Grandmothers hold a lot of wisdom. We may not see it when we’re young, but while they are old—fashioned in some ways, they are often right about many things. This is especially true when it comes to eating right. I was lucky enough to grow up with my Russian grandmother living in the same household, and she taught us many food lessons. So in the age of fancy food marketing and companies trying to sell you this or that oil, superfood, or extract, it’s a good idea to remind yourself of these time-honored lessons and how Fresh n’ Lean can help you eat in a way that your grandma would approve of today.
1. Eat home-cooked meals
The best thing about grandmas is that they like to cook for us. They might not always make the healthiest meals when you visit, preferring to spoil you with treats, but no matter what, they always make you home-cooked meals. You may have been lucky enough to be fed homemade pasta in an Italian household, homemade falafel in a Middle Eastern household, or homemade dal in an Indian household.
My Russian grandmother cooked up bright red beet soup called borsch with kasha (buckwheat). Even when she made something not-so-healthy, like the scrumptious Napoleon layered cake for our birthdays, she baked every single layer of puff pastry and folded in the cream with architectural precision. The whole process took three days.
Of course, home-cooked meals do not have to take days, but they still do take more of an investment than the typical food we consume in our grab-and-go culture.
2. Eat foods in their whole, unprocessed state
Your grandma may have gone out of her way to make you special food when you came to visit, but day to day, she likely mostly fed you foods in their whole, unprocessed state. When I was growing up, my grandma had a little plot of land in our backyard where she planted cucumbers and tomatoes, and I still remember that they always tasted so much better than anything you could get at the grocery store.
Even while we begged for the “cool” lunchable foods our friends would bring to school, she would protest and insist that we eat real food — brown rice instead of RiceARoni, whole grain pasta instead of Kraft macaroni, and real potatoes instead of frozen French fries. Granted, she always made sure to add plenty of fat, salt, and sugar to make them taste good for us kids, but these foods were still real, not something made in a laboratory by a corporation.
We are so used to our food coming in packages today. On the airplane, we are offered salted nuts or pretzels, but if we prepare a bit ahead of time, we can pack more real foods on-the-go: baby carrots and hummus, dates, nuts, seeds and fresh and dried fruit. The same is true of the day-to-day.
3. Eat mostly plants
My grandmother was far from vegetarian. As a child during WWII she remembers starving in the frigid Russian winter with nothing to eat. So she found our family’s transition to vegetarianism and eventually veganism downright puzzling. That being said, it was a surprisingly easy transition, and she jumped on board taking out the animal products in her cooking.
It turned out not to be too hard, since nearly all the traditional cultures around the world are largely plant-based already. As National Geographic’s Blue Zones research has shown, the longest-living populations around the world are not exclusively, but mostly, plant-based. They eat animal products here are there, primarily for flavor, but mostly focus on vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
As author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Cooked, and Food Rules Michael Pollan has rightly stated: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” — Michael Pollan and your grandmother.
Indeed, Pollan also advises to follow your grandmother’s diet advice. Think of any world civilization and you will see that starches and legumes make up the bulk of their calories: sweet potatoes and corn in South America, plantains and black beans in the Caribbean, rice and beans in Central America, rice and tofu in East Asia, lentils and rice in South Asia, and all kinds of legumes and tubers around Africa.
4. Don’t snack in between meals
Despite recent trends to eat small meals frequently throughout the day, in nearly every culture around the world people only eat two or three meals a day, and they typically do not snack in between meals. In doing so, they simulate a lot of the benefits we are now learning about offered by intermittent fasting.
To be effective, however, it is probably not necessary to fast in any extreme way (such as eating only once a day or severely limiting calories a few times a week). Most of the world’s religions have special holidays (e.g. Lent, Ramadan, Yom Kippur) during which fasting is embedded into spiritual practices. If you eat three meals a day, however, especially if you eat breakfast later or dinner earlier, you can fast for 12 hours a day or longer overnight, which provides fasting-like benefits. Of course, if you’re starving, have a snack. But it is better to wait until the next meal and have a proper serving of food instead of grazing all day long and especially into the night.
Eating right does mean time and effort that you may not have bandwidth for in today’s fast-paced culture. But that’s where Fresh n’ Lean comes in—we have our chefs prepare simple, wholesome organic home-cooked meals that are delivered straight to your home. You will eat home-cooked food that is unprocessed, plant-based, and comes in portion-controlled packages that encourage you to eat three times a day and not snack in between meals. Let us help you eat in the way that your grandma rightly taught you.