Do you eat for health, or eat for enjoyment? What determines your food decisions? Or are both of these the same for you?
I watched a program the other night on gut health, and how the bacteria in our guts affects our immune system. Having high numbers of good bacteria helps reduce inflammation, and ward off ailments like diabetes, cancer, and even depression.
The program featured a fit, 25 year old male, professional gymnast. He was given a blood glucose test to see how efficiently his body could process sugars. He was seemingly extremely healthy, with very low body fat, and very muscular. And yet, he failed the test miserably. In fact, the results showed he was pre diabetic.
An examination of his diet showed he was eating mainly processed foods. He lived off fast food burgers, fries and pizza, and rarely ate fresh, unprocessed produce.
A nutritionist was brought in to cook him 30 days of fresh meals, full of fiber, and plenty of plant foods.
In 30 days, he turned around his health. He passed the blood glucose test with flying colors the next time. Although he had trouble adjusting to the new diet for the first few weeks, he felt it was more than worth it when he could see in numbers the effect it had on his health.
This massive turn around in his health was due to a diet high in fiber– the good bacteria in our gut feed off insoluble fiber.
As a child, I was overweight, and sick often. I had asthma, bad allergies, and spent weeks inside, on steroids, with bronchitis so severe it hurt to walk down the hall to my bedroom.
I learned early in life how important good health is –> and not just looking healthy on the outside, but being healthy inside, too.
I began taking an interest in nutrition, and developed what has become a life-long drive to stay fit and healthy.
Like any child, I too loved Doritos and Oreos. In fact, it would be strange for a child not to prefer those foods, because biologically, those foods are what our bodies crave. Calories + Sugar + Fat= Survival. Unfortunately, in a world where those 3 things are very easy to get a hold of in large quantities, they also can equal obesity and chronic disease.
While I was still a child, I changed my health story. I learned to crave different types of foods. I learned how much better I felt, looked, and functioned when I was getting a diet high in fiber, mostly from plant foods.
And now, when those foods aren’t available, I can feel it. When I’m traveling and fresh foods aren’t available, I feel unbalanced.
Preferring healthy foods is something everyone can learn, if one wants to. Prepared well, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are pretty darn amazing. That is one of the reasons I love sharing my recipes.
This Butternut, Millet and Spinach Salad is not only beautiful, it’s full of health building ingredients. It’s sweet, crunchy, and perfect for cool weather carb cravings.
A perfect light lunch or dinner, it’s also equally delicious served hot or cold.
If you haven’t tried millet, it’s a great gluten free alternative to quinoa. I wrote about it’s health benefits when I posted the Artichoke Millet Power Salad.
Butternut, Millet, Spinach Salad
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 cup millet
- 5 cups fresh spinach
- 1/3 cup tart dried cherries (or sub cranberries)
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degree f.
- Peel and cube butternut squash in small chunks. Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Bake squash for 15-18 minutes, until tender, but not too soft (it will continue to cook a bit after removing it from the oven).
- Add a cup of millet and 2 cups water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
- Remove millet from heat, but leave covered for an additional 10 minutes. Then, fluff with a fork.
- If serving the salad hot, mix together the millet, butternut, spinach, then drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and dijon. Mix together well, then top with dried cherries and pumpkin seeds.
- If serving the salad cold, chill the butternut squash and millet. Once cool, mix the rest of the salad ingredients together, and top with cherries and pumpkin seeds.
Arman @ thebigmansworld says
Wow, that documentary sounds amazing- I love docus like that. Would you be able to share the name of it? I’d love to watch it. It’s strange how many can look healthy on the outside yet inside be anything but!
Now this recipe looks like it would do my exterior and interior some good 😉
I will see if it’s still on our DVR– it was on the Australian Network, actually–!
I really love hearing your story, Michelle. I had a similar experience, but not until I was an adult. I was able to completely turn my health around by eating a vegatable-centric macro diet. This salad is beautiful and I’m crushing on your pretty salad fork too!
Ceara @ Ceara's Kitchen says
I totally believe in the power of healthy foods to transform your health. Honestly, the difference in my health before and after I ate well is a complete turn around! 🙂 It might sound ‘hoaxy’ but I totally believe in the power of fruits & vegetables! I’m living proof 😉 And this salad looks delicious and so filling 🙂 Pinned!
Thanks Ceara! I know too many people who refuse to believe how powerful an impact our diet has on our health. It’s hard to watch friends and family members continue to eat “non-food,” and watch their health suffer.
you are so right, we can look healthy, but it truly begins on the inside. Beautiful words friend, and recipe!
The Blonde Chef says
I love this anecdote because I have seen first hand how true this can be! What a great reminder to focus on being healthy from the inside out 🙂 (Also, this salad looks to-die for!)
I know too many people who believe because they have a high metabolism, what they eat doesn’t matter. It is good to see media attention showing that it matters for all of us!
This salad looks wonderful! I eat for health all the way and I’m with you on feeling unbalanced when you’re away somewhere and there aren’t many healthy options.
Once you start eating for health, you start craving healthy foods– our bodies know what we need!
Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life says
What a gorgeous salad! We do eat junk food from time to time but for the most part, we eat very healthy. My kids definitely know the difference between real food and junk. Thanks for sharing this yummy salad with us at Foodie Friday…I’ll be pinning and sharing this! Have a great weekend!
It’s hard to completely ban kids from eating junk food– you can’t– because most schools serve it, and you don’t want your child feeling left out at a friends house or party. As a parent, you can only teach your kids the difference between real food and processed, and hope they grow up craving the healthy stuff you serve them!
Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life says
My two younger kids won’t eat the school lunches at all! My daughter brings a crusted chicken over salad greens every day, plus cut up carrots and peppers with hummus…I would venture to guess that her lunch is a lot healthier than what they are serving at school. Plus they limit the calories on the kids here these days, with the school lunches, with no regards to the fact that different kids have different needs (kids that do sports vs kids that don’t, boys vs girls)…it’s crazy.
That’s amazing 🙂 You must have done something right!
Awesome, how fast our bodies react to those improvements. It just shows how important it is to nurture our body with real wholesome food. I agree healthy foods should taste good and this salad looks delicious! Whenever I am craving something sweet nowadays, I reach for something organic without additives, preferably homemade 🙂