When navigating the world of health and wellness, we desperately seek nutrition advice from newspapers, magazines, our “know-it-all” neighbor, our grandmothers’ old wives’ tales, the muscular guy at the gym, or “expert” health-care professionals. With good intentions to become healthier, we find ourselves confused by the conflicting messages that arise from mantras to “eat this, not that.”
These complicated trends leave us at a loss of what to eat to become or stay healthy and derail our nutritious path. During the journey toward better health, the simple enjoyment of real food gets lost to the “cutting and pasting” of fad diets, such as the HCG diet and buzzwords like “superfood.”
In Living a Real Life with Real Food , registered dietician and certified nutritionist Beth Warren writes with a kosher perspective and relies on science and her clients’ experiences to show that the best way to lose weight, build strength, and help fight obesity-related diseases is to eat the natural, organic, whole foods that people have been eating for centuriesbefore fad diets and America’s food system got in the way.
The advice, recipes, and meal plans presented in this book will help the average reader attain a healthier and more energetic lifestyle regardless of how familiar they are with kosher, organic, and whole foods before they begin reading.
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About the Author
Beth Warren is a registered dietitian and a certified dietitian-nutritionist with a private practice in Brooklyn, New York. She has a master of science degree in nutrition from Brooklyn College and a bachelor of arts degree in English from Yeshiva University. Along with conducting nutrition counseling in her private practice, she works as a consultant for businesses and schools and runs the website bethwarrennutrition.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Read an Excerpt
MY KOSHER SONG
WHY REAL FOOD?
The real-food diet. It sounds simple enough. Eat real foods.
Unfortunately, life is complicated. The simplicity got pushed beneath all the clutter of information out there.
Figuring out the healthiest food to eat is harder than learning to use the aptly called smartphone. Supermarkets feature numerous products and it is difficult to navigate through poor health choices to find the foods that are actually good for you. More is not better when it comes to the food industry.
Picture this: Standing in the bread aisle, you scratch head, confused. You are trying to be a health-savvy shopper and yet the food industry is not making it easy. Overwhelmed, you allow your child to play the game "eeny meeny miny moe" and voila! Little Timmy picks the bread of the week. Without realizing it, you leave the store with the worst kind ... you know, the "enriched" (more like "depleted") white flour, high fructose corn syrup, fiberless bread that should really be served as your dessert following dinner and not as a sandwich accessory.
Packaged bread is a classic example of a heavily processed food often made with too many unrecognizable and unpronounceable ingredients rather than a basic mixture of real food. This problem is exemplified by the abundance of brands on the market that produce similar poor-quality foods — mimicking more options to the consumer; but in reality, they are all the same, single, unhealthy choice.
Making "choices" like these and not choosing real food is one major factor in the rise of obesity in America. It's beyond Houston ... United States, we have a big problem.
A female client, Laura, came for an appointment one day with a bag full of empty food packages. An eighty-nine year old woman, Laura was living an organic, real-food way of life for longer than I have been alive. I was helping her gain much-needed weight, despite the painful shadow of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) lurking in her every bite of food. She was teaching me, too — about real food.
One of the plastic food packages she had was for pita, a pocketed flatbread that is a mainstay in my Middle Eastern, Mediterranean culture.
"Beth, I've been buying this bread for weeks and just realized it is not 100 percent whole grain!" Laura exclaimed.
Knowing that she is not one to be taken for a nutritionally uneducated consumer, I examined the package. Unsurprising to me, it was one of the most deceiving food products I have seen. They designed the package to make you think it is the healthiest choice. Here is what was listed on the front of the package:
Organic: Although better for your health in many ways, it does not make a product automatically healthier (see chapter 7).
Wheat Flour: The term makes you think it is whole-wheat flour but it does not say "whole."
100% Natural: The term "natural" is not Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated and can mean anything. Petroleum gas is "natural," but would that make us eat it? Also, the 100% at quick glance makes you think it was stating "100% whole wheat," a sign I tell my patients to look for on healthier products.
