Cookie and Kate Love Real Food
My dog, Cookie, is the most effective alarm clock I’ve ever met. You can’t push snooze on Cookie—once she’s decided it’s breakfast time, she morphs into a squirmy, insistent, enthusiastic little alarm bell who will shove the pillow right out from under my head. She’s lucky she’s so cute.
Every morning, Cookie herds me into our Kansas City kitchen. I feed her first (she wouldn’t have it any other way), and then I start shuffling around to make my own breakfast. I always eat breakfast, in part because I know I’ll feel lousy later in the day if I don’t, but also because I adore breakfast. Cookie and I both love food.
I might reach for a bag of granola in the freezer, and some yogurt to go with it. I know exactly what’s in that granola because I made it myself: old-fashioned oats sweetened with maple syrup and made crispy with the help of some coconut oil, plus spices, nuts, and dried fruit. Learning to make my own granola was a revelation. It’s super easy and tastes so much better than the store-bought kind.
Later in the day, lunch might consist of a giant, colorful bean salad (left over from last night’s dinner) with fresh greens and crumbled goat cheese. Dinner could be a spicy, vegetable-packed stir-fry. Whatever I throw together, you can bet it will be a well-balanced meal that lights up my taste buds and keeps me energized for hours.
I haven’t always eaten so well, and I haven’t always felt so good. I was a picky kid who tried to get away with eating pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast, but my body wouldn’t allow it, even when my parents would. Those pancakes would turn me into a shaky, miserable, sweaty mess. My doctor called my extreme reaction to simple carbohydrates hypoglycemia. Trust me, if eating pancakes for breakfast turned you into a mumbling zombie, you wouldn’t touch them no matter how good they tasted.
The funny thing about metabolism is that I’m just an exaggerated example of how every human body functions in response to processed foods and unbalanced meals. I simply have a more immediate reaction to the foods that are contributing to our country’s growing obesity epidemic, and the chronic diseases that come with it.
You might think, then, that eating well came easily for me. It didn’t. When I left for college, I thought that cardboard-flavored 100-calorie snack packs were healthy options, and that fat was best avoided. I tallied up calories in my head and repented for them on the elliptical machine. When I felt overwhelmed or sad, I turned to food for comfort, oftentimes to an unhealthy extreme. I struggled with binge eating, and I am all too familiar with the self-loathing and despair that go along with it. Basically, I asked far more of food than food could provide, and rode a miserable roller coaster of sugar highs and food-related guilt for years. My story is all too common, and I would do anything to spare you from these struggles. We all have to eat, after all. It doesn’t have to be so hard.
Fortunately, my conscience is no longer at war with my taste buds. After a lot of selfreflection, I’ve learned to deal with stress and anxiety in ways that make me feel better, not worse—like reaching out to friends, going to a yoga class, and taking walks with Cookie. Perhaps most valuably, I’ve learned to listen to my appetite and eat accordingly. Now, I open the refrigerator and greet the contents like trusted friends, and my body thanks me for it.
Learning more about nutrition was tremendously helpful in shifting my habits and helping me cut through the marketing noise. Once I started reading, I was shocked to hear that the food pyramid wasn’t quite the pinnacle of nutrition I had once believed, and that protein comes in all different kinds of foods, not just meat. The more I read, the more I naturally gravitated toward the whole foods philosophy set forth by food writers and researchers like Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle. Their recommendations made sense to me on multiple levels. Of course I should be eating foods that my grandmothers would recognize, not artificially sweetened, processed foods with a “healthy” sticker on the front. The truth is always in the ingredients list.
Copyright © 2017 by Kathryne Taylor, Creator of Cookie and Kate. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.