Why I don’t post nutrition labels alongside my recipes

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Nutrition “facts” are only true in lab-like conditions

What is a “medium“ sweet potato (and what variety exactly)? How much pasta is in a portion? How big is a clove of garlic? How much sunshine did that apple get? Did any of the nutrients were lost in transportation… and in the produce drawer while the greens wilted?

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Instead of measuring and weighing ingredients, try this when you cook

I do not recommend accurate measuring when cooking — other perhaps than when baking a birthday cake, ’cause “you only have one shot.” (And who cares how many calories are in birthday cake? We all know cake has lots of calories and very little nutrition, so it’s something we can choose to eat once in a while, at meaningful traditional occasions, in small portions.)

Plus, not everything that goes in… really gets in

Digestion is a complex process, and its efficiency — the body’s success at extracting every bit of nutrition from the food we intake by mouth — varies. Different people with different gut microbiomes will absorb different nutrients differently, due to stage of life, health status, age, and many factors we do not all perfectly understand.

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If you are choosing a diversity of whole foods, and minimizing refined foods, you’re golden

My recipes consist of ingredients that are mostly whole, meaning that I use vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, and (mostly) whole grains. (I admit to never having developed a liking for whole wheat pasta.) Cruciferous vegetables or dark leafy greens make an appearance in most meals. Oil and salt are always optional and, although I do not banish them from my kitchen entirely, I recommend training yourself to enjoying them in very small amounts.

If you need more guidance, aim for the Daily Dozen… but don’t get obsessive about it.

If you need further reassurance that the dinner on your plate takes you on the path to good health, I recommend moving your energy away from counting macro- and micro-nutrients and instead using Dr. Michael Greger’s “Daily Dozen” app. The Daily Dozen is the list of the 12 major building blocks of a healthful diet and lifestyle. Eating all those foods (plus getting enough water, exercise, and a B12 supplement) will ensure that you ingest all the macro- and micro-nutrients you need and none that you don’t need. It will help you track the diversity and completeness of your food intake. Choose recipes that allow you to roughly hit the targets but don’t worry about measuring everything to the gram.

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Brigitte Gemme

Brigitte Gemme

Vegan mom and cooking coach, runner, writer, reader, PhD in sociology, morning person. Chief Meal Planner at Vegan Family Kitchen.