Fat Free, Sugar Free, Fiber Rich: All three are playing on fad diets by highlighting the one nutrient, but is the bread as a whole healthy?
The term wheat flour in the ingredients list on the back of the label confirms that this is not, in fact, 100 percent whole wheat. Ultimately, there are better whole-grain choices.
If an educated consumer and nutritionist had to look twice at a brand of Middle Eastern Bakery Pita Bread, what hope is there for those consumers on the run? Most of us go food shopping in a rush, coming from or going to work, with children screaming in the shopping cart. For many of us, food shopping is simply one task on a seemingly endless list of things to do for that specific day. We need food packages to be designed simply, so that if we have only a few seconds to grab bread from the bread aisle, we grab one that will help and not hurt our health.
Wishful thinking? Perhaps. It may be too big of an undertaking to challenge the entire food industry, but we can take control over our food choices.
Through this book, I can help make it easier for you to choose foods to eat to create a healthier you. You will receive guidance on how to make your plate, which foods to eat more or less of, how to eat real foods out of your home, and of course, how to shop for real foods. After following the advice in this book, you will notice more energy, a clearer complexion, better digestive health and sleep patterns, and other lifestyle improvements, in addition to the scale sliding downward in the best possible way: continuously, slowly, and steadily.
MY KOSHER SONG
Along with helping you eat real food for your real life, I will give you a glimpse into my kosher way of life. Food plays an integral role in the Jewish culture. The importance of family, observance of holidays, and frequent celebrations all share one thing in common: good food.
Born and raised an Orthodox Jew, I am what I call a "mix breed" of both Sephardic (emigrated from Spain to the regions of Aleppo/Damascus Syria and my union with marriage into the Moroccan culture) and Ashkenazi (Russian and Eastern European) ancestry. As a result, my culinary cuisines are eclectic. From savory Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean dishes with spices like cumin and allspice, exotic salads, and kosher Moroccan fish dishes, to classic heart- warming chicken soup, coleslaw and potato salads, I come to you with a tale, and a taste, of two cities.
Traveling back to the days in the old country of my Syrian heritage, the concept of real food was real life. The popular Mediterranean diet was truly a lifestyle. It was frequently quoted for its anti-inflammatory and health-promoting benefits including weight management, improvements in asthma and allergies, decreased risk of Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, poor eye health, oral health, and infertility. Families walked to the market bright and early for the best selections, bought their grass-fed meat and fish (delicacies that were typically reserved for Sabbath meals on Friday night and Saturday lunch); purchased local fruits and vegetables and spices just picked from the fields; fermented their own wine, pickles, dairy and cheeses; and cooked their own fresh dishes daily. In fact, Aleppo is frequently referred to as Haleb, an Arabic word meaning "He milks." They ate family meals together and took the time to enjoy each other's company and their food.
Most Syrian dishes incorporated vegetables like okra, eggplant, potatoes, mushrooms, and different types of beans, lentils, and peas (see chapter 7). Whole grains, like bulgur, were incorporated into hot and cold dishes (see chapter 6). A variety of salads was also a mainstay in each meal and were heavily seasoned with health-promoting spices (see Recipes). Families fermented and pickled many foods; their own grape leaves, peppers, tomatoes, beets, turnips, cucumbers, and fresh olives soaked in myriad spices. They ate from protein sources that included freshly made cheeses, commonly referred to as Syrian Cheese, and the majority of their dairy intake came from plain cultured yogurt called Laban.
Lastly, the food group with the ominous dark cloud over it today — fats (a true delicacy because it was not readily available and was expensive) was consumed minimally during the Sabbath, but thoroughly enjoyed. Cheryl, the wife of a cancer patient I counseled at the Morris I. Franco Community Cancer Center in Brooklyn, New York, loved her fat. One afternoon, I met with her husband, a seventy-year-old male, Charlie, who had pancreatic cancer. I winced at the diagnosis sprawled in black and white on a form inside his folder. Charlie came to see me after he had completed an intense four-month chemotherapy and radiation cycle that left him both emotionally and physically depleted. He was beginning a seven-week respite and awaiting an update from the doctors on what to do next. It was an opportune time to focus on eating real food.
