Celery vs. Burrito: Can Real Food Really Taste Any Good?

Matthew McVickar
photo credit: Matthew McVickar

In this corner, nutritious but bland, fibrous but tasteless, hailing all the way from your local farmer’s market…it’s green. It’s healthy…CELERY!

Stu Spivack
photo credit: Stu Spivack

And in the other corner, filling but fattening, satiating but engorging, from the Mexican joint around the corner…it’s plump. It’s comforting…BURRITO!

Let’s Get Ready to Rummmblllle!

I was on my way to work the other day and passed a huge Taco Del Mar billboard. A giant burrito jumped out at me from the sign, in all its ooey, gooey glory – spicy chicken, tangy pico de gallo, fluffy Mexican rice, all of it brought together in one big symphony by melty, gooey cheesy goodness.

And in big letters next to this image that made my arteries scream in delightful pain: “Because celery tastes like celery.”

Hm. Anyone in their right mind would of course choose this handsome blasphemous ode to Mexican cuisine over stringy, bland celery, right?

The more I ate it, the more I craved it

It was not long ago – maybe about 6 years – that I basked in the glories of fast food almost daily. I could down a Whopper, medium fries, and Coke in about twenty minutes. I could gobble up a Mexican Pizza, two chicken soft tacos, Mexi-fries, and a Sprite in just as much time.

The more I ate it, the more I craved it. The more my mouth would water when I saw billboards like this one.

Now, I see this billboard, and the choice isn’t as obvious as it would have been back then – burrito or celery?

Okay, I’d be lying if I said that my preferences are leaning heavily in the celery’s corner of the ring. Yes, if I were stuck on a desserted island and had a stalk of celery and a juicy burrito in front of me, it would probably take about 0.2 seconds for me to reach for the burrito.

But on some days, in the real world and not in some hypothetical Gilligan’s Island/Lost scenario, I would actually choose the celery.

Case in point: My husband and I were watching the Super Bowl. What goes hand-in-hand with Super Bowl viewing? Salty snacks! Did I go buy a bag of potato chips? Nope! I made kale chips!

That’s right, people, KALE chips. A lot of you are probably saying, “What the f**k is kale?”

That Blonde Girl
photo credit: That Blonde Girl

Often used simply as a garnish, kale is a dark leafy green, high in vitamins and minerals such as vitamins K and C, manganese, and calcium, and is a great source of fiber and antioxidants. Tough when raw, great when steamed, and even greater when baked with some kosher salt sprinkled on top.

Ask that girl from 6 years ago, whose idea of a vegetable was a french fry, and she’d tell you she’d rather eat foot fungus than something like kale chips. No thank you, I’m not “granola” like that, she’d say.

Your Preferences Just Might Change

Okay, so what’s my point? My point is that your preferences change, your tastes change as you become more adjusted to eating “real” food. Real food has nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in it. Real food has protein, fiber, and water in it.

The stuff on that billboard may look like real food, may smell like real food, but when it comes down to it, it’s just not real food. The highly processed, overly-saturated-fat-laden foods from fast food joints and the inner aisles of your grocery stores are empty calories. Through all the processing, the foods have been stripped of much of their nutritional value.

I’m in the middle of a book called Integrative Nutrition by Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the largest nutrition school in the country. He describes it like this: Your body tells you “I’m hungry. I need nutritients.” So you reach for the burrito. You eat the burrito. Your stomach is full, but your body is still lacking the nutrients it craved. So it tells you it needs more nutrients by sending you the craving signal. So you reach for the burrito again. But it’s still not giving your body the nutrients it needs. So you reach for it again. And again. And again.

Your body is screaming for nutrients, but you’re feeding it with nutrient-deficient foods.

As I began incorporating real food into my life, I began enjoying things I never would have before – the tartness of plain yogurt, the natural sweetness of carrots, the roughness of real, whole oats, and yes, the crisp stringiness of celery.

Give it a shot – try adding some real food to your life. I think you’ll find down the road that kale – and even celery – shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly.

And, because I know some of you will ask, here is my recipe for kale chips, slightly modified from a recipe on the Integrative Nutrition website:

Kale Chips

1 to 2 bunches of kale
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Remove kale from the thick part of the stalk, leaving the leaves in big pieces.

Place a little bit of olive oil in a bowl, dip your fingers in it, and rub a light coat of oil on both sides of each leaf.

Place in single layer on baking sheet and bake for 4-5 minutes or until it starts to turn a bit brown.

Turn leaves over and bake for another 4-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it because it burns very quickly!

Sprinkle lightly with salt and any other seasoning your heart desires! (Cayenne, cumin, curry powder, or just pepper would do nicely. May favorite is just plain old salt.)

This makes for a nice, crispy, slighly salty, and healthy snack! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Let’s Indulge this Thanksgiving!

Ah, Thanksgiving.  My favorite holiday of the year.  Every November I look forward to waking up to the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, the sound of my mom clanging around in the kitchen, and the sight of my dad thumbing through the newspaper while the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade plays on the TV.

It brings a certain warm and fuzzy feeling.  You know the one – the one that makes you feel like you’re six years old again.  It’s a Thursday, and there’s no school.  The countdown to Christmas is finally starting.  And you’re about to eat the biggest meal of the entire year.

