• Jennifer Barnick

Food Hacks for Naughty People


Jennifer Barnick

I am a hypocrite. However, I think there are some times in life when it’s not such a bad thing to be a hypocrite. When I was ten, my father was told he had high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. His doctor told him that unless he did not completely change his life, he would have his chest sawed open. Well, things did radically change in my household. My mother bought a whole bunch of diet and health books and went on a kind of see-saw rollercoaster health ride with our old ways and experimental new ways rolling up and down and sometimes at the same time: my dad would eat a super healthy dinner then pull out some of his secret candy stash late at night. It made an incredible impression on me as to how to live, and truly, you will not find someone more informed regarding health, fitness, and diet than me. However, like my family’s take on a healthy lifestyle, my life too has some pretty naughty moments that seem to flow just right along with my saintly habits. I am not sure if I will ever have the temperament to be a perfect specimen of healthy living. In short, I am a naughty person. However, given that I am naughty, would it not make sense that I’m going to have to find a way to at least mitigate some of the damage? And here we are back again: I am a hypocrite, but sometimes it is a good thing to be one as I balance some of my worst decisions (binge-watching TV until 3:00 am on a work night) with some of the very best lifestyle habits. Here are my three very favorite food hacks for the naughty. I adhere to them religiously, and they never seem to take away my TV time or my late-night corner store candy runs or my hours of Panda Pop in bed time.

Watercress will solve virtually all of your problems. Watercress is a superfood: in a vitamin to calorie comparison, it is the most nutrient dense food on the planet. It is packed with vitamin C and K and many more vitamins and minerals. There have even been studies linking it to helping with breast cancer. In fact, if you google watercress, you will find there are several studies touting the miracle that is watercress. “According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods containing dietary nitrates like watercress have been shown to have multiple vascular benefits, including reducing blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction.” (All You Need to Know About Watercress, Megan Ware RDN LD, 2018, medicalnewstoday.com) So, while I can’t promise I’m going to be a good girl and turn off my television at 10:00 pm, I can make sure I eat a large salad every day with a couple of handfuls of watercress mixed in.

The anti-fat fad was super stupid—go nuts with nuts. Nuts are high in fat. However, they are also packed with an amazing array of minerals and oils that have a miracle-level of healthy effects on the human body. After the whole 80’s fat scare, many people still avoid them worried about their high fat and calorie count. Well, I’m here to tell you that they are incredible for you. “The nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease than those who didn’t eat nuts. Overall, they were 20% less likely to die during the course of the study. In other words, the more nuts they ate, the lower their risk.” (Why Nutritionists are Crazy About Nuts, June 2017, healthharvard.edu) There is some debate over raw versus roasted. For me, I eat an ounce of raw nuts a day. I actually treat them like medicine that I must take daily—eating nuts is so crucial. The argument for raw is that the oils are not made rancid in the roasting process. Now, raw nuts do take some getting used to, but honestly, I eat them to help make up for the fact that I love to binge on tortilla chips and nacho cheese sauce. As a side note: if you do purchase raw nuts, then you should store them in your refrigerator.

Lastly, cooking—if you are pretty sure you are going to remain naughty for some time, you just have to find a way into your kitchen. There are so many studies regarding the relationship between health and home cooking it was a challenge to single one out to use in this essay. The truth is, home cooking has less fat, sodium, often more vegetables, and far smaller portions than restaurants—and not just fast food. Home cooking was significantly healthier than even fine restaurants. “‘By cooking more often at home, you have a better diet at no significant cost increase, while if you go out more, you have a less healthy diet at a higher cost,’ said Adam Drewhowski, director of the UW’s Center for Public Health Nutrition and senior author of ‘Cooking at Home: A Strategy to Comply with U.S. Dietary Guidelines at no Extra Cost,’ published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.” (Cooking at Home Tonight? It’s Likely Cheaper and Healthier; Study Finds, 2017, sciencedaily.com) I know the big issue is often work, time, exhaustion, but if your life is hardworking, with little leisure time or rest than you should cook more than anybody. I have learned a few strategies: it is family time, romance time, party time, serious talk time, plan vacation time…in short, when I cook, everyone helps in the kitchen, and there we roll it up with whatever else needs handling (even date night). It can become the most sacred time of your day. Other tips: always make extra and freeze or use in lunches. My husband always packs his lunch, and instead of being the weird one at work he is the envied one as his lunches are fresh home cooking. A special note for the singles out there: I cook alone just for myself routinely, and it becomes very easy to adjust portion size (though leftovers can be used for lunches or be frozen), but most importantly, it becomes a kind of meditation, taking me away from all my worries and stresses. I've come to deeply treasure the times I cook and eat alone.

I was about ready to say it would be nice one day to live a saintly life—but then I paused. I’m not so sure about that. One of the best things about being naughty and a hypocrite is that it ends up giving me a kind of soft heart towards people, as I never lose sight of how many poor choices and bad habits I have. Besides, I mean, whoever fell in love with a saint? So, maybe try out some of these hacks—they might help soften some of the blows of way too much screen time, lack of sleep, or large orders of curly fries.

Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.

Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.