This post is sponsored by Omission. All words, opinions, and lack of willpower are my own.
About six weeks ago, my wife and I stopped cooking with oil at home. I don’t go out of my way to avoid it when I’m traveling or just out to eat — just another example of the “small steps” approach to change I’ve used ever since I first started thinking about going vegetarian, about seven years ago.
I can see how this latest twist might appear overly restrictive. Trust me — not that long ago, it looked that way to me, too.
But like every other step on this journey, eating oil-free is one of those things that, over time and after several brief experiments, started to seem more and more workable. And which, so far, has been incredibly easy (except when it comes to popcorn, which is no longer what they call “good”).
But this post isn’t about restriction. In fact, it’s about the opposite.
My Favorite Indulgences
Lest you think I live like a monk, today I want to highlight several of my favorite indulgences that remain in my diet and life — those drinks, foods, and habits that I hang onto, out of the belief that a “healthy” lifestyle that’s completely restrictive — to the point of causing stress — isn’t healthy at all.
(Oh yeah, and also out of a belief that these things are delicious and wonderful and that I’m completely powerless to give them up.)
But as you’ll see, there are easy steps I take — and that you can take, too — to mitigate the negative impact these little, almost-daily pleasures might have.
Is coffee actually a health food? Maybe. Or maybe not. I’ve seen so much research on both sides that I’ve thrown up my hands and given up trying to decide.
But I do know that it’s delicious and gets me fired up to do good work and make a ruckus. And that my life is better with coffee than without it. (This after going months without any, enough time to be fully free of any caffeine dependence.)
I keep it extremely simple — one 320 mL cup of locally, small-batch roasted coffee each day. No sugar, no milk. Why exactly 320 mL? Because I’ve gone off the deep end and gotten really into doing pour-overs at home, with a scale and hand-crank grinder and all. It takes me 10 minutes or so to make that single cup, so it certainly ain’t Keurig … but those 10 minutes are heavenly, just as serious Zen people will tell you is the time spent making tea.
Beer, and alcohol in general, is another one with no shortage of arguments over whether it’s good or bad for you. My excuse recently has been this article, which points to a New England Journal of Medicine study linking moderate alcohol consumption (even beyond what’s typically recommended) to longer lifespan.
I go back and forth between beer and wine, but since (a) my hometown of Asheville, NC is a craft beer mecca, (b) it’s easier to determine which beer is vegan, and (c) I’m a sometimes-homebrewer, I tend to favor the bubbly, hoppy stuff.
So how do I keep it healthy? I stick to one a night, with rare (but legendary) exceptions. And as much as I enjoy a good 8% ABV double IPA, I try to stay in the 5% range most of the time so as not to let it affect my sleep.
Omission Brewery is a healthy choice, because not only are its three styles vegan and relatively low ABV, it’s also crafted to remove gluten. Unlike typical gluten-free beers, though, Omission is actually brewed with barley (the gluten-containing ingredient in beer), then treated with an enzyme that breaks down the gluten. Although the use of barley prevents the beer from being certified gluten-free, you can look up your bottle on their website to ensure that particular batch is below 20ppm gluten. Of their three styles, Pale Ale is by far my favorite.
I don’t have much of an issue with gluten, but my wife does, and it seems only to have gotten worse as our diet gets better. So, especially as the weather warms up, it’s nice to be able to share a beer with her out on the porch while our kids play in the sandbox (and without exception dump sand on the 2-year old’s head). As shown, sans kids, in my artful picture below.
chocolate is yet another food that can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on how you do it.
Although I used to throw back the dark chocolate we used to get at Halloween, I’ve come a long way. Nowadays, I like the really dark stuff, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s packed with anti-oxidants and lower in sugar and (usually) fat than milk chocolate. It’s also an anti-angiogenesis food.
One warning that my friend Leo gave me when we visited Dandelion Chocolate in his then-hometown of San Francisco: not all 70, 80, or even 90 percent cacao chocolate is created equal. The percentage measures the amount of cacao compared to other ingredients (sugar, mainly), but it doesn’t tell you how much of that cacao is from cacao butter, which is pure fat. Expensive chocolate is often made by removing most of the cacao solids so that what’s left is a large amount of cacao butter. Rich tasting, sure, but not the most complex of flavors or the healthiest way to eat chocolate.
The distinction to look for is “whole bean,” so that the cacao is made up of the natural proportions of cocoa solids to cocoa butter.
Nuts are becoming more universally accepted as a health food, as a preponderance of research (including the landmark Adventist Health Study) has linked them to health and longevity.
But some people, including Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, maintain that nuts increase the risk for heart disease because of their caloric density, and I agree that it’s easy to go overboard with nuts if you’ve got weight to lose.
A simple solution is to eat them raw and without salt (or only a small amount of salt if none seems impossible). This drastically reduces their addictive properties, because hey, they don’t taste as good! But they’re still enjoyable, and more of the healthful properties of the fat stay intact without high-temperature cooking.
Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, and walnuts are the big ones in my house, and we eat them in smoothies, as cashew cheeze, plain, or in trail mix.
Just in case you were beginning to think that all my “indulgences” were actually just thinly veiled health foods, this one will change that.
I don’t think there’s anything healthy about TV. Pure enjoyment, and a lot of times it’s not even that, instead just a mindless activity to help you decompress after a hard, stressful day. So how do you limit the damage?
Easy: cancel cable! We did it a few years ago, and it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Our TV time plummeted, and our do-things-that-matter time soared. Not to mention, it’ll save you 133,369 bucks.
I still watch some TV, via Netflix and Amazon Prime. Particularly entire series of sitcoms, like The Office and Parks and Recreation — because if the goal is to unwind, for me these are preferable than admittedly more high-brow dramas. But I don’t want to get addicted or spend that half hour stressed out, so I don’t watch The Wire or Breaking Bad or True Detective, despite everyone’s saying that “you have to.”
Giveaway Time! (this giveaway is now closed)
The folks at Omission, who sponsored this post, are giving away a swag bag full of … well, swag! I’m told it includes Omission beer, a neoprene six-pack carrier, men’s and women’s Omission clothing, and a bottle opener!
1. Be 21 years old.
2. Leave a comment here telling us all about your favorite indulgence(s).
That’s it! Then I’ll randomly choose a winner next Wednesday (el seis-o de Mayo), and announce his or her name in the comments section.