Introduction: This is a guest post written by Nat (a.k.a Buzz), Keren’s significant other and a self-professed non-foodie who got dragged into the plantbased lifestyle a couple years ago. Though he’s not a vegan, he now eats mainly plantbased and loves sharing his experience on eating plantbased foods.
How Food Should Make You Feel
I’m not particularly interested in food per se. I don’t take photographs of everything I eat. I abhor trying new dishes and am perfectly happy to eat the same dish of the plainest ingredients imaginable three times every single day, and yet I still need food, just like you and everybody else. Whether you view food as a religion to be celebrated or as a mundane chore such as filling up the car with petrol or as a precursor to getting lucky on a date, we all still need to eat, and the stomachs of the dainty connoisseur and the Neanderthal rumble equally as loudly when we go without.
While I don’t profess to have any special knowledge of the flavours, nutritional value or health benefits of the food I eat, I do know how it makes me feel. I’m not talking about whether I feel enlightened, virtuous for sparing the lives of our furry friends or any such abstract notions. I’m talking about how the food feels when at rest in my stomach. And just because it might look or smell delicious prior to consumption or taste nice when gobbling it down doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel good afterwards. We all know the feeling of having had something excessively sweet, salty or fried which, no matter how appetising or tasty it was in the first place, leaves you feeling a little bit sick or bloated after you have it.
Food, as far as I’m concerned, should make you feel good before, during and after consumption. When I have a pizza, for example, it certainly makes my mouth water when I’m waiting for it to be ready, it smells nice when I lift it to my mouth, it tastes delicious when I’m eating it, but after I have it, when the meal ends, how do I feel? I feel thick, bloated and anything but full of energy and gusto and it takes me hours to get back to normal. That can hardly be the rightful purpose of food. What good was the meal if it doesn’t leave you feeling better after than before you sat down to begin eating? I don’t think anyone feels as ready and capable after a pizza than before.
In contrast, when I have a big plate of steamed vegetables, a couple of tomatoes, a piece of kiwi fruit and a few other green-themed odds and ends, no matter how much I have to eat (and it’s really hard to consume ‘too much’ of those ingredients), no matter the circumstances, I always feel refreshed, I feel strong and healthy and I’m ready to get going and do something useful straight afterwards. I don’t think I’ve ever pushed away from the table after a vegetable-themed orgy and complained that I’ve had too much to eat or that I’m not feeling at my best. It’s only when there’s a foreign invader among the array of vegetables, such as a pizza, a sausage roll or a sugary cake, that my stomach gets tripped up and malfunctions
I won’t delve into specifics such as nutritional content, counting calories, grams of protein or simple and complex sugars. That’s for others more knowledgeable than me to canvass. The real litmus test for food ignoramuses such as myself is simple: how does it feel after you eat it? If it doesn’t feel good, then it’s not good for you, period. It doesn’t matter what it is, really, because the point of food, the whole purpose, should be to refuel and recharge you, not make you feel fat, bloated or sleepy. So ask yourself when you eat so-and-so, “how does it make me feel?” and use that as a starting point.
I love beef burgers, but they make me feel fat and tired. I’d push my mother over in the race for a tasty Hawaiian pizza, but afterwards I won’t be in any condition to push anyone around. Milkshakes are Heaven’s gift but the last time I had one I fell asleep at ten o’clock in the morning. I can go on and on, but I’m sure you all can use your own experiences to fill in the gaps.
So what foods make me feel good? What recharges me and leaves me in fighting shape and what renders me hors d’ combat?
The short answer is that anything green or plant-based sits very comfortably in my stomach after consumption. My girlfriend suffers from an incurable condition which compels her to fill herself, and myself, with the greenest gunk imaginable. And you know what? Regardless of how it looks before and tastes during (and it does taste very nice), it feels good afterwards. It feels better than anything else I have to eat. Oftentimes when I have a big plate of vegetables and assorted odds and ends (certainly as large a plate as a plate containing a burger and fries), even when I’ve had more than enough to eat, my stomach’s still got a slight rumble which I interpret as the sign of a beast temporarily satisfied but not in a food-induced coma. And I think that’s how food should make you feel. It should fill you up but not stuff you silly. It should refresh you but not wear you down. It should look good, taste good and feel good afterwards.
If your priority is performance, as mine is, if you couldn’t care less about how a dish looks on Instagram, if you just want to get something which tastes nice and leaves you feeling strong, heathy and capable, afterwards, then be honest with yourself about which dishes achieve the desired effect.
The more greens I get, the better I feel. Red meat doesn’t work for me anymore. Bread needs to be approached with caution. Sugar and dairy products are fatal to the touch. Some trial and error will lead you to some very simple conclusions. I want to eat well and feel good, and I don’t care what it is I’m eating as long as it meets that criteria. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that the less meat, dairy and sugar I eat, the better I feel. And isn’t that the important thing- how I feel? It doesn’t matter what I’m eating as long as I’m feeling at my best.
Ask yourself what makes you feel your best. Forget about the clichés and stereotypes that you need bucket loads of meat and milk to get your protein. Focus on results. And which foods give you the best results? Focus on those foods, no matter what colour they are.