Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Power of Food and the 80/20 Principle

I had a wonderful weekend! We've been at a family reunion and as part of it, we had a class given by my uncle Chef Brad. He is a very talented, excellent chef and the nicest person you'll ever meet. He had about 30 of us in the room (his nieces and nephews and their spouses). It was given in a small little house where my grandma and grandpa used to live. He's converted the house into a kitchen and it's a delightful place. He taught us a lot, but here are two main things that I learned:

* Food is powerful! Food has the power to created memories and bond families together. Brad was the chef for the reunion and we ate the best food! He's very talented at adding whole grains into delicious food so that it's not only delicious, but contains nutrition also. He told us that spending hours and hours in the kitchen preparing food for us and then cleaning up afterward was worth it for him because he knew how important the good food was to bind the family together. And it did! Eating healthy, tasty food together is often the mechanism for creating meaningful family memories. We are very grateful to him for all of his hard work. He is awesome!

* The 80/20 Principle. Brad's 80/20 principle is basically this: obviously adding some healthy food into our diets is better than none. If it takes 20% unhealthy food to get the 80% healthy food down, than that's a good place to start. He said that when he began to make whole grain cereal for his family for breakfast instead of their normal unhealthy cold cereal he let his kids put in as much sugar as they wanted into the cereal. At first it took a lot of sugar for them to be happy with it. But over time, the kids cut back and didn't need to put in a lot of sugar. The health benefits they got from the whole grain cereal (even with the sugar) far surpassed what they got from processed cold cereal (which often contains a lot of sugar anyway). His point was that we shouldn't swing all the way to the other side of the health pendulum all at once. Rather we should make steps toward better health. And if we need to include 20% unhealthy food stuff (sugar, fat, salt, etc) to get down the healthy grains and vegetables, than that's a good place to start. It's better than buying processed foods which are much worse for us. He has also extended this principle into the bigger picture - when we eat healthily all week, we can afford to splurge a little in our diets for something unhealthy once a week. When we have eaten healthily all month, we can go out to eat a few times. When we have eaten healthily all year, we don't need to feel guilty over eating a bit less healthy during the holidays.


foodstr2 said...


Organic foods are great to use during NORMAL times.

But if it comes to a time of trying to decide whether to starve, or eat some chemical-laced (or GMO) foods, I'll bet folks would eat the latter. (I know *I* would.)

My advice is to store whatever foods you can, at the best price.

Kelly said...

I couldnt have said it better myself. This is the same basic principle that we have been going on. And it is working beautifully!

Lucy Stern said...

It sounds like a good plan to me. I know that you can add some dehydrated apples to the Whole Wheat cereal about 30 minutes before you eat and it will add some good sweetness to the cereal. You can also add chopped walnuts, rasins or other dried fruit to the cereal....If you really want to sweeten it, add a drop or two of honey.....

Heather said...


I'm actually not an organic fanatic, but I do believe that the less processed the foods, the better they are for you. I'm not sure if you're referring to my comment on or not. I wrote a comment on there about how I'd rather store healthy foods than foods you can buy from coupons (like snacks and processed foods). I really believe that storing whole grains and legumes and seeds will not only give you the best nutrition in your diet, but is the most cost effective as well. Yes, I most definitely would eat whatever I could get my hands on in an emergency. But I believe that in storing healthy, nutritious whole foods and learning how to use them in our diets every day makes the most sense. It makes the most sense for our diets right now and it makes the most sense for our diets in an emergency.

Heather said...

I'm glad to hear that you're using this principle and have had success. After hearing about it, I realized that I need to ease up a little. Like Mary Poppins said, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!" One of my goals for the new year is to allow more "spoonfuls of sugar" so that the kids will eat more food that is good for them.

Thanks for your tips on the cereal. I'm going to have to try them. While we were there, Brad fed us the most delicious cereal that was so simple! He cooked Brown Rice in the pressure cooker and added agave (or xgave) - which is a healthy sweetener that doesn't convert to fat like sugar does. He served it with milk. It was so good! I'm going to try making it for myself.

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