What’s Your Relationship with Food?

Fried chicken

Food. It’s one thing we can’t live without. Yet, it’s one thing that can hurt our bodies if we are not careful. To start in an open and honest way, I would like to classify myself as a super foodie. I love food. I love trying a new meal. I love gathering with friends or family for dinner, brunch, lunch, breakfast, or even snacks. I just love food. Honestly, it doesn’t even matter what kind! I’ll try it all!! BUT this year I’ve had to take a hard look at my relationship with food and how I consume it. 

I know for some of us, we didn’t grow up with teachings on how food fuels our bodies or how food can affect them. At the same time, we may have witnessed how family members were affected by diseases brought on by the foods that we eat. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number one cause of death for Black men and women is heart disease.

People at risk for heart disease include those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and those who are overweight or obese. Food groups that contribute to the above conditions are highly processed carbohydrates, sugar-sweetened drinks, saturated and trans fats, and red and processed meats. When I think of family gatherings, I think of at least one dish from each food group. The mac and cheese, the sweeeeeeet tea/lemonade/Kool-Aid, the meats (with an emphasis on pork and beef), all of the lovely deserts, and the cornbread. When we have greens, you know they’re not right without some sort of bacon grease. Many of the foods that we love and attribute to our family and background are the same foods that are the leading cause of death amongst Black people. Coincidence? I think not. 

This is not a conversation to take lightly. Many of the foods that have been passed down through generations and are ingrained in our culture stem from our roots in the South. Back then, Black people did not have access to many food choices. So, they did what they do best—whatever they had, they made it golden. This is why some of us have a love for chitlins (aka chitterlings), pigs feet, pork rinds, etc. Even to this day, there are many communities that do not have access to nutritious foods. This results in families relying on foods in the categories above, which makes it hard to have a balanced diet.   

So, what can we do? The first step is to acknowledge and take a look at our diets and what we’re eating now. I challenge you for the next two weeks to log your foods and take note of how many of your meals fall within the above categories. For instance, if you have a meal that falls into two categories, you would put a tally under both categories. At the end of the two weeks, look over your eating log and see how many meals fall into to the following food groups:

  1. Highly Processed Carbohydrates
  2. Sugar-Sweetened Drinks
  3. Saturated and Trans Fats
  4. Red and Processed Meats 

We can also look for ways to substitute and/or cut back on foods and items in these groups. For instance, consider replacing cow milk with a nut milk such as almond, cashew, or hemp seed milk. You could also season your greens without using meat. In the age of 2021, there are many “meatless” options in grocery stores, such as Impossible Burgers, Beyond Meat, and Plant Provisions. There are also vegan egg substitutes such as Just Egg. When eating out and ordering a salad, consider ordering a vinaigrette instead of a blue cheese dressing. Smaller portioned, healthier choices in our day-to-day diets can have lasting impacts not only on our lives, but also on future generations. 

Here is a list of heart-healthy foods you can incorporate in your diet: 

  • Leafy Green Vegetables
  • Whole Grains
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
  • Walnuts
  • Beans
  • Tomatoes 
  • Almonds
  • Seeds
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Edamame
  • Green Tea

Am I asking you to drastically change your lifestyle right now? Absolutely not. I just challenge you to consider making choices for you and your family that can positively impact your health. With this, we may have new recipes we can pass down to generations to nurture and heal their bodies.

5 Responses

  1. Well done, Taylor! I love the tone of this piece. I don’t feel judged, but at the same time, I understand the importance of reflecting on my food choices. And I’m going to try your tracking method! Thanks!

  2. I love this challenge. In 2021 we have to address the need to protect and nurture our temples. I’m excited to see the adjustments needed to be better at making food my fuel and not my demise. Thanks!

  3. Thank you Taylor! Loved the topic and I shared this with my family members that need a wake up call. I love that you provided easy substitutions so that it’s not overwhelming to people that have eaten that way for years.

  4. Taylor! Love this! I am proud to say I have incorporated all of what is on that heart-healthy list into my daily diet except for the edamame. I feel like patting myself on my back, however, I do partake in other stuff that is not so good. I think I have a good balance and this challenge will reveal it to me. Thank you so much for the great and informative read!

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