Succulent Thanksgivingturkey, creamy mashed potatoes, tangy cranberry sauce.  Savory stuffing, crisp green beans, decadent pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  And since I’m Filipino, fluffy white puto, peanut buttery kare kare, silky leche flan.  My mouth is already watering just thinking about it.

Food is an amazing thing.  Not only does it nourish your body, it brings family and friends together.  It satisfies your palate and your stomach.  And it has the ability to bring back nostalgia and memories.  It’s truly magical.

So what I’m about to say just may get me blacklisted in the fitness blog community, and my husband just might yell at me.

I propose that we all indulge this Thanksgiving.

[Screech!] Whoa, what?!?!  You want me to eat all that stuff?  What about my goals?  What about eating healthy?  What about steering away from the desserts, carbs, cocktails, and sticking to one plateful of food?

Okay, okay.  I don’t propose that you stuff yourself into a coma.  Until you couldn’t possibly move from the couch after you undo the top button of your pants, and you feel so sick to your stomach as you pass out for the rest of the night.  Because let’s face it – that actually ain’t all that fun.

I’m simply saying, enjoy yourself.  Thanksgiving comes but once a year.  Yes, it’s about giving thanks.  Yes, it’s about family.  But let’s be honest.  It’s about the food too.  Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the banquet.  If you, like me, are fortunate enough to have a table spilling over with food on this blessed day, you should enjoy it.  Enjoy that God gave you the gift of enjoying the savor, the sweet, the salty, the crunchy, and the creamy.  Enjoy the memories of festive parades and family football games that pumpkin pie and candied yams bring.

So while most fitness experts will tell you to skip the sugary desserts, drink fruit juice instead of cocktails, and load your plate up with salad so there is minimal room left for the mashed potatoes and stuffing, I’m telling you the opposite.  Enjoy the pumpkin pie, sip a martini, and make sure to get your fair share of the mashed potatoes and stuffing before your 15-year-old nephew hoards it all.

I will give you a few things to keep in mind however:

  1. Moderation is key.  Like I said, don’t stuff yourself for goodness sakes.  You’ll just end up feeling uncomfortable and sleepy.  Yes, eat a slice of pumpkin pie, but it shouldn’t be a full quarter of the entire thing!  Remember that it takes 20 minutes for your body to feel full.
  2. Remember there are consequences to your indulgence and accept them fully.  You just may feel like crap the next day.  If you do decide to eat all those goodies, understand that and accept it as a consequence.  Take responsibility the next few days to eat clean, drink plenty of water, and push yourself especially hard during your workouts.  (Skipping any workouts is NOT an option!)
  3. Promise yourself that it’s for Thanksgiving Day ONLY.  Most people make the horrible mistake of eating like crap for the entire holiday season.  It especially starts with Thanksgiving.  That’s when all the Christmas cookies start showing up at work, the cafeteria features gingerbread cake almost every day, and your weekend schedule is jammed with friends’ holiday cocktail hour. Don’t fall into that trap!  You’ll only hate yourself when the New Year rolls around.

So, this can be a tricky thing.  Allowing yourself to indulge for that one day can easily lead to moments of weakness throughout the holiday season.  You must have a strong mindset, discipline, and a strong commitment to yourself.  But if you truly feel confident enough to make it work, I say go for it.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!  I know I will.   Pumpkin pie, here I come!

Pumpkin Pie

*Obligatory disclaimer that my husband asked me to post: The opinions expressed in this blog do not reflect the opinion of Element 5 Fitness or the Element 5 Fitness staff. They are solely the responsibility of the author. (That’s me!) I am not a personal trainer nor a nutrition expert. I am merely sharing with you my thoughts, opinions, and what has worked for me. [End Disclaimer]

People who are “into fitness”

Today I was in the gym and overheard a woman say, “People are more ‘into fitness’ here.” 

What exactly does that mean – “into fitness”?  As if it’s a hobby or a trend. 

Yes, I can see that health and fitness has become much more mainstream these days.  With all the focus on “low carb,” “low calorie,” “all natural,” etc., some might say that this is merely a trend, and it will pass.  Like jelly shoes and leg warmers, it just might pass, only to come back again.

Remember when it was the “in” thing to roll down your socks into doughnut rolls?  Or to frost the tips of your hair?  One day people will say, “Rmember when it was cool to eat anything that said “No Trans Fats!”?

Yes, this emphasize on health and fitness just might go away one day.  Maybe not completely, but it won’t be at the forefront like it is right now.

Does that mean that I have to follow the masses and forget about eating healthy, exercising, and making healthy choices? 

No way!  I’m grateful for this trend.  It took the “coolness” that society has assigned to the fitness lifestyle to make me change my ways.  I guess you could say I’m a conformist in that sense.  But in this case, I don’t think it was a bad thing.

But when the coolness factor goes away, I hope I’ve learned enough and engrained enough into my lifestyle and habits to keep it going, even when commercials on TV aren’t claiming that your Fred Meyer butcher sells only hormone-free beef.

So when it’s cool to scarf down a Big Mac, large fries, and a Coke again, I plan to still be “into fitness.”