This guest post was written by my father, Kent Burden. He’s a personal trainer, master wellness coach and currently holds degrees in Natural Health Science and Hollistic Nutrition. He’s also the author of 14 health and wellness books available at Amazon.com, including Is Your Chair Killing You and The Clean Eating Dinner Cookbook
For many of us eating lunch out can feel like a dirty bomb going off in the middle of our healthy diet plan and if you’re eating at fast food joints, that’s actually a pretty accurate description. But if you live in the Seattle area, eating lunch out can get you some great food that’s also really good for you.
Let’s start by letting you in on what I think is healthy food, as my definition may not be exactly your idea of healthy. I’m a big fan of what is called clean eating. I believe in real food, fresh, minimally processed and made like somebody’s great grandmother would have made it.
Another important thing is diversity. Not ethnic diversity, but diet diversity. All the foods you eat have a different nutritional profile, and the more variety you bring to your meals the more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and micronutrients you get. The problem is, most of us are eating the same things over and over. That’s where eating your way across the Seattle food landscape can actually improve your overall health.
I don’t live in Washington, but my son does and I visit him about once a month. This is what I’ve discovered by following him around the city while shoveling some of the best and most diverse foods the city has to offer into my pie hole.
At Mike’s Noodle House I had congee with black chicken and gai-lan or Chinese broccoli. If you’re not familiar with black chicken, it’s a specialty bird that has naturally black feathers, black skin, black meat and black bones. This bird is not produced by the big factory farm chicken outfits and if you saw it at your local QFC you would probably run from the store screaming about rancid meat, never to return. But this chicken is pure pastured gold, loaded with protein and higher in omega 3 fats than your store-bought chicken. The flavor is a little gamier than a regular chicken and pairs well with the creaminess of the congee. Gai-lan is a nutrient dense vegetable that is very different from its broccoli cousin you probably currently eat.
If you want some adventure try the congee with tripe and clams. There is nothing subtle about this dish. As you might suspect, the offal has a strong minerally flavor that actually pairs quite well with the iodine tang of the clams for a full flavor punch to the mouth. Not only was the meal awesome but it helped me move in the direction of getting the variety our ancestors enjoyed in their diets.
If you eat meat it’s probably chicken, beef, pork, fish and maybe you throw in a little turkey here and there. But our ancestors regularly ate what we would consider to be those staples and added venison, elk, bison, wild boar, pigeon, quail, rabbit, goat, duck, lamb, other wild beasts and even insects to the mix.
In the plant department today, only 50crops provide 90percent of the world’s calorie intake, and if you eat 25 different varieties of those crops, you’re way ahead of most people. But did you know there are more than 30,000 edible plants growing on the earth today? And you can bet that our hunter gatherer ancestors knew and feasted on every one of them that grew around them.
Eating a large variety of different foods was the key to our evolution, which is why we as humans require nearly one hundred different compounds to stay healthy. Seattle is a great place to rock the cornucopia of foods our ancestors enjoyed.
At Bongos, a cool Cuban place in Phinney Ridge, I had the most amazing yucca fries and plantains I have ever tasted. The plantains were golden yellow and a little sweet, though more starchy and completely unlike the bananas they resemble, just like the ones I’ve enjoyed in Jamaica. The yucca fries had a sweetness that surprised me; they were altogether different than the potato fries I’m used to. Yucca and plantain aren’t foods that I eat on a regular basis, which means I’m getting a whole new set of nutrients. They also offer beets and Chayote salad, which is roasted beets, crisp chayote, guava glaze, queso fresca and cilantro with red wine vinegar and olive oil.
If you really want to go off the reservation, give Poquitos on Capitol Hill a try. There, they offer toasted grasshoppers in chili-lime sauce. The critters reminded me of my favorite chili lime potato chips and paired really well with my Modelo beer. Insects are considered to be the cutting edge of nutrition for the coming century since they are super high in protein and are ecologically sustainable to raise.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to expanding your horizons and your palate as you try to keep eating healthy in the incredible city of Seattle. If you’re looking for great healthy options, Seattle is the place to be.