Lentils and Soybeans.
- Vegetables – Preferably organic, local and seasonal
- Lean Protein – Chicken and fish
- Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews, Brazil Nuts, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds and Sunflower Seeds
The beauty of eating foundational foods is that they help anchor the body to the foods we consume as they work hard to:
- Improve digestive function
- Reduce food cravings
- Increase energy
- Eliminate stress
- Harmonize our food, family and environment
Foundational themes are a method for combining foods to help us create nutrition and versatile meals that nourish the body and also eliminate the unknowns that come with meal planning and preparation. The four primary themes include:
- Legumes & Grains
- Grains & Vegetables
- Protein & Vegetables
- Entrée Salad
The idea is fairly straightforward. The traditionally bigger meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) should consist of the foods that fall under each category in the themes above. To make the meals more complete, additional veggies or a small portion of lean protein can be added. For example, preparing a meal with the Legumes & Grains theme may consist of quinoa, green lentils and a side of steamed vegetables. A Grains & Vegetables meal may consist of brown rice and roasted root vegetables with a 4 oz. piece of chicken breast. And, a Protein and Vegetable meal might consist of a tofu and seasonal veg stir-fry served with or without the grain of your choice.
Entrée salads are somewhat unique in that they typically contain foods from all of the foundational food categories, but are distinct in that they typically sit on a bed of greens. For example, a 1/3 cup of beans, 1 cup of seasonal veg, 2 tablespoons of any nut or seed tossed with a few cups of spinach and the low-fat vinaigrette of your choice, topped with a 4 oz. piece of poached salmon and eaten with a small side of wild rice might be great place to start.
Outside of the tremendous health benefit of eating foundationally, consuming foods in this manner will save an amazing amount of time and money. The beauty of whole foods is that there are practically no processing costs and these savings can be passed along to the consumer. Of coarse, there are exceptions to this rule, but seasonal and local foods are generally less expensive then the imported, out-of-season alternatives. Also, although this may seem unconventional and a little weird to most, leftover beans, rice and vegetables make an amazing satisfying breakfast that will last well into lunch and can liberate all the energy that was previously required to digest the typical baked or boxed breakfast goods.
Still not convinced?
I may not have to mention this, but all of these foundational foods are nutrient rich and contain a wealth of soluble and insoluble fiber, which help improve stool consistency and regularity. I don’t think I need to go any further than this.
Eating foundation foods in accordance with the straightforward themes provided above is probably the easiest way to develop long lasting, healthy eating habits that can dramatically improve our health and happiness. Its time to put your food to work for you and reap the benefit of eating a well balanced, nutrient dense diet.