Over the past 25 years, the meaning of “eating healthy” has evolved so much that the answer would be completely different if you were asking a Gen-Xer (like me) verses a millennial (my daughter, Kayla). In 1990, I would have said to emphasize whole grains, pasta, cereals, fat-free or low-fat dairy and meat products and vegetables and fruit. In addition, I would encourage you to balance the calories you take in from food and beverages with the calories burned through physical activity to maintain a healthy weight.
Today, millennials have refined this definition because the science of eating “healthy” has changed so much since then. Believe it or not, millennials are seeking and demanding healthy, whole food options which are local, organic, not genetically modified, grazing freely on a farm, chemical free, and minimally processed. Foods that contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals and provide essential nutrients. Thankfully, the definition is changing for the embitterment of health.
Salty, Fatty, and Sweet
As someone who has been cooking in restaurants for almost 20 years, I see a lot of what Americans are still eating and desire on their plate – salty, fatty and sweet foods. Many of them care about eating healthy but cannot resist the voice of their inner saboteur when it comes to highly palatable foods. At times, I also lust over these flavors. Like many women, spent most of my young life eating them to my heart and taste buds’ desires. However, as I approach my 49th birthday, I’m finally beginning to see and feel how these foods have affected my health, happiness and weight over the years.
So, I decided to change my diet, my lifestyle and eat more like my millennial daughter, Kayla. She buys fresh vegetables and fruits from local farmers and chooses organic, non-GMO and humanely treated, free-range meats. We cook together, eat at home often and bond during our meals. Today, I eat a real food, sustainable diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy fats and animal proteins. I also incorporate fermented foods like soybeans (aka, Natto), kimchi and sauerkraut to feed my healthy gut bacteria and improve my digestion. I’m eating like the way my ancestors in Europe ate 120 years ago.
I feel awesome about all the changes I’ve made, but admit I am a bit frustrated. I am frustrated at the government, diet and food industry for pushing the fat-free food movement onto us in the 1970s and 80s –which was based on shoddy science and corporate interests. An avalanche of highly-processed, fat-free (sugar laden) foods flooded our supermarket shelves and has left us with the health crisis and conundrum we have today.
For more than 40 years, we have feared eating FAT, as if it were solely to blame for our expanding waistlines and declining health. As it turns out, fat should have been a close friend. The Baby Boomers and us Gen-Xers were hit hardest by this utterly misguided way of eating. We were human lab rats for an experiment in nutrition, hormones and metabolism that went horribly wrong. And now that we are older, we must furiously back-peddle and make some major lifestyle changes, or we won’t outlive our meat and veggie loving grandparents. Any of us whose parents were born right around or after WWII were indoctrinated into the fanatical low-fat movement, and although the dogma has been debunked and shown to be unhealthy, these low-fat/no-fat products still pervade our minds and supermarket shelves.
What’s a Boomer or Gen Xer To Do?
We older folks like to dump on millennials for their obsession with cell phones, social media followers, lack of eye contact and pursuit to become rich quick with a YouTube channel, but they seem to be getting more of it right when it comes to their diet. They care what’s on their plate and where it comes from. They are more conscious about food labels and ingredient lists. When it comes to eating healthy, Millennials are eating like their great-great grandparents did, because they’ve gotten the message. Dump the junk, eat real foods, tons of vegetables, and make friends with healthy fats. Millennials are becoming the voice to their parents and grandparents to eat wiser and thus, healthier.
After doing my own research, and a kick in the butt by Kayla, my millennial daughter, I decided to jettison all the diet advice I’d been given, and start eating like my great-grandparents did, and guess what? It worked. They all lived to ripe old ages and I realize that eating to age well means eating real food, that comes from the earth.
Of course, the food industry doesn’t want you eating this way; there is not enough profit in it. The shift towards whole, fresh food means General Mills and other big food companies are feeling the effects, sales are slumping, and profits are down. They want you eating pseudo foods, or what we at Westchester’s Balance 3H+® medical center call FAKE-A-FOODS. These are the same old junk foods, now disguised as “health foods”. They are constantly marketing new products: vitamin-enriched, artificially sweetened waters, low-fat “gut healthy” yogurts or low carbohydrate, fiber-filled protein bars. You get the picture of FAKE-A-FOODS. We know better now, they can’t fool us and they certainly cannot fool the millennials! FAKE-A-FOODSare making us sick and fat.
But don’t lose hope! It is never too late to regain your health and reset your metabolic hormones. You can create the optimal conditions with real food, and your body will naturally heal. When you eat well, you will age well. Think and eat more like a millennial!
Author: Dr. Siobhan Kealy
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