"Our goal, Charlie," I began to say, "is to build you back up."
He smiled and perked up. Finally, he felt hopeful.
"I know! Look at my legs, I lost all my muscle!" he said with a chuckle. He had a soft-spoken voice and I noticed a foreign twinge to his English.
"What's done is done," I continued to say. "The treatments made you feel the way you do. You can take back control of your life by taking charge of what you eat. Work with what we can control."
I began with my endorsement of proteins and healthy fats. I spoke of how necessary they are to everyone's diet — and how especially critical they were to Charlie's. I could see a sense of understanding come over Cheryl's face as I spoke to her husband. Cheryl was born and raised in Syria on a real-food diet that changed once she moved to America in adulthood.
Cheryl told us about her past diet. She remembered going to the market and paying extra money to buy the fat and bones of the animals. What would now be discarded as scraps were treasures to her family. Her mother cooked the fat and made bone marrow broths. She concluded with what I often hear from immigrants: "And we didn't know about these health problems we hear of today." (Back then they did not suffer many of the health problems of today such as the rapid rise in cancer, allergies and asthma.)
Shocking, right? They were eating what we were told is unhealthy: foods high in fat. Is there something we're missing?
THE MISSING PIECE TO THE HEALTH PUZZLE
There is a piece missing, but it is mostly in our puzzle not theirs. It is called real food. To me, real food is defined as the closest thing to being fresh and whole, minimally processed, G — d given, and available since biblical times. There are many definitions of "real, whole food" and people regularly debate topics such as "Which foods did the cavemen eat?" and "Is an only plant-based diet the answer?"
Throughout this book, my goal is to fly above the controversies. While I intend to present both sides to every debate, I will explain my takeaway for you to incorporate into your real-food diet with my kosher seal of approval. Here are the foods I fit into the category of "real" for optimal health:
Grass-fed beef and chicken
All preferably organic, all with kosher certification to fit into my real-food kosher diet.
The list encompasses all food groups. Allow me to repeat: all food groups. Restriction is never the answer to better health; but the emphasis on quality of foods is key. A calorie is no longer thought to be just a calorie. Grass-fed meat ensures the animals are not fed proinflammatory soy or corn, makes more vitamin D from the sunlight, and the meat is higher in other fat-soluble vitamins and the anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Quality proteins like pastured eggs can be 20 percent higher in Omega-3 fats. The fermented dairy incorporates enzymes and natural probiotics that feed our gut with disease-fighting bacteria and helps to promote easier digestion and immune health. Aside from reports of better taste, organic produce helps minimize the toxic load on our systems and the environment. Whole grains maintain their nutritional quality of fiber, B vitamins, iron, and minerals like magnesium and selenium — and some even have more protein, too.
A well-balanced diet, with variety, freshness, and satisfying flavor, is not a novel concept, but is one that has gotten lost to controversy. In my path toward better health, I exposed myself to many different nutrition styles. Like a trendy dress, I wore a diet until it was no longer in style and switched to the next one. I fell hard for the different mantras: red meat is evil, all carbohydrates are bad, don't eat all day and eat only at night, then eat all day and not at night. I was left like most of us: confused, exhausted, and gaining weight. I did not feel healthy.
Growing up, I loved all food, especially junk food. As a child, I looked forward to going to dance class after school. My friends and I would arrive at dance class forty-five minutes before it started. The first thing we did was walk five doors down and into a liquor store. Not to drink alcohol, of course, but to buy the snack bags at the register. The eight of us would run a tab and buy one twenty-four ounce bag of chips. I heaved down more than my share, licking each finger as though it would be the last time I would taste that flavor.
