The Macrobiotic Diet

By Nancy Smorch

As you know, I’m studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition this year (and am loving it!!).  These last couple of days I’ve been playing a catch-up, as I fell behind a bit with the lectures and homework.

A couple of weeks ago the topic was macrobiotics, and there was a lot of discussion about grains. Not wheat, as most people think, but the other grains: quinoa, millet, buckwheat, brown rice, oats, amaranth, cornmeal, and wild rice, among others.

The macrobiotic diet recommends eating at least 50% of your food as grains. The remainder is made up of vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, and some animal protein when needed. It also emphasizes living a life of balance and harmony with the basic laws of nature. This translates into eating locally, as food that naturally is grown in your region will help you live a healthy life in that particular region. It also suggests cutting out processed foods and sugar, and being mindful of eating with the seasons.

There is much more than that going into this philosophy, of course, as it is a whole way of living and not just eating. If you’d like a crash course on what macrobiotics is, click on the link here.

As with all diets and ways of eating, if you choose to incorporate them into your life it’s extremely important to observe how you feel after making any changes. You need to listen to your body - it never lies! What works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next.

And even what works for you one week (or even day) may not work for you the next week (or day). Crazy, right?  How are we ever to figure out how to eat??

I think the short answer to that question is to increase your awareness and become more in tune with your body.

Anyway, back to grains. I enjoyed the lectures on this topic, as well as some of the suggestions for cooking with grains. A lot of people think that cooking with grains will take a long time, so they won’t even try (or they will buy, dare I say, Minute Rice!).

But IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition), gave some great suggestions for incorporating more grains into your diet without a lot of fuss (and time).

Their suggestions? At the beginning of the week, say on Sunday, make a big pot of brown rice, for example. You can use it in your meal Sunday night, by making a simple stir fry - with chicken, beef, or tofu and vegetables, cooked with vegetable broth and tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and garlic.

Then on Monday morning, you can use it again, say with a corn tortilla cooked in olive oil and some scrambled eggs with black beans, garlic, rice, avocado and cilantro.

Monday evening you can make fried rice by adding some vegetables and egg along with tamari and a touch of sesame oil and sesame seeds - get creative with it, or check here for suggestions.

Then on Tuesday morning, you can mix some of the rice with some oats along with almond milk and make a porridge.  Add some fresh fruit of your choice, some nuts, or even dried fruit like figs or dates, and drizzle it with honey or maple syrup.

Tuesday night you could do a burrito or a rice pilaf, and for dessert you could even make rice pudding!

If you still had enough left over, you could make Sushi in a Bowl (rice, toasted nori strips, shaved carrots, chopped cucumbers, avocado and seasoned tofu, mixed with a tamri and citrus sauce).

You could do the same thing with quinoa. You could make a big batch on Sunday night and use it for 2-4 days that week.  Quinoa, by the way is extremely nutritious. It is a complete protein, high in B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and Vitamin E. It is gluten free (yay!). It’s been around for around 8,000 years and is has the highest nutritional profile of all the grains.

This will take minimal planning up front - you merely have to set aside time to make the grain, and then think about what to use it for over the next few days. In the long run, it will save you time and ensure that you are including grains in your diet.

Try it out for a week and let me know how it goes!