Does change always start out with feeling bad? My change of eating habits certainly did. It all started with the beginning of winter some years ago. I had really not concerned myself with food much until then, it had to be tasty, filling and well, inexpensive. Until one day all of a sudden my stomach ached, I felt nauseous and generally bad. The uneasiness lasted. I had no clue what was going on, because I had not changed my diet and was eating what I considered normal. This meant a bowl of cereal and tea in the morning, then a warm canteen lunch. In the afternoon a sweet snack or hot cocoa and for dinner either sandwiches or a warm meal, depending on how much energy was left. Still I was losing weight.
It was the time of Christmas markets and mulled wine. Friends came to town and we went out on Saturday afternoon for a hot alcoholic beverage. Not a good idea. Especially for an upset stomach. The next day I was forced to stay laid down. My friends left early, feeling under the weather themselves. I was still feeling nauseous and dizzy on Monday. So this was not a hangover, but my friends were not feeling well either, so I blamed the drink. When my work contract ended a couple of later I felt anxious because I was out of work – but my health improved. I found a new and different job and did in no way relate my stomach problems to something about my diet. Strangely enough. Little did I know then about food additives or intolerances.
The months went by and even though my stomach was better, I was not well. I needed change. A fresh start. I did what I had wanted to do since living abroad for the first time: I moved to France to be an au pair. Living and eating with strangers and adapting to their life was challenging. It was not only their everyday rhythm and their habits, but their way of feeding themselves played a major role, too. In this case I was in for a change to the positive, a major improvement that I had no clue about.
My daily meal plan still consisted of cereal, warm lunch, cake/waffles/crepes in the afternoon and a warm dinner. BUT: dairy was replaced by oat and soy products, for warm meals there was always salad or a vegetable soup as a starter (and most of the time a dessert!) and the sweets in the afternoon were homemade. Still I had no clue what I was eating. It was different but I was ok with different tastes. Slowly but surely I was noticing changes in my body. My skin cleared considerably (I was 26 then and acne was still a problem). My stomach was better (I was still losing weight but experienced no more stomach aches, hallelujah!). I felt stronger, happier and more confident. There were issues, too, but I felt I was growing.
And I got into reading and learning about edibles. I saw that I had not eaten enough vegetables before. Even during a brief period as a vegetarian at the age of 15 I stuck to a grain based diet. One day after coming back from France my dad told me he thought I was allergic to fat. Well, I thought, I do not like butter and do not use it for sandwiches, but allergic sounded a bit strong. Still I had already cut out most of the fat from my eating routine. By then I swore by vegetable fats like coconut oil. I examined the way I had eaten in France more closely. No dairy, only einkorn (basically gluten-free) flour products, lots of veggies, no more than three times a week organic meat, often dessert. Yes, basically always and I am not a fruit kind of person!
Many a meal was prepared in the steam cooker, mainly veggies, potatoes and rice. All food was purchased organic and there were close to zero processed edibles involved. Anything and everything was prepared fresh and made from scratch. Yes, it took time to cook and some meals were weird combinations. Nevertheless it was always nourishing and healthy. Also there was a lot of fish.
I learned from my meal change that generally meat is not bad for me and neither is fat, it’s the amount, quality and origin of those products that counts. While I do eat meat sometimes and enjoy fish a lot, I decided to keep the blog vegetarian. Firstly, because I eat vegetarian more often than not. Secondly because I think that it is a first step towards eating healthier. (Hetty on the other hand is a “true” vegetarian and has been for many a year.) What Hetty and I have talked about a lot is going vegan. She practically eats vegan, I will try it as a challenge and am way excited about it.
I already skip those processed foods and eat more veggies. Vegetables are my starter (soup, salad, raw) and again with the meal (and not that potato salad with a whole lot of mayo). While I love vegetables I am not a huge fan of fruit, but I sneak it into muffins, granola and some dishes, too. Also I just love apple sauce. Dessert is my friend… I try to avoid white flour. I happily substitute with einkorn. If that’s not possible I use spelt or whole-wheat flour.
It’s also good to know about food intolerances. I knew milk was bad for me from the day in my early twenties when a cup of hot cocoa made me basically instantly run to the bathroom. There were cramps too. I did not realize what it meant, just avoided milk. Not long ago I was tested and proven to be lactose intolerant, really no surprise. While it is no fun to be intolerant, there are certainly worse things in the world. Lactose intolerance is ok to handle, there are many vegetable alternatives to dairy and then there are pills. My way is to eat alternatives like oat milk, rice cream and the like and avoid pills until I am eating out and cannot chose my meal.
I hope these things I learned may inspire. I imagine there may be controversy so just remember that these things are my personal experience and work for me. Eating is a personal thing, so find out what’s good for you! Happy cooking! ~Anna~