“The Doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” Thomas Alva Edison
I grew up being a fan of Thomas Edison for his invention of light bulb. But little did I know that my life experiences would reiterate Mr. Edison’s dictum on nutrition over and over. I first experienced the role of nutrition in preventing lifestyle diseases 17 years ago when my husband was diagnosed with (mildly) high cholesterol in his early thirties. Because of his age and mildness of the (cholesterol) test numbers, the attending doctor instead of prescribing medication asked us to make dietary changes and suggested Dr Dean Ornish’s Eat More, Weight Less. Lo and behold, within four months my husband’s cholesterol reverted to normal range. That was the start of Traffic Light Cooking in my kitchen. Since then my kitchen has become the proverbial lab where my family members often gladly and sometimes not so gladly participate in everyday food experiments. This has now become the way we eat.
My newfound belief piqued my curiosity to find the link between health and food. As luck would have it, around the same time I finished MBA and started working as a market analyst focussing on food/beverage markets. Over a period of nearly ten years, I analyzed food/beverage consumption habits among (U.S.) consumers, read virtually most food/beverage labels (in the U.S.), and studied major scientific studies linking food and health. My search for answers also motivated me to complete a certificate course in plant-based nutrition. All that involvement with food at home as well as in the professional realm coalesced into the following insights:
1. Most health-harming elements in our diet come from our need for convenience in sourcing food either in the form of ready-to-eat pre-packaged food or eating out at restaurants. This leads to consume, often unintentionally, too much salt, sugar, and fat—the disease-promoting trio largely implicated in contributing to lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
2. Outsourced food contains ingredients, most notably chemicals, that we would not use in home-cooking.
3. Often outsourcing of food starts as convenience but becomes a habit, not only because it perceptibly saves time, but also gets us hooked onto the taste.
4. One of the easiest ways to take control of our health is to cook more at home with whole-food ingredients using just the right amount of salt, sugar, and fat.
That’s the essence of Traffic Light Cook (TLC), cooking more and cooking right.
When I started on the TLC route, the biggest challenge of cooking healthy at home was that I had little interest and experience in cooking. As a teenager I had proclaimed to my family that I am not going to have a kitchen in my home. Another challenge was to have other family members like “HEALTHY” meals. We all perceived “healthy” meals as something that did not taste good.
I was, however, determined not to buy pre-packaged foods or outsource my family meals to restaurants. Gradually, I started learning about food ingredients and developing my own recipes. The topmost criteria for a recipe to stay on my personal cookbook was that it had to taste good without using the disease-promoting trio in excess and even had to appeal to my son who was 3-years old at the time. Well, most of these recipes are tasty and some may be not so tasty, but they are all made with “real” whole-food ingredients.
The Big Evidence
In 2014, my husband went through a heart surgery to fix a congenital heart condition.The pre-surgery tests revealed that his arteries were clean, an important factor in the success of the surgery. When the doctor said that he was happy with his cardiovascular health, my husband gave credit to the TLC eating habits. I even got a pat on the back from the doctor. I can write a lot of words to describe this experience as my husband would subsequently go on to get one more major heart surgery in 2016; but in the interest of moving on, I will keep the story short. To be honest, by this time, I really did not need any more data points to affirm my belief in, what I had come to call the TLC diet in my mind.
From food evangelist to a food blogger
Although my story on the periphery would seem that of an individual delving deeper into food/health debate, but it has evolved into something very different, something I did not foresee when I first started cooking with whole foods. Exploring new whole food ingredients and coming up with new healthy recipes became my passion. And my journey seems to show no end as of yet.
Over the past few years, family and friends who have eaten at my table have frequently asked for recipes and to share my experiences—suggestions ranging from writing a cookbook to starting a restaurant. I am not sure about starting a restaurant—seems quite daunting, but hopefully, through this blog I can inspire you to take charge of your food (and health) through cooking more at home.