Single Ingredient Simplicity

The secret to eating healthy is simple: Single ingredient meals.

I have found that the absolute best way to lead a healthful, gluten free life is to eat the purest of pure things you can find. Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry. The rewards are tremendous—whether you have celiac or not.

Have you ever made a breakfast of a perfectly poached egg, and nothing else?

Or a lunch of a half dozen of boiled shrimp, a lemon wedge and an avocado? How about a dinner of pan-fried lamb chops in olive oil with a side of kale? If you shop carefully (or better yet, grow it in your own backyard), a single-ingredient meal can be so satisfying and easy, yet is oft-overlooked.

single ingredient eating whole natural foods

When I was growing up in the ’70s, and even still as I was raising my children, I unfortunately fell victim to food advertising and getting stuff to “grab and go”. Looking back, I wish I knew then what I know so well now.

I was laser-focused on work (with my intense nursing schedule) and raising young children, so I wasn’t paying as much attention to what was in my quick food choices as much as what I thought was the simplicity of it. For four years of college, there were the snack machines. It was easy to get a candy bar instead of a big navel orange or fresh grapes. A granola bar or a bagel was a full meal replacement back in those days. It was canned soups and boxed pasta meals, instead of access to fresh food. There were also the University and hospital cafeterias, and fast food was the right price.

Not smart, but very convenient.  

Consuming a diet of unprocessed low carb foods such as fresh meats, vegetables, nuts, eggs and fruits is the way to go. Really, for everyone. It is how we are supposed to live and what we need to do everyday—not just some days—to be at our best.

It takes discipline not to fall into the trap of a quick meal or a sugar fix. However once we do it enough, single ingredient eating becomes so ingrained that we can’t imagine NOT living this way.

It makes portion control easy, too.

You may want to eat healthier, but the thought of preparing a salad with all the fixin’s and carrying it around with you seems too cumbersome, so you grab something from the drive thru yet again. But how about a hard-boiled egg, a wedge of cheese and sliced bell peppers or cucumbers? Or a perfectly-portioned carton of Greek yogurt with slivered almonds and a banana?

Any fruit or veggie, a fresh cut of grass-fed beef, or organic eggs are real foods with no additives or sugars and are truly what keep you strong, energized and healthy. A half-cup of almonds and an apple with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter will give you the fuel you need to hit your goals of the day. The key is to eat these foods that start out as one whole ingredient.

It’s really simple. For example, read the label on a jar of peanut butter and if it says, “ingredients: peanuts, salt” go for it. But if it has a list of ingredients that you don’t recognize as a whole food, like “fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (soybean and rapeseed), mono and diglycerides,” then skip it.

Because I have celiac, I don’t eat many whole grains.

Carbs get a negative rap because so many people are eating the bad ones. For folks without celiac, it’s the refined carbohydrates in white bread, candy, cookies, sugary cereals, and all sorts of other junk food and drinks. For those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it’s the gluten-free replacement foods trying to imitate foods made with gluten that use too many processed ingredients and additives.

Whole grains are single ingredient whole foods. As a whole food, they form a bundle of fiber, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. Packaged gluten-free products, such as bread, frequently use only the carbohydrate component using refined flours from rice, corn or potato.

“Fiber-depleted, refined grains represent 85% of the grains consumed in the United States, and because refined grains contain 400% less fiber than do whole grains (by energy), they further dilute the total dietary fiber intake.” writes Loren Cordain and Anthony Sebastian, authors of Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet.

But there are whole grains from single ingredients that are good for us. For example, popcorn.

In its purest form—that is, plain air-popped kernels—popcorn is a healthy, whole-grain, antioxidant-rich snack food. Just skip the microwavable kinds that use harmful chemicals in the bags’ nonstick lining. Instead, buy organic popcorn kernels and pop them the old-fashioned way on the stovetop. This way you’ll also avoid the troubling toppings that include gluten, fake food dyes and MSG.

The supermarket is a place we go to feed and care for our families. We are the nutritionists, cooks, chefs, sous chefs, choppers, tasters, analyzers, and bottom line decision makers. Some us don’t even think about it. We’ve been doing it from our whole hearts for our whole lives. I did that and loved it. I lived for it.

I very much still love it and live for it. Food is love. Family meals bring joy.

But here’s where it gets really important. We are responsible for other people’s bodies. Not just our own.

Yup! We don’t always step back and think about it that way while we’re doing it, but it’s the truth. So going to the market is dang important and getting good quality, fresh, single ingredient food items is imperative to our wellness and the wellness of our families.

It’s crazy to think that processed and chemical-laden foods have come to replace the whole, natural ingredients that our bodies need to stay healthy. That over the years as real food fell into decline, so did our health. We can change this!

If you eat only whole foods—by definition—you remove the processing and the dangerous food additives. A carrot, a handful of spinach, chunks of frozen or fresh pineapple, an ear of corn, an egg—are all whole unprocessed foods. There’s no processed sugars or additives—and there’s no gluten. You don’t even have to think about it. 

Bottom line: a daily diet of the most natural, whole ingredients you can—combined with exercise—will restore, balance and keep you high on life every dang delicious day.

Keep at it and don’t give up! Your health and your family’s health depends on it.


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