This is about the diet and cooking side of things so that you can dive right in and get started on your own path to transforming and improving your health.
One goal of macro’ lifestyle is to establish optimum wellbeing for our selves. Known as a diet, macrobiotics is one of the most holistic approaches to health, food and cooking, as it considers our connection to everything, heart, mind, body, spirit, environment. Whatever we choose to cook, we also need to walk outdoors for 15 to 20 minutes a day to activate our digestion, breathing, and circulation.
For complete beginners, when you start to eat and cook this way it can seem a little overwhelming (don’t worry, we’ve all been there!). New ingredients to get your head around, new ways of cooking and if you’re used to a typical Western diet it may be a learning curve, but trust me, the payoffs from eating and cooking this way are well worth it.
Your can adjust the food and preparation to suit your own unique life, environment, friends and family. This varies from person to person and a Macrobiotic Consultant will be able to give you more specific advice if necessary. For now, let’s focus on the general side of things.
What does an average macro’ meal look like?
Four Quick Meals
- Hummus & vegetable wraps
- Quinoa, chickpea and broccoli bowl
- Beans (sugar free) on toast (organic bread)
- Bowl of soup with some bread
A Full Course Meal
- Butternut squash soup with a parsley, spring onion & sunflower seed garnish
- Brown rice stir-fry, black bean & leek stew, pressed salad of apple, carrot & fennel, steamed broccoli with tahini dressing and some roasted sweet potato.
- Organic saurkraut
- Apple crumble with vanilla custard
- Cakes and pies e.g. lemon-poppy seed polenta cake or almond & raspberry tart
- Puddings e.g. strawberry mousse or crème brulee
Four Breakfast Options
- Chickpea and squash miso soup with wakame & lemon
- Millet porridge with sunflower seeds and sugar free jam
- Buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup and walnuts
- Breakfast muffins
- Fried tofu and steamed broccoli
The emphasis is on whole, living plant foods, organic where possible. These natural high quality foods have been proven to aid and establish good health. There are some instances where quality fish and ethically reared meat can be used occasionally, depending on a person’s individual needs and requirements.
Food which make up an average macrobiotic diet include:
- Whole grains and good quality whole grain products (such as flours, breads, wraps, pasta, noodles, polenta, grain milks, amasake etc). Whole grains include quinoa, buckwheat, barley, brown rice, spelt, corn, amaranth, millet, wheat, oats.
- Plant protein such as beans, pulses and legumes. This includes tofu and tempeh as well as black beans, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, pinto beans, butter beans, sprouts, haricot beans, black eyed beans etc
- Fresh fruit and vegetables that are, preferably organic, locally grown and seasonal, help us tune into our environment.
- Mineral rich sea vegetables such as Irish moss and dulse, nori, wakame, kelp (kombu), arame, hijiki, are also used as well as health boosting fermented products such as sauerkraut, pickles, umeboshi and miso.
- Then a variety of seasonings and condiments are used so that a wonderful array of tasty meals and dishes can be created. Seasonings include organic shoyu (a healthy soya sauce), sea salt, herb salt, bouillon, umeboshi (salty, pickled plum – sounds horrible, but actually is a wonderful ingredient to use and has so many great health benefits). Vinegars (balsamic, apple cider, brown rice, umeboshi), oils (sesame, olive, sunflower, are often used but other oils such as coconut, rapeseed, avocado are good occasionally).
- Herbs and spices in small quantity to add flavour and variety
- Sweet seasonings include dried fruit, grain based syrups like brown rice or barley malt, or others including maple syrup.
- Nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters and milks are great additions.
All these ingredients can be prepared and cooked in a variety of ways according to the season and your family’s health, which means they will never get bored as the possibilities are endless! You can re-create a healthy, macrobiotic version of just about anything so you never feel like you are missing out. Instead, you’ll be selecting the most nutritious foods and nourishing yourself and the family in the process.
Are there any foods to avoid if I choose to eat this way?
