The Early Years
Growing up, I was really lucky to have a skilled and talented mama. Day after day she’d encourage me to try out new things by helping her around the house. But you know how it is when you’re a kid; nothing your parents do seems all that exciting. Help sew some stitches on that new dress you’re making me? Nope! (Wish I’d learned to sew.) Scoop out that cookie dough? No thanks! (Still an impatient baker and hate the mess). Ah, but cooking dinner? That I actually really enjoyed; and not just because I loved to eat! (Which I did…and still do). Something about cooking made me feel creative. I’m hardly an artist, but cooking gave me an opportunity to take chances and experiment; and even if I messed up, it was never that bad. Cooking with my mom also made me feel productive and accomplished, and gave me something to take pride in. Knowing that I helped create the delicious meal I was eating with my family was a pretty great feeling.
By the time I was in middle school, I felt confident in the kitchen. I’m really grateful for this, because I think that learning a skill like cooking this early on can really help you keep to a manageable budget as an adult. Even throughout college and years after, I rarely ordered takeout, because to me, cooking was always faster and simpler. On a similar note, we ate little takeout growing up either. My mom still jokes about the occasional drives around town when I would longingly look at those golden arches and complain, “Mommmm, why can’t we get McDonalds tonight? All the other kids eat it all the time!” [On this note: please look up Eddie Murphy’s skit about his mom making him homemade hamburgers in place of Mickey D’s. Seriously. Just do it. ] But all in all, we usually ate a home, and always really balanced meals. Very little sugar or packaged food, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I’m really grateful that I became accustomed to eating healthily early on; it was a good habit to have engrained in me! Don’t get me wrong – it has certainly been challenged over the years. But that is a discussion for another day!
Adulting, with Purpose
Fast forward to today, and I still challenge myself daily to eat a diet that is mostly comprised of home-cooked whole foods. For a variety of health reasons, I most recently have been sticking to a Paleo-based diet. After a lot (and I mean a LOT) of experimentation over the last 10 years, I have found in the past couple years that eating Paleo makes me feel pretty darn good. However, after many years of restricting MANY different foods, due to intolerances and other health reasons, I also want to make sure I am sticking to an eating style that is sustainable and will keep me SANE. Restricting can make you pretty crazy after a while. For this reason, I prefer to abide by a Paleo(ish) diet. The majority of my meals are made up of vegetables, some fruit, meats, nuts and healthy fats. However, most days I will incorporate something non-Paleo in my food. This is usually a small amount of dairy (because this Italian girl LOVES parmesan cheese on…well, everything.), or some legumes (chickpeas, peanuts, etc.). I also sometimes incorporate vegan protein powders into my diet, in which the protein is derived from grains or peas. It’s a trade-off! I really don’t tolerate whey protein well, so I have found this is the best alternative, in addition to collagen.
The moral of the story here is, experiment! Figure out what works for you! I’ve been cooking for over 20 years, and working for 10 years to figure out what foods work best for me. I accept that my needs will change again over time, so I try to stay flexible. Yes — see a doctor, see a dietician, but also take the time to try different things for yourself! My first couple gastroenterologists did little to help me, but I finally found one who did. The medical field is becoming increasingly willing to take diet into account, but it’s still slow-moving. Trust your own judgement and get to know your own body. You’ll be amazed what you’ll find out when you listen to it! I am excited to be here and share my experiences (and food experiments!) with you, and I cannot wait to hear from you about yours as well.
Yours in food,