So far in our Healthy & Whole series, we’ve talked about reasons not to pursue home cooking and healthy eating — time, fear, and lack of inspiration. But we haven’t yet tackled what to eat. There are lots of opinions out there. Here, we share what works for us.
Our diet? We call it flexitarian. It’s mostly vegetarian; but with the freedom to enjoy all food. We make as many things as we can from scratch. In general, we avoid purchasing “processed” foods — frozen meals, fast food, unhealthy snacks, items with mystery ingredients or added sugars. But overall, we like to focus on what we do eat instead of what we don’t.
We eat simple whole foods. We aren’t amazing gourmet chefs — just home cooks who love food. We eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and special finds from the farmer’s markets. We eat this way because we find it joyful.
Our food journey didn’t start with healthy eating — or much intention at all. Starting about 5 years ago, we began to have experiences of enjoying truly great food — on travels, in restaurants, and in the dining rooms of some good friends. We fell in love. Our past ways of Hot Pockets, Taco Bell, and Mountain Dew fell by the wayside as we devoured the cookbook section of the library, mimicked Julia Child from her DVDs, and frantically scoured the Internet for new food blogs (no Pinterest back then!).
A world of wonderful flavors and dishes opened up to us. We realized that our old biases and food dislikes were starting to be flipped upside down. Mushrooms, olives, and fish could all be delicious! This season of food discovery was special for us, and the more we learned and tasted, the more we fell in love. Along the way, our curiosities expanded into the health and environmental impact surrounding food.
We wanted to know what foods were healthy, and we have always liked the idea of taking care of the planet. At the start, we didn’t realize how complicated our food system is. Food in America is big business, set out to provide cheap food for a culture that demands efficiency. At the surface, this seems great: tasty food, whenever you want it, at a low price. But we’ve learned over time that there is a cost. A cost to our long-term health, a cost to the environment, and a cost to many of the flavors and essential joys of cooking.
So, unintentionally, we’ve developed a personal food philosophy over the past few years. A diet that we could stick with, that doesn’t abuse our bodies or the world.
So what do we eat?
- We try to eat the foods that have the most benefits to us and to our community.
- We find the approach of a “Mediterranean” style diet to make good sense: lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, but without trying too hard to fit within a certain marketable mold.
- There are a lot of diets out there. As a common core, we see homemade whole foods as the key that ties any healthy diet together.
- We eat mostly vegetarian because of the relatively lower resources (environmental and financial) required to put veggies on our table, but we also support the meat-raising farmers in our community on occasion.
- We buy organically-grown items when we can handle the price, to support the farmers who put in the extra effort of taking care of our farmland.
- We’ve found that an all-in-moderation approach works well for us. When we make pizza, we use white flour, because we like it that way. While we generally cook meatless, I recently enjoyed a big juicy steak to initiate the grilling season in Indianapolis. And from a look around our blog, you’ll see that we choose to enjoy healthy and colorful salads, nourishing soups, and fresh veggies as our daily meals.
This diet works for us. It is freeing, and we find a lot of joy in it. How about you? What are the reasons for the way you decide to eat? Have you spent much time thinking about the big picture of where your food comes from, and the effect it has on you and the community around you?
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.