This week’s chapter in my “summer school” reading was about elevating the quality of your food, as in “No matter what food you eat, choose the highest quality version of that food.” The purpose of this is to get away from obsessing about what to eat in terms of carbs/fat/protein and the like.

What does it mean to elevate the quality of what you eat? Let’s use the example of someone who’s eating a poor diet, high in processed foods. Elevating quality might mean:

  • Moving from fried chicken to rotisserie chicken to chicken cooked at home to organic chicken cooked at home. 
  • Moving from sugary boxed cereal to non-sugary boxed cereal to sweetened oatmeal to oatmeal sweetened only with fruit.
  • Moving from cheap grocery store bakery cake to a decent cake from a real bakery or (better and less expensive) homemade cake.
  • Moving from white bread to whole wheat bread to sprouted grain bread to less bread and more actual whole grains.

You get the idea.

As I’ve said more than once, everything in life exists on a continuum. At this very moment, you eating habits are at a point somewhere on a continuum. Whether you move toward the healthier end or the less-healthy end is up to you. But why shouldn’t each of us try to be a little bit better every day, in every way? Why shouldn’t we strive for quality over quantity, in all areas of life? Do you want to move forward, or move backwards?

Improving the quality of your diet one step at a time, getting better and better all the time, can feel less painful than trying to go from a crappy processed food diet to a perfect whole foods diet in one fell swoop (I say that facetiously, because there is no such thing as a perfect diet, not for all people, in any case).

So, I’ve been talking about eating affordably, not wasting food, and emphasizing technique over recipes if you’re pinched for time. In keeping with that theme, I thought I’d share my loose dinner menu plan for the next several nights (including last night):
  • Thursday: Grilled chicken breasts, roasted cauliflower, fava beans (blanched then sauteed) with basil/arugula pesto, green salad with vinaigrette (pictured above).
  • Friday: Dinner out at Whole Foods (combined with small shopping trip for BLUEBERRIES et al).
  • Saturday: Beef roast, red dandelion greens with warm vinaigrette, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted rhubarb on lemon shortbread.
  • Sunday: Barbecued pork spareribs, cole slaw, baked beans (from can), kale chips.
  • Monday: Polenta with poached eggs, sauteed rapini with garlic, green salad with vinaigrette.
  • Tuesday: Grilled pork chops or beef burgers, sauteed Swiss chard, roasted sweet potatoes.
  • Wednesday: Dinner at a local (one neighborhood over) restaurant (with a Groupon), coupled with a trip to the farmers’ market across the street from the restaurant.
You’ll notice that I don’t have specific recipes listed, per se. I’ve divvied up the fresh produce in my fridge, pulled out some meat from the freezer, and filled in with grains from the pantry.
What about meals the rest of the day?
Breakfast pretty much rotates between oatmeal (with half a banana, a bit of dried fruit, chia seeds, cinnamon, vanilla, flax seed, wheat germ and shredded unsweetened coconut), overnight oats (much the same, except the oats sit overnight in yogurt or kefir), scrambled eggs with veggies and a side of fruit, or plain yogurt with fruit and nuts.
Lunch is almost always a salad with some type of protein and healthy fat, and often a piece of fruit. If there aren’t any suitable leftovers to toss on top, I’ll open a can of tuna or layer on some beans or hummus and feta. Yesterday’s lunch (enjoyed on the patio…it was finally warm enough!) was a green salad topped with leftovers from a Super Natural Every Day recipe, which involved broccoli, tempeh, sprouted beans, cilantro, lemon zest, olive oil and soy sauce. I added some avocado for the healthy fat part.
Snacks rotate between fruit and raw nuts, plain yogurt and fruit, or veggie and hummus. I make my daily choices partially based on what I’m in the mood for and how hungry I am, but also on if there is fruit that needs to get used soon, and on what my activity level is (I eat more grain-based carbs on days I run/walk AND lift weights, less on days I walk and do a long yoga session).
You’ll notice the lack of processed foods. The baked beans will come from the can, and yes the tempeh, polenta and yogurt are technically processed, but it’s a far, far cry from frozen pizzas, packaged snack foods and sugary cereals. It’s all quality, all delicious, and none of it expensive.

One last thing: Nice Washington Post article the other day (“Read it, grow it, eat it: Garden to table books“) that may provide some inspiration for your local and seasonal eating. I promptly put the first two on hold at the library (I’m already waiting for Kurt Timmermeister’s book to come in), but the library didn’t have the others. Boo-hoo!