Getting started on a macrobiotic diet doesn’t have to be hard. Besides knowing the basics of the diet, Jessica Porter, author of The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, offers some tips for people who are new to this eating plan:
1. Experiment with Whole Grains
The macrobiotic diet is based on whole grains (and other plant-based foods), but that shouldn’t mean relying on whole grain bread and crackers and instant oatmeal.
“Whole grains are cheap and easy to cook”, says Porter. “To start, put a pot of brown rice (or barley or millet, or quinoa–variety is important) on the stove and let it cook while you take a shower and get ready for work. Easy peasy. Eat some with lunch and dinner for two days.”
Although many macrobiotic recipes include brown rice, try to eat a variety of grains such as barley, steel-cut oats, millet, or farro.
2. Chew Each Bite of Food Well
The macrobiotic diet isn’t just about what you eat, it’s about how you eat. People are encouraged to slow down and eat mindfully, which helps to avoid overeating. According to Porter, chewing each mouthful of food thoroughly will also aid in digestion. “Complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains) need a particular enzyme in your saliva in order to be absorbed completely. “
Porter suggests striving for 50-100 times a mouthful. If the prospect seems daunting, you may wish to start with 20-30 times per mouthful.
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3. Limit Dairy and Pick Up Sea Vegetables
“We wean ourselves off our mother’s breast at a certain age. Even calves get off the udder and start eating grass after a while. So what the heck are we doing perched under a cow as human adults? It makes no sense to the mind, and even less to the body,” says Porter.
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According to Porter, other dietary factors are important. “The truth is that we need good-quality minerals and they come from a variety of foods such as: sea vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and grains.” Examples of sea vegetables include nori, hiziki, and dulse.
Although Porter concedes that getting off dairy may take a while, she suggests non-dairy milk substitutes such as soy or rice milk to ease the transition.
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4. Try Natural Sweeteners
Although sugar consumption is generally limited on the macrobiotic diet (in favor of nutrient-rich whole foods), certain sweeteners are considered okay. “I have a sweet tooth, so I was unbelievably happy to discover that barley malt, rice syrup and amazake (a sweet rice drink) were all REGULAR ingredients on the macrobiotic diet,” says Porter. “Even a little maple syrup passes muster!”
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5. Be Patient with Yourself
The macrobiotic diet is about balancing oneself with the natural world, so it’s important to ease into the diet and learn recipes that you’ll enjoy. “It took three years for me to go from dabbling in macrobiotics to eating 3 macro meals a day–happily and consistently. If you are not using macrobiotics to recover from a serious health condition, you have the privilege to experiment”, says Porter. “Use your body like a chemistry set, really learning the effects that different foods have on you. Maybe you need a Twinkie hangover to really appreciate a brown rice buzz. By doing this research, your body will begin to choose what it prefers over the long haul.”
She suggests reading macrobiotic cookbooks or taking a cooking class. “Getting back to nature is a lifelong adventure. Be nice to yourself and have fun.”
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