In high school, I was introduced to the world of dieting. I witnessed students bringing a salad, a scooped out "bagel," or nothing for lunch, and I heard frequent complaints of being fat. My way of being nutritious was eating pretzels and friends' leftovers for lunch and drinking at least two cans of Dr. Pepper soda during the school day.
I also began to exercise during high school. I tagged along with my father to the gym two nights per week and rewarded myself with a Coca-Cola slurpee afterward. One night as I got my fix and guzzled the slurpee down, I remember my father casually mentioning, "You know, we just put all that hard work into burning calories." The comment set the foundation, in a healthy way.
"Ooohhh," I thought, "it's not only what you push out of your body, but what you put in as well." I was vigorously missing the other half of health — the better half.
It was not until college that I became interested in nutrition as a science. Since I was an English major, I needed special permission from the head of the biology department to take an elective in nutrition. The professor asked quizzically, "Why does an English major want to take a science course?" — a question that followed me throughout my career.
I answered, "Does a scientist not need to know English?" He signed the paper with no further comment. To me, I never saw a conflict.
During that time, I also went on the South Beach Diet and, while I do not support the avoidance of carbohydrates, I learned a lot about the glycemic index and the effects of blood sugar on one's health. The seeds of how food affects the body were now planted in my mind.
Throughout my continuing education for a master's of science degree in nutrition and working in the field as a registered dietitian, I strategically exposed myself to different schools of nutrition thought. From the mainstream to alternative, I worked in a hospital setting, a nursing home, and with children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism. I found that each had their own method of treating various diseases from a nutritional perspective. Instead of getting caught up in the controversy, I sought to find the common thread — and I did! I did.
The secret to health — the one nondebatable concept from any medical point-of-view, is a simple message that is subdued by the chaos of what became the world of nutrition:
Eat real food.
What if I were to tell you something brand new hit the market? A miracle drug that can help with weight management, fatigue and trouble sleeping, and managing diseases like diabetes, cancer, IBS, emotional issues of stress and anxiety, in addition to symptoms of autism and ADHD, arthritis, and acne. The cost is low, and it's always available and has no scary side effects. Oh, and it tastes great and comes in different varieties, so if you don't like one, you can try another. Would you be the first person in line to get it?
No need to wait. This miracle is real food!
Throughout the years, we've become a "pill popping" society. And while there is a place for prescriptions when medically necessary, too little emphasis, if any, is placed on the power of food as medicine. One prudent example is in the case of diabetes and the importance of managing blood sugar. Despite medications, blood sugar cannot be adequately controlled without lifestyle improvements in diet and exercise.
CLEANING UP THE DIET: THE FOUNDATION
We can help manage most diseases with the answers to the questions of what, why, when, and how we eat. Our first step is to clean up the diet and replenish your body with nourishing, real foods. The principle is not only what you take out, like the fads of gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, or carb-free, but also what foods you add in their places. In short, it is about the diet as a whole — my definition of a whole-foods diet.
Years ago, our ancestors simply ate meat and plants. They physically worked outside all day hunting animals and picking their own grains, fruits, and vegetables.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Living A Real Life With Real Food"
Copyright © 2014 Beth Warren.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
I The Kosher Real-Food Diet Foundation 1
Chapter 1 My Kosher Song 2
Chapter 2 Kosher or Not Kosher? 12
Chapter 3 L'Chaim (To Life) 20
II You Are What You Eat: A Detailed Look into Real Foods 43
Chapter 4 Fat: The True Definition 44
Chapter 5 Meat and Milk: A Predestined Match or an Unfaithful Union? 76
Chapter 6 Grains and the Real-Food Diet 95
Chapter 7 Fruits and Vegetables: How to Choose Good Produce 115
Chapter 8 Protein-Quality Versus Quantity 133
III Living a Real Life with Real Food 159
Chapter 9 Eating Out and Into the Unknown World of Real Food 160
Chapter 10 Supermarket Sweep 176
IV Applying What You've Learned 197