Starting Out On the New Lifestyle

Making radical lifestyle changes, especially in what you eat, means learning some new ways to do old things. Some of the foods and spices may be new to you, others may be used in different ways. Because some items in these recipes are used primarily by persons concerned with their health, the place you are most likely to find them is in a health food store.

A whole new world of fascinating new foods, bulk items and supplements will amaze you on your first visit to a health food store (sometimes called a natural food store). There are a few things you should plan on buying on your first visit, but don't try to buy everything in your initial shopping trips. See my list of basic items.

Many items you'll find in packages are also availible in bulk. When buying bulk, it will almost always be by weight, usually by the pound. Since the recipes call for measurements in spoonfuls and cups, you might want to keep that in mind when deciding how much to buy. I sometimes take a measuring cup along to see how many cups make up a pound of each item and then write that on the container. Bulk foods are measured into plastic bags, but to keep them from spoiling or attracting insects, it's best to repack all bulk foods in tightly sealed glass jars or durable plastic containers.

Finding a colony of industrious insects in your food, just as you go to add it to a recipe you've already half prepared, can be disastrous. To keep grains and many other bulk items from attracting visitors, who may just want to feast on your foods or raise their family in it, you can freeze the container for about three days. This usually stops all insect growth. Some find that adding a bay leaf to each container discourages insects without affecting the flavor, but that method may not work all the time.

Organic vegetables and grains are grown without chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, and usually in earth that has been free of these for a number of years. They may have natural pesticides in them, but the levels are carefully monitored. The California Organic Food Act of 1990 sets strict standards which many products, including many not grown in California, claim to meet. Organic vegetables are usually more expensive than those grown with chemical treatment, and often organically grown produce is better selected and more attractive, but there is not always a great deal of difference in taste. If you are concerned about the high levels of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that may be in your foods, it may be worth it to pay the additional cost for organic. Whether you buy organic or not, it is advisable to soak and wash all fresh produce before cooking and especially before eating them raw. By replacing animal proteins and fats with a variety of vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit, gains in health will more than offset possible hazards present in non-organically grown produce. The choice of organic versus regular is personal, and lowering the risk of heart disease is not directly dependent on that choice.

One of the hardest things for many to learn is that oils are not needed in cooking, baking and marinating. Onions, garlic and most vegetables can be sauteed in almost any liquid, such as water, vegetable stock, low-sodium soy sauce, wine or balsamic vinegar. The heat has to be lower and it takes a few minutes longer, but the results are just as delicious. Salad dressing without oil can be made following the same recipes, by just omitting the oil, and can be thickened with guar gum or agar powder, a clear and tasteless gelatin made from sea vegetables. A few spoonfuls dissolved in water and then added to the vinegar and spices give the thick texture of oil, but with none of the fat. For baking, unsweetened applesauce usually provides an excellent substitute for oil. Although most recipes come out fine without any oil or shortening, a commercial fat substutute called Wonderslim, made mostly of prunes, can also be used. Baby food (2nd stage) prunes, LighterBake or even regular prunes in a blender with enough water to make a smooth paste will work well. (See the recipe to make your own oil substitute, that I call Wunderthin).

Eggs are called for in many recipes, but egg yolk is one of the highest cholesterol sources and egg white is high in animal protein. Egg Beaters and other yellow egg substitutes are made of nearly 100% egg whites with coloring and sodium. There are egg substitutes that have no protein or animal products available in health food stores. EnerG, one of the brands made of potato and tapioca starches and non-fat leavening, can be whipped like egg whites or used in eggless mayonnaise, custards and baked goods.

Often people assume that low-fat vegetarian cooking is more expensive than the foods they had been eating. If you keep careful records of your food costs, you'll find that after a few early purchases to get you started, this healthy way of eating will save you 50% on your food bills.

Next: Cooking Methods


©1994, 1996, 2002
Dr. Neal Pinckney
Healing Heart Foundation
      www.kumu.org