Since macrobiotics focuses on plant based, whole foods nutrition, the food recommended to avoid include dairy products, refined sugar, processed and chemically processed foods and animal meat. Cut down on tropical fruit (if you live in a temperate climate) depending on your health and just use occasionally. Iced and cold drinks and food shocks and freezes the digestive system that actually needs to be warm and comfortable for good health, so are best avoided. When you are gluten intolerant avoid pastries, biscuits and wheat based pasta products.
How do I know what to eat?
Your daily eating plan ideally includes a range of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in the food. For a typical meal or over the course of a day consider the major food groups. These include:
Carbohydrates – complex carbohydrates are the best form and can be used often, using whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, wild rice, rye, spelt, barley. But less complex carb’s can also be used such as quality noodles, breads, pasta etc. If you are gluten intolerant you will want to avoid wheat/spelt.
Protein – primarily from plant sources like beans, pulses, lentils and legumes, ie black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, butte beans etc. Bean products such as tempeh and tofu are delicious once you have a few recipes for them. Have some fish and seafood if you wish and occasional naturally fed animal food depending on our individual health and preference.
Vitamins and minerals – using a good range of plant-based ingredients will ensure you get a good mix of vitamins and minerals. These can be obtained from all the foods, seasonings and condiments listed above.
What about drinks?
A variety of drinks to enjoy are green tea, Kukicha twig tea, black tea, rooibos, and other organic herbal teas as well as grain coffees.
Cool drinks including vegetable juices, grain and seed milk, amazake drinks and fresh greens smoothes. Also organic apple juice, organic and good quality beer and wine if we are in good health.
Advice or tips for anyone completely new who wants to eat in this way?
First things first; not to panic or go into overload! Start off by making small changes and trust that you will learn and grow in your experience and cooking skills .
A good place to start is to clear your cupboards of junk food or highly processed food and drink including anything with E numbers and refined sugar in them, such as sauces, condiments and fizzy drinks. Go through your fridge and cupboards and read all the labels. You’ll be surprised to find a whole load of chemical and sugary substances lurking in so many things, and a lot of poor quality salt.
Next introduce more whole foods.
Start by choosing one or two whole grains (such as millet and/or brown rice) and learning how to cook these and turn them it into something you enjoy. Stock your cupboards with beans, lentils and pulses so you can add these to soups, stews and salads. Dried beans and pulses are best but if you don’t know how to cook them and lack time, buy the organic ready cooked ones until you learn how to cook the dry ones.
Start eating more local and seasonal vegetables. You could order a weekly local, organic vegetable box from organic farms such as Riverford or Abel & Cole.
Reduce your intake of heavy meat and dairy products and replace them with some of the quality proteins listed above. If giving up meat sounds like too big a step for now try using fish instead.
When eating out, don’t be afraid to ask for sugar, dairy, meat or gluten free. Choose seasonal ingredients and explore what vegan options might be available. Failing that, some fresh fish, seafood and lentil dishes with vegetables are on most menus.
Investing in a couple of good macrobiotic cookery books is great. Have a read through and choose one or two new dishes to cook per week or search on the internet for macrobiotic recipes.
Getting support is really helpful. This might be from a family member or a friend who supports and encourages you and then share a meal with them from time to time. Joining together with others who are following a macrobiotic lifestyle is also encouraging as you can share your new experiences and how you feel. If you want to go all out, look for a consultant or a coach who will support and guide you to make healthier choices for yourself.
Some of the benefits of following a macrobiotic diet and lifestyle?
There are so many benefits to eating & exercising this way. Some of them are:
- Increased energy & better digestion.
- Improved mood & appreciation for life
- Weight loss or weight gain.
- Better sleep and concentration
- Improved bowel movements & reduction of bowel problems
- Relaxed breathing & reduced stress
- Reduction in minor symptoms & complaints such as headaches, colds, joint problems
- Less sneezing and less itchy or inflamed skin.
- Improved overall health
- Feeling a sense of peace and harmony
- More connection to others and nature
- Improved confidence