North American Food Culture
BRITTANY MUNCASTER | Holistic Nutritionist
The other day I stood aimlessly in the frozen isle of my local supermarket, lost in a daze of microwaveable dinners and endless bags of frozen peas. An all-too-familiar occasion of wondering what I should eat for dinner left me feeling a deep distaste for whoever decided to create humans without how-to-feed instructions.
Most Westerners are a blend of foreign constitutions, birthed to a line of ancestors who lost their heritage somewhere along the Atlantic. Distant memories of our Hungarian grandmother jarring sauerkraut, or our Italian grandfather seasoning focaccia are all but faint memories. Although we have some psychological or cerebral connection to our native lands, we don’t have access to the culture or way of life in the same way. The reality is, North America’s eating habit is not rooted in culture and tradition like other areas of the world.
The Western Diet is a bold archetype of capitalism. We are taught to view food as a scientific entity, deciphered as good or bad based on its carb-fat-sugar ratios. We find ourselves stuck on either end of the spectrum:
- Becoming avid dieters, profoundly aware of calories and how much shame they equate to.
- Becoming indifferently sedated, gluttonous for the endless supply of fast foods at our disposal.
Western Food Culture is a blended constitution of Chinese Buffets, Fast-Food Franchises, Thai Take-Out, Asian-Fusion, Napoleon Pizzerias, and McDonalds Big-Macs. In the West, we run on trends rather than tradition. Our logic about what to eat and how to eat is constantly shifting depending on the latest fad. Our culture’s guidelines tell us:
- Eat more processed and packaged foods (Low fat! Low carb! Low sodium! “It’s Healthy, We Swear!”)
- Focus on convenience foods (take out, fast food, frozen dinners)
- Eat more sweets, muffins, chocolates and refined carbohydrates as snacks throughout the day.
- Eat wherever, whenever! Car, office, whilst walking… who needs a table!
Eating has become an overbearing task of consciously trying to sift through food-propaganda and health-media… in desperate search for the answer to one question: what to cook for dinner.
The good news is that even without cultural guidelines, we can look to create our own traditions. With deeper reflection we can try to understand what foods we like and what foods make us feel good. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few general guidelines I cherry picked from other traditions that can help simplify eating in the Modern West.
- Eat Slowly and in Proper Ratios
Here are three tips to eat slower:
- Eat with chopsticks
- Chew thoroughly before swallowing
- Eat with a fork and knife at the dining table – without distractions (TV, phone, etc.)
Eating slowly helps prevent bloating from swallowing excess air and gives your body more time to tell your brain it’s satiated preventing over-eating
This is what Proper Rations should look like on your plate:
- 1/4 protein (the size of your palm)
- 1/4 complex carbohydrates (the size of your palm)
- 2/4 vegetables (half the plate)
- Don’t forget to incorporate healthy fats into this ratio (the size of your entire thumb per meal)
- Eat Well-Rounded Real Food Meals
Fats, proteins, complex carbohydrates and greens.
- Incorporating proteins such as local meats or unrefined plant-based proteins
- Healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, butter, avocados, etc.
- Complex carbohydrates from plant-based sources, or unrefined grains.
Want to Improve Overall Health?
- Eat well-rounded meals. Well-rounded meals help satiate the body and balance blood sugar levels which helps keep your mood and energy levels consistent. When you eat well-rounded, balanced meals, you’ll feel better!
- Be conscious of your eating window.
When to eat is just about as important as what to eat.
- Give your body time to rest from processing food
- Don’t eat until you’re hungry
- Try to avoid late night eating
People in France don’t snack.
- Daytime snacking often kills meal-time appetites and can mess with energy levels if snacks are highly refined
- There is an entire market in North America that sells ‘snack food’ – be aware of the snacks… most are highly processed, refined and HIGH in refined sugar
- If you need a mid-day snack: go for nuts/seeds, fruits, or vegetables
- Try to focus on 3 well-rounded meals (or whatever feels best)
Navigating Western Food Culture can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Define your own eating culture with a healthy balance of fresh, unprocessed real food, and focus on eating foods that you enjoy. The nutrient-content of food matters, but so does sensuality. Try finding whole foods that you enjoy the taste of and work to incorporate more of them into your diet.
BRITTANY MUNCASTER | Holistic Nutritionist