Natural Foods Education  Jennette Turner

Healthy Food and Nutrition Publications

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Putting It All Together

By Jennette Turner

Over the past year, I have written a series of articles with three major goals. The first was to provide guidelines about major food categories and food preparation. The second was to emphasize health and nutrition within the context of traditional food wisdom. The third and most important was to increase people’s confidence in their ability to eat well and to reassure them that they don’t need to fear food.

With so many different diets being promoted as “The Way” to eat healthfully, and the vast amounts of confusing and often contradictory information streaming at us from the media, we can lose trust in our own bodies to tell us what we need. We pay attention to magazine articles and television features rather than to ourselves, to how we feel when we wake up, and to our energy levels throughout the day. And we can forget that food is good, it tastes good, it’s good for us and it is part of the fabric of our lives. We include food at celebrations, we share meals with friends and our families.

Eating is part of every culture, and looking to tradition is a way to cut through modern day media hype and to figure out our own ways of eating well. There is no controversy about eating foods that have sustained people for centuries. This approach means eating whole, natural foods, such as grains and beans, vegetables, and animal products from free-roam animals. It means avoiding refined carbohydrates (such as white flour products and refined sweeteners) and refined or hydrogenated oils (such as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” and most corn and soybean oils). It also means avoiding artificial and synthetic “foods” and food additives (such as artificial sweeteners, flavors and preservatives), and avoiding highly processed and manufactured foods (such as fast foods and many “convenience” foods). We want to eat food prepared in someone’s kitchen, not a laboratory.

If you’re new to natural foods, start simple. Take it one step at a time. Pick one new thing to try. Buy whole grain bread instead of white bread. Use brown rice instead of white. Replace the white sugar in your pantry with sucanat, which is unrefined sugar. Have eggs for breakfast instead of a protein bar or shake.

Simply including more vegetables in your meals is an easy way to make your diet more nutritious. Steam some broccoli to have with your frozen pizza. Have a salad with your pasta. Try something you’ve never had before: Brussels sprouts or parsnips or fennel! If you’re unsure of how to prepare something, the produce staff at the Wedge will be happy to give you some suggestions.

If you start by adding one new natural food to your diet at a time, gradually your diet will change. You’ll be on your way to eating all (or mostly all) whole natural foods before you know it! When you’re ready, you can start thinking about planning “balanced” meals, too.

For me, a balanced meal needs to contain protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These are the three major macronutrients, and our health depends on all of them. In general, including them all in any given meal or snack will make you feel more satisfied. Satisfaction means having enough energy, being able to concentrate, and not having a lot of cravings for sweets or caffeine. It means feeling and being well nourished.

In the past 20 years, low-protein, low-fat, and low-carb diets have all been popular. Did they “work”? Maybe for some people, some of the time. However as a whole, the health of our country has gone down hill. Rates of degenerative diseases (heart disease, cancer and diabetes) are still climbing, as is the overall weight of the American population. A diet that neglects any one of the major macronutrients can’t be healthy or satisfying for the long haul.

Along with protein, carbohydrates and fat, a balanced meal should also include vegetables, and it needs to taste good, too! Not every meal will be perfectly balanced, of course, and that’s O.K.. Our goal is our own satisfaction, not fitting into someone else’s diet plan.

This can be accomplished the way your Midwestern grandmother might have put a meal together– with meat, potatoes and carrots, or in other ways, with legumes, whole grains, fish, or tofu and bok choy or leeks. Your meals can be simple or complex. Let your taste buds guide you. You can trust your body to tell you what it needs: good food.

Here are a few examples of what I consider balanced meals. These are all simple meals that my family enjoys eating, and I hope you like them too.

  • Hamburgers with buttered corn on the cob and green beans
  • Black bean soup with salad and dressing
  • Broiled salmon with mashed sweet potatoes and kale
  • Chicken stir-fry (with whatever vegetables are in season) over brown rice
  • Turkey sandwiches with vegetable soup


Jennette turner is a Natural Foods Educator in Minneapolis. She Teaches public and private classes, and offers individual nutrition consultations. Jennette launced Dinner with Jennette (www.jennette-turner.com/dinner), to make it easier for people to incorporate natural foods into their diets. she can be reached at jennette-turner.com / 612-374-6039

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