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One Small Change

6 Lessons for Simple Eating

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It’s not easy to eat simply. That’s what I’ve learned after two weeks of trying to avoid processed foods with more than five ingredients. Consider tortillas, for example. I used to practically live on the things. I made breakfast burritos, lunchtime wraps and, in the evening, fish or chicken tacos. The national brands are cheap, convenient and, I thought, relatively wholesome. But when I started counting ingredients, I realized just how much stuff is in them. In fact, I can’t find any brands that meet my new rule. (And, unfortunately, I don’t know any senoritas willing to make them for me fresh.) Why is that? (The lack of available tortilla options, that is, not senoritas.)

Bread has been another headache. The ingredient list on most store brands is a dense block of gibberish. How did foods as basic as bread and tortillas get so complex? More people are asking the same question about their food and deciding it doesn’t have to be that way. Simple foods and clean eating will be the next big nutrition trend. But, as they say, it’s one thing to be patriotic and another thing entirely to sign up for the army. Before you decide to follow this trend, here are some surprising things that I’m learning down here in the trenches during a month of clean eating:

1. It’s not just your food that gets simpler. Your entire diet does, too. Suddenly, your gastronomic world shrinks from Disneyland to Mel’s Diner. For the past two weeks, I’ve been subsisting on about a half dozen stock meals: Pasta with homemade pesto, stir fry, vegetable soup, big salads, baked chicken or fish, rice and beans and, for a change of pace, beans and rice. If the measure of an effective diet is whether you can sustain it for life, then I may be in trouble—or else in need of a good cookbook.

2. You have to think really, really hard about eating. Even though I’ve always been fairly mindful of what I put in my mouth, when I opened the refrigerator or pantry I largely clicked my brain off. Most people are like that, which is why a third of Americans are obese. Eating simply, though, is like a part-time job. You can’t simply eat this or that. It takes planning, study, determination, time and patience because it’s just not as convenient as what we’re used to. Once you get beyond the basic grab-and-go fruits and vegetables, it takes effort to eat clean.

3. You tend to make huge quantities. Because it takes so much sweat, when you do cook your tendency is to prepare way more than you need and stockpile the rest. For instance, my wife made an entire gallon of baked granola, which is enough to cinder most of Pennsylvania Route 78 in December. Although the stuff has more than five ingredients, that’s okay because each one is natural and it’s homemade (check out the recipe below). It’s hearty enough for breakfast when mixed with milk or yogurt, plus it makes a satisfying snack or dessert right out of the bowl. (The only thing I have to be careful about is confusing it with dog chow.)

4. You do a lot of chewing. The less processed food is, the more you have to process it. I swear there have been times during these last few weeks when I actually had to stop and rest my jaw. Forget about carrying on a lively and engaging dinner conversation; I just don’t have the mandible strength.

5. Your taste buds start to stir. I balked when I paid $2.62 for a 10-ounce pack of frozen organic spinach from Woodstock Farms that had just one ingredient. But I was amazed at how much better it tasted than the collection of frost and stems I had previously been buying. In general, that’s been my experience with all the whole foods I’ve tried. The rice, beans, pastas…they all taste heartier.

6. Your plumbing will rattle. “Unprocessed” also means “more fiber,” and if you’re not accustomed to that type of diet it’s going to scrub your innards like a deckhand with OCD. So put plenty of magazines in the john and splurge on the three-ply. Believe me, bathroom tissue is one instance where you want more processing.

So as you can see, eating more simply is not that easy. Unless you’re an accomplished chef with a lot of thyme on your hands, it’s pretty damn demanding. But nonetheless I will continue, largely because I have found one unmitigated bright spot — one thing I can turn to guiltlessly whenever I need solace—and that is beer, which believe it or not, has fewer than five ingredients.

Simple Baked Granola

This recipe is from The Kripalu Cookbook.


6 cups rolled oats, 3 ½ cups rye flakes, 2 cups shredded coconut, 2 cups sunflower seeds, 1 cup sesame seeds, 2 cups chopped almonds, ¾ cup barley malt, 2/3 cup canola oil, 1 ¼ cups pure maple syrup, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon pure almond extract, ¼ teaspoon pure maple extract, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 cup raisins


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oats, rye flakes, coconut, sunflower and sesame seeds, and almonds. In a separate bowl, stir together the barley malt, oil, syrup, all of the extracts and salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix together well. (For granola that sticks together more, use a food processor to combine the wet and dry mixtures.) Spread the combined mixture onto a large baking sheet and back for 50 minutes, or until the mixture is lightly browned. Let cool for 30 minutes. (Granola will harden and darken as it cools.) Mix in the raisins and serve immediately or store in an airtight, sealable container.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Food, Nutrients, Health, Cooking, Breakfast