The majority of information available about intuitive eating and cooking is in regards to healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food. While these things are certainly important and a part of what I will outline below, there is so much more to intuitive eating than that!
I’d like to provide a picture of intuitive eating that is a little broader than how much or what you’re eating. Rather, it also includes how your food is sourced, how it is cooked, how you are eating, and who you are eating with. All of these factors play a vital and impactful role in intuitive eating.
Why Eat & Cook Intuitively?
Everyone is always looking to save time and money. We want to find the best deal, the best price, and be the most time efficient. However, when it comes to food and meal times, more efficient and cost effective isn’t always the way to go.
While food prices have gone up, especially in recent years, Americans continue to spend a lower percentage of their income on food each year. In the early 1900s, 40% of annual income was spent on food. By 1950, that percentage was down to 30%. Now, we are down to a tiny 11% of our incomes spent on food. By comparison, only 4% of annual income was spent on healthcare in 1950 while that has jumped to 25-30% currently.
Unfortunately, more cost effective food isn’t actually saving us time or money. The only thing that cheap food has gotten us is poorer health, more time spent in the doctor’s office, and more money spent on healthcare. 60% of Americans now have at least one chronic disease and 40% have two or more chronic diseases.
Why not spend more money on quality food that leaves you feeling full, energized, and fuels your body appropriately. Rather than spending money and time at the doctor’s office, you can lead a life of health and wellness by investing in the foods you are eating.
How To Eat Intuitively
Eat Real Foods
Intuitive eating has been gaining popularity in recent years. While listening to your body’s cues for hunger and the types of food you are craving is extremely important, it is first and foremost essential to detoxify the body of addictions to highly processed foods.
The highly processed foods that are a staple of the American diet hijack our brains and satiation receptors causing us to always crave more of them. Ingredients like seed oils and highly refined sugars are actually addictive. Highly processed foods taste good but leave us constantly craving more because they provide little to no real nutrition. Therefore, our bodies continually want more because it is not getting the signal that you are full and nourished.
It’s not only the highly processed foods that are harming our health. Even conventionally raised fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, and whole grains can be damaging. The chemicals that are used in conventional agriculture contain hormone disruptors and gut microbiome disruptors among other harmful agents. Buying organic and regeneratively raised foods tend to be more expensive, but they are worth the investment when considering the harmful effects of the chemical in conventionally raised food.
For this reason, it is essential to remove most (preferably all) of these highly processed and conventionally raised foods from your diet and feed your body real foods. Real foods provide a better indicator of nutrient needs and fullness which will allow you to trust your intuition.
One of the best ways to source real food ingredients is to shop locally. Whether it be from a farmers market or local farmers that you know. Eating locally is not only a great way to support the local economy but it also allows you to get your food from known sources. You can visit the farms and talk to the farmers who actually grow the food. Rather than relying on the practices of large companies, you will be able to ask and see exactly how the food is grown and prepared. Are there chemicals used? How are the animals fed and treated?
Another advantage of eating locally is that it permits you to eat seasonally. Eating seasonally has a number of benefits. If you live in a cold weather climate, there will be access to refreshing fruits and veggies in the warmth of the spring and summer. In the fall and winter, this looks more like squashes, soups, and stews which are cozy, warm, and comforting both to the body and the mind.
Share Meals With Others
We have filled our lives with activities and are constantly on the go. As a result, we have started eating our foods alone in cars on the way to the next thing rather than around the table with family and friends. When we eat on the run, our body is in fight or flight mode which inhibits digestive capabilities and prevents us from absorbing nutrients as well. Taking time to sit down at the table, on the other hand, puts us into a relaxation mode where our bodily resources can focus on the digestive system.
Mindful Eating (Eating Intentionally)
Along these same lines, we have a tendency to eat while distracted. Whether that’s scrolling through our phones or eating in front of the TV, these also disrupt and inhibit the digestive system. When we are distracted, we don’t pay attention to our hunger and fullness cues leading to overeating. It is vital to take the time to slow down, sit down and focus on what and how much we are eating.
Sourcing Nutrient Dense Foods
The first component of intuitive eating is sourcing quality food. The highly processed foods that make up the standard American diet are not only unhealthy, but are also highly addictive while at the same time lacking nutrients to actually make you feel satiated and nourished. Eating fresh foods such as meat, fruit, dairy and vegetables provide a variety of vitamins and minerals that are essential for human health and well-being. Shopping the outside of the store is a great first step towards fueling your body with nutrient dense ingredients. This is where the real food is found rather than the list of synthetic and highly processed foods found in the center or the store.
If you are ready to take it one step further, there are numerous benefits from shopping locally and seasonally from farmers nearby. The local farmer’s market is a great place to start for getting fresh foods that are in season. Even if you don’t have a regular farmer’s market in your area, there are other ways to find nutrient dense foods. The Weston A. Price Foundation is a great resource for finding local farmers to get everything from meats and dairy to fruits, vegetables and even grains from. Additionally, people will also post local foods for sale on Facebook Marketplace. In fact, there are many people with an excess in their yards that will give it away for very cheap or free. This fall, we paid $12 for 60 lbs of apples and $10 for 15 pounds of pears. Very reasonable prices for fresh, local, organic produce.
How To Cook Intuitively
Ditch the Recipe
Recipes and cooking have become so complicated. Check out a recipe online, and most of them contain 10-15 ingredients. Some you may have on hand, but chances are, you need to go out and buy more than 1-2 which takes more time, energy, and space to store. All of these ingredients and flavors are needed when you’re cooking with lower quality food.
High quality nutrient dense food, on the other hand, is extremely rich in flavors and needs few other ingredients and seasonings to make it taste delicious. When we purchased our first grass-fed half cow, we couldn’t believe the depth of flavor of the ground beef, let alone more expensive cuts like the ribeye or t-bone. The depth of flavor of the meat is unlike anything you get in a grocery store.
The other added benefit of cooking with a few simple ingredients is that cooking becomes very easy. You’re not trying to balance looking at a recipe while keeping everything from burning at the same time. Rather, through trial and error, you discover how much of each ingredient is needed. This allows you to pay more attention to how much heat you’re using and how the dish is coming together instead of following a recipe and hoping for the best. While there is a bit more of a learning curve with this type of cooking, once you get it, you are set for life!
Cook Over An Open Fire
While my husband seems to have mastered the art of cooking over an open fire, it is definitely an acquired skill and honestly something I’m still working on. Whether it’s on the grill or a bonfire style, cooking on an open fire has a number of benefits. You are outside in nature breathing in fresh air and getting sunlight. The wood and smoke from the fire provides added flavors making something as simple as eggs even more flavorful and delicious. This type of cooking also takes time and patience to be done well. There are few things more relaxing that cooking over an open fire on a warm and sunny summer or even chilly and crisp fall day!
The current structure of our food system has resulted in a generation that is so disconnected from the food we eat. By sourcing quality food from local sources, cooking intuitively, eating seasonally and locally, eating mindfully, and sharing meals with others, you have all the tools to reconnect with your food and live a healthy, energized, and prosperous lifestyle.