For optimal health, I think you need both.
Last week, Mark Bittman published an article about the importance of cooking in the home. The New York Times article featured Michael Pollan, who has written many fine books about healthy eating over the past decade. Bittman quotes his famous lines on the cover of In Defense of Food, “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Of course, I agree with that advice—but I like to take it a step further and be abundantly clear about what we should be eating. For our health. For our planet. For our future. We don’t “need” to eat ANY animal protein as Bittman and Pollan seem to imply. They both know that the raising of animals for our dinner tables is an environmental nightmare, yet they never make it clear that we can get along just fine (much better, in fact) without the routine consumption of animal products.
Clarity with wiggle room. In our 4Leaf for Life model, we make it clear that the healthiest diet for humans would be one consisting of nothing but whole, plant-based foods. But we also provide a little wiggle room. Why?
Because we know that 95% of Americans still eat animal products on a regular basis—and it can be very difficult for most people to COMPLETELY avoid them.
For example; I was at a lovely party of about thirty people this past Saturday night. There was an abundance of good food and I had no trouble finding plenty of plant-based choices. But when the lady passing the tiny crab cakes came by, I ate one of them. I also had a little cracker that had some cheese on it. But I am confident that for the entire day, I maintained a 4Leaf score with over 80% of my calories coming from whole, plant-based foods.
People often ask me if I am vegan or vegetarian. I explain it this way. I never buy any animal products for my home and I never order any in a restaurant. Although I never “plan” to have any animal products, occasionally I do; therefore, I am not a vegan.
Back to the importance of cooking in the article. Bittman quotes Pollan from a conversation in his living room:
“Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: it’s the act of cooking itself. People who cook eat a healthier diet without giving it a thought. It’s the collapse of home cooking that led directly to the obesity epidemic.”
I would agree with most of that but would add that you can’t do a very good job of healthy cooking if it is not preceded by healthy shopping. For if it goes in your shopping cart, it is almost certain to end up in your stomach. See my earlier blog on that topic: “4-Leaf” eating, Part 4 — shopping for groceries
Want to find out the aggregate 4Leaf score for your family for a week? Just analyze all of your shopping carts for seven days. Add the calories of food from whole plants and divide that number by the total calories purchased.
Of course, if you eat out a lot, this computation will only tell you part of the story. In my case, about 90% of my grocery cart is whole plants. The non whole plants include things like corn chips, wine and soy milk.
The Bottom Line. Cooking at home is a good thing. Since I began learning the truth about nutrition in 2002, I have learned to cook for myself. Coincidentally, my marriage ended about that same time, so if I hadn’t learned all about food back then, I would probably be a very unhealthy bachelor today.
Lucky for me, I now prepare most of my “calories” in my own home. And although I eat out frequently, I probably prepare 75% of my total calories in my home.
And I have no doubt that those meals are healthier than almost ANY meal that I can order in a restaurant. That’s because of all the things Mark Bittman points out in the article. I encourage you to read the whole piece. It’s a good one.
One more thing. With advance planning and a little “batch cooking” once a week, I can prepare any of my healthy and delicious home-cooked meals in less than five minutes.
- Bittman source article. Michael Pollan Cooks! – NYTimes.com.
- My earlier blog about shopping. “4-Leaf” eating, Part 4 — shopping for groceries
- My home meal #1. Sailors Daily 4Leaf Oatmeal
- My home meal #2. Sailors Super 4Leaf Lunch (or dinner)
- Lisa’s 4Leaf Recipe Page. Recipes from Lisa’s Kitchen
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to email@example.com
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation