Becoming a Real Food Scout
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Los Angeles, CA

Becoming a Real Food Scout

From processed food to real food.

Stumbling in my heels in the hot valley sun, juggling my “Open House” sign, basket of Costco cookies, house flyers under my arm, and keys dangling from my mouth, all while attempting to balance my beloved latte.  This was my glamorous life as a real estate agent.

Scattered, stressed, frantic, exhausted, and hungry.  I worked long hours and this was how I rolled most of the time.  I would usually polish off a buttery croissant or doughnut for breakfast, accompanied by a large vanilla latte, and wondered why I was jittery and hungry?  I’d pace through the house, giving my realtor spiel when all I could think was, “move along agents, I have a sweet, chocolaty brownie bite, or seven, waiting for me in that pantry over there”.

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Born and raised in Texas, where our food groups consisted of barbeque, Tex-mex, cobbler, and fried, well, pretty much anything.  This food was deeply rooted and darn tasty ya’ll.  Doritos, Captain Crunch, Pop Tarts, Snackwells, Wheat Thins and Cokes filled our not one, but two, Texas sized pantries. After school our back door would fly open and my brothers, friends, and I would dive into our junk food paradise.  We were deep in the heart of this processed food generation, and junk food was the norm.  I had no problem with it.

After college I grabbed my Velveeta queso and boxed cake mix and headed west for a job with a health magazine.  Irony?  Maybe.  Health conscious Californians surrounded me at every turn, but it was such a turn off.   I’d roll my eyes at the office girls as they suggested lunch at the Whole Foods salad bar… again.  I bit my tongue, but wanted to blurt out “What about Quiznos?”  I wanted a big, cheesy, bready, hot mess of a turkey sandwich. Now that was lunch.

Needless to say, I left the health magazine, and went back to my roots in real estate.  I survived on pastries, protein bars and processed junk to get me through the long days, chaotic schedule and Hollywood nights.

Another night out, table dancing to a little J.T., while holding my birthday champagne in hand.  But this night ended with me devouring Sprinkles cupcakes on the kitchen floor with my hubby before we passed out.  Yep.  Livin the dream.  Unbeknownst to me, that 30th birthday was a bit of a last hurrah.

I peed on that infamous stick, and those two pink lines gave me new life in more ways than one.

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Of course I didn’t know this right away, but I soon realized I had to make some changes.  Doctor’s orders, no more IV coffee drip or empty carbs.  I was ravenous, but the junk food wasn’t cutting it.  My poor habits were not only unhealthy for growing a baby, but the nutrient deficient food, sugar crashes, caffeine jitters, and dehydration were giving me anxiety, stress and if we’re being really honest, the sweats.  I was so unaware how this kind of food was affecting my body, my health and my well-being.

Now I know, I’m not the first person on the planet to get pregnant.  But, I did feel like I was the first person on the planet that urgently needed to learn how to make a salad.  I needed real food.  Nourishing food. Where do I start?  What should I eat?

So my journey began. I devoured anything I could read about food. The good, the bad and the very ugly, unhealthy truth.

One night I sat up in my bed, and just before turning out the lights, I sobbed.  Crying isn’t commonplace for me, so maybe it was the pregnancy hormones.  Or maybe I just felt hopeless after reading yet another tragic statistic about our health epidemic.

“Today’s children will be the first generation ever to live shorter lives than their parents” -Jamie Oliver.  I was going to have a child in a time where the deck would be highly stacked against his health and wellness.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I felt a deep sadness, and a desire to do something.  I had plenty of excuses.

I am just one person.  I don’t have the time.  I’ve made some changes with my eating habits, but I’m not exactly a role model.  What could I do?  What do I know?  Where would I even I start?   

I had big dreams of changing the world, but I had to change mine first.

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From my past experience working for a health magazine, I knew not to be duped by the health trends and quick fix teasers.  I needed simple, realistic solutions for real life.  Any doctor or health specialist will tell you processed food is the enemy, and they all suggest these two simple words: REAL FOOD. That seemed simple enough.  I decided to cut out packaged food, so inherently, I’d eat more real food.

Forced to seek out real food everywhere, I began to discover foods I’d never touched, and flavors I’d never tasted: persimmons, chard, romanesco, millet, goji berries, and yes, of course, kale and quinoa. I learned that herbs came from the ground, not small glass jars in the supermarket. I begin swapping turkey sandwiches for hearty satisfying salads and king ranch casserole for vegetable stir fry.  I significantly cut my sugar intake, and craved it less.

For the first time in my life, I was seeking, cooking and eating real food.  The food I once despised, I began to crave.

My hesitant toe dip into the healthy pool, quickly turned into an enthusiastic cannonball splash into the deep end.  My eyes were opened to a whole world of wellness, and I began feeling calmer, less frazzled, and had more natural energy.  Bonus, I couldn’t remember my last cold, and no longer needed my daily allergy medicine. Nowadays—even with my two, shall we say “vibrant” kids—I feel more energetic and rarely experience an afternoon slump.

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I’ve stopped eating crap, but that doesn’t mean my family doesn’t chow down. We do.  I’ve just learned how to make the real deal. Real, homemade, whole grain pancakes, not Bisquick, and real maple syrup, not caramel colored Log Cabin corn syrup.  Wild salmon instead of fried shrimp. You get the idea.  Packaged foods and have dinners out?  Yep.  But we do our best to seek out conscious businesses sourcing and preparing quality ingredients.  Supporting these people helps their businesses grow, and helps transform our broken food system.  Win-win.

I feel like an unlikely advocate for health because not long ago I was shoving creamy noodle casserole down my throat and rolling my eyes at those health conscious people and their salads.

But, trust me, if I can do it (and love it), Then anyone can do it (and love it) too.

I hear a lot of people say they “don’t have time.”  I don’t either.  I hear a lot of people say, “I don’t like healthy food.”  I didn’t either.  I hear a lot of people say, “I can’t cook.”  Can you stir?  Thought so.

Eating real, clean, whole foods simplified my life, health, and happiness.  Inspiring others to rediscover real food is my life’s mission.  I am still a work in progress though, and I’m continually aware of my vices.  Depending on the day, you’ll see me with a tea, and oatmeal, or just maaaaaybe a decaf coffee and organic croissant.

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Rainbow Noodle with Peanut Dressing Sauce

 Ingredients:

  • 1 package of pasta (12-16 oz of brown rice, soba, whole wheat spaghetti or any pasta you like to use)
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 3 carrots julienned or shredded
  • 1 cup of purple cabbage (sliced or shredded)
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas (sliced) or shelled edamame
  • Garnish at the end:
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • a bunch of cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds

For Peanut Ginger Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter  (or almond butter)
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh grated ginger (heaping tablespoons)
  • 4 Tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup or raw honey (more if you want it sweeter)
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • To make it Thai, add:
  • 1/2  cup of coconut milk (I use this brand)
  • 2 Tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves

Method:

  1. Bring a big pot of water to boil.
  2. Slice and prep all of your vegetable ingredients.
  3. Cook pasta according to your package, drain well (rinse in cold water if making cold salad).
  4. Place all dressing ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth (you can always add more sauce, but you can’t take away.  So start with half and add it until you find the amount you prefer).
  5. For Cold Noodles: Toss pasta, veggies and sauce together.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onion and cilantro.
  6. For Warm Noodles: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add vegetables in a pan to wilt them a little (to your liking).  Then just toss with pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onion and cilantro.

 

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