my friend shannon on learning to love healthy food + the perfect salad for a shower

1 July 2013

Roll your eyes if you want to, but I’ll say it: I am mystified when I hear people describe healthy eating as boring, burdensome, or difficult to stick with.

Food – wholesome, delicious, feel-good, healthy food – is easily my favourite part of each day.  I can’t imagine finding the preparation or enjoyment of it as anything less than pleasurable.

Okay, okay.  I guess if I’m going to be fair about it, I should back up a little and explain how I got here.

I had suffered from digestive issues for nearly ten years when I decided I’d had enough – or more accurately, when my boyfriend decided he’d had enough of my (literal) bellyaching.  After consulting with an amazing Holisitic Nutritionist and a wonderful Naturopathic Doctor, I began a program designed to rid me of my digestive pain and repair the damage I’d done to my gut over the years.

There were about a hundred foods I had to give up in those early days: gluten, dairy, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, vinegar, preservatives… My colleague started to call it the “Nothing Good Ever!” diet.  And while it did seem painful at the time, I can now say that the ‘NGE Diet’ is what kicked off not only my path to digestive wellness, but my newfound love affair with good food.  Fresh, whole, healthy food.

Because here’s the thing.  By being forced to pay attention to everything I consumed, and how I felt after eating it, I gradually started to learn that food affects everything.  Not only the way I feel physically, but also the way I feel emotionally, the way I act, the way I think, even the way I sleep.  And when it’s the right food – i.e. healthy food, it affects everything for the better.  As a result, I became… well, addicted.

I explored everything – from wild, organic fish and meats to new varieties of vegetables to unchartered territories of grains (Brendan: “WHAT THE F$!K IS MILLET?). I even discovered new spices, herbs, oils and vinegars, and new ways to cook and combine them all.  And things just felt different.  I was energized, yet calm and balanced; I felt light and airy, but with increased ability for deep concentration. I learned to listen to my body and give it what it actually needed.  For instance, on tough days at work, I moved away so-called comfort lunches (heavy “boxes” full of carbs and salt) and instead filled up on real brain food… hearty vegetable salads full of healthy fats like nuts and avocado. And on evenings when I was feeling down or low after work, I stopped opting for take-out and instead cooked myself bowls of hot grains covered with big swirls of olive oil, herbs and fresh chopped tomato.  Inevitably, I always felt… better.  Satisfied. Nourished.  Full.  Good.

All of which is a long way of getting to the point of this post… which is – simply – that good food is actually pretty easy to fall in love with.  Because when it teaches you how amazing you can feel, it becomes addictive.  And if you love to cook and eat, then you’ll never be bored another day in your whole life.

Take, for example, when I offered to host a baby shower last weekend.  Obviously the part I was most excited about was planning THE MEAL.  It had to be healthy, but it also had to be special.  I’d settled on serving homemade gluten and dairy-free quiche and two kinds of salad – one grain, the other green.  But what kind of green?? I knew it had to be something a little more exciting than your average toss… haven’t we all had enough spinach, goat cheese and cranberry?? Yes. But – what to do?

Then I was eating lunch at the office one day when I finally looked down – yes, into my lunch – and realized the answer was right in front of me.  In the humbly-named ‘Dan’s Salad’, which I’d just picked up from Kupfert & Kim, a tiny vegan lunch counter in the concourse of First Canadian Place that caters to downtowners looking to eat something (anything) other than Szechuan between the hours of 9 and 5. Granted, K&K’s portions are enormous, and its dressings (which thankfully come on the side) are enough for six meals, let alone one… so I knew I would have to make some modifications when I recreated the salad, but the inspiration was definitely there.  This salad was to die for.  Crunchy, chewy, bitter, sweet, nutty, spicy, crisp, fresh.   Not to mention, colourful.  In a word, Perfect.

But it doesn’t stop there.  This salad is super easy on the belly (no bloating, no distension), yet at the same time it is very satisfying, and seems to ‘help’ the digestive system along.  Not to mention it’s ritzy.  And filling.  And effing delicious.

 

Perfect.

 

This salad was a huge hit at the baby shower.  You can make it a few hours in advance, and then wait to dress & toss it right before it’s time to eat.  ENJOY.

 

The Perfect Salad (inspired by Dan’s Salad at Kupfert & Kim)
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Ingredients
  • Red Cabbage
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Baby Arugula
  • Microgreens
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Radishes
  • Chickpeas
  • Goji Berries
  • Raw Pepitas
  • Fresh Basil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Walnut Vinegar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Salt and Pepper
Instructions
  1. Slice each cabbage once in half, from root to tip, then lie flat and slice thinly lengthwise into skinny strips. About half of each cabbage should be plenty.
  2. Place a small pile of each cabbage around the perimeter of a wide, shallow bowl. Then add the alfalfa (about half an average container), arugula and microgreens (a few handfuls each) in their own small piles around perimeter of bowl.
  3. Peel and grate 3 or 4 carrots, and add that pile to perimeter of the bowl, too. Same goes for the julienned cucumber and radishes.
  4. Then rinse and drain chickpeas, and place them in the space left in the center of the bowl.
  5. Sprinkle chickpeas with raw pepitas and goji berries.
  6. Prepare your dressing in advance by shaking, in a small mason jar, the olive oil, fresh basil, walnut vinegar, wee bit of maple syrup, and s+p in desired proportions. Adjust to taste.
  7. Keep salad (covered in wrap) and dressing (in mason jar) in fridge until time to serve. Give dressing another good shake, add to salad, and toss gently.

 

Shannon

Shannon Beddoe is a lawyer at Martha McCarthy & Company.  She moonlights as a wannabe domestic goddess.  Read Shannon’s ‘real life nutrition’ feature here.

 

 

 

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