This post is semi-embarrassing, but was fun to reflect on and write. I don’t eat a “perfect” diet now (whatever that means), nor will I ever, but I’ve come a LONG way in the past decade.
I didn’t live in an apartment until my senior year of college. Before that I was in the dorms or the sorority house. We all know what dorm life is like…needless to say, moving to a gorgeous mansion with tons of girlfriends was a big upgrade. And although living with a million other females wasn’t always such a treat (hello estrogen overload), the fact that we had the sweetest house mom who made us all delicious home-made meals was a HUGE perk. I had it so good and I didn’t even know it. Well, I kinda knew it. Even while living in an apartment on the opposite side of campus, I still ate most of my meals at the house. That’s why the fridge and cabinets in our apartment consisted of basically nothing. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) we’d go over to the sorority just to raid the fridge (aka steal groceries). We took bowls and cups too. I’m pretty sure this was frowned upon, but nobody ever did anything about it.
Anyway, that’s my attempt at explaining what I’m about to show you.
A typical grocery trip (circa 2004):
Diet Dr. Pepper
And that’s about it. Seriously. Isn’t that just about the grossest thing you’ve ever seen? I’m sorry if you’re reading this mom and dad. I’m mortified by it, which at least shows how far I’ve come in understanding proper nutrition.
I also spent a TON of money at the on-campus candy store. And I had my way with the salad bar at the on-campus restaurant next to where I worked (which I’m 100% sure I rationalized as cancelling out the candy addiction). Neither are still in business, so obviously I was alone in that.
My eating habits improved some (minimally) over the next few years, but it wasn’t until I moved to Philly that I really cleaned up my act.
I started nursing school and began to realize how gross I felt when I ate crap. The upside of saving time and buying processed stuff was totally not worth it. [There wasn’t an aha moment that led me to this conclusion, I just grew tired of sugar free pudding and packaged deli meat]
So I went back to my roots – eating real food that I made with real ingredients. It’s pretty odd that I decided to cook and pack bag lunches (two things I never did before) during the busiest year of my life, but I’ve always been one of those people who excels with more on my plate. Thanks to my mom – who made all our family meals growing up – I already knew my way around the kitchen, so it wasn’t like I was starting from scratch.
A typical grocery list (circa 2006-2007):
Any and every fruit from Whole Foods (apples, bananas, etc.)
Fruit and veggies from the Reading Terminal Market (my first foray in the world of butternut squash)
Bulk bin treats (carob energy chunks, dried fruit, granola, etc.)
Vegan deli meat
Fresh sliced turkey from the WF deli counter
Rice (I had enough rice to last a year)
As you can see there was some of the same (like cereal and dried fruit), but I did all my grocery shopping at Whole Foods or the Reading Terminal Market (meaning the quality of my food was exponentially better than their 2004 counterparts). Yes, I still ate meat, but it was real meat, not processed and packaged, and I started trying vegan alternatives as well. I learned to shop seasonally (something I never thought about growing up in California). I experimented with roasting new to me vegetables. And I basically started enjoying the act of preparing food. I was pretty proud of myself each time I sat down to a put-together meal. It was yummy, but it also came with a sense of accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes had PB&Js that I smuggled into the library too. But I had chocolate with a glass of wine occasionally, to balance it out. I look back on that year as the turning point in my health and diet evolution.
When I moved to NYC, everything was different. I had a poor excuse for a kitchen. Kyle and I lived together and co-managed grocery shopping. I started my first nursing job at a hospital where I was barely able to stay afloat. And I had ready-made food options available 24 hours a day, anywhere I looked. I started to slip into a expensive habit…the Whole Foods hot bar. Every once in a while I cooked, but it was infrequent. And yet, I started to focus on nutrition even more. I slowly removed meat from my diet (hummus made up 75% of what I ate) and I learned all about veganism. But I still ate a ton of health bars. I discovered kombucha and seaweed and kale. But I still made smoothies with soy protein powder and spent 50% or more of my paycheck on pre-made food from WF.
And from there it has continued to change. As we moved to a bigger apartment in NYC. And then back to California.
My dietary evolution was obviously not always a linear equation. But that’s normal, I think. I’m human. I’m living and learning and adapting as I go. Sometimes it was like two steps forward, one step back. But overall, a step forward each time means I was headed in the positive direction.
I’ve grown up and changed and dabbled in and out of various food phases. And I’m working as much as I can towards eating the least amount of processed stuff. But sometimes you want to just get store bought bread. And nut butter. And faux meatballs. And since I know how far I’ve come, I can appreciate the fact that I do eat well most of the time, and allow myself to enjoy (and indulge in) the eats I don’t prepare myself.
Grocery list (today):
Organic cheese (for Kyle)
Vital wheat gluten
Dried beans & lentils
(other) nuts & seeds
Frozen veggies & fruit
And so much more…
It’s amazing how I can do anything with just bulk bin items (nuts, seeds, grains) and produce.
I also have a pantry full of various whole grain flours, baking ingredients, and the likes, including almond and coconut flour, lucuma powder and coconut sugar.
If you’d asked me in 2004 how many days a week I’d eat chia seeds, I would have thought you were speaking gibberish.
And if you asked me today how often I crave sugar free jello, I’d tell you never ever ever ever (in a million years).
And that’s the evolution of my grocery list.