I did not always know how to feed myself well. Some days it’s still hit-or-miss.
For a long time I simply ate foods that tasted good and ignored what happened next. I ate when I was sad, I ate when I was happy, I ate when I was lonely. I ate delicious food, lots of it, and I ate it often.
All that time I thought I was eating to make myself feel better. Less sad, happier…just better. But I never did feel better. I would get that fleeting intoxication that comes from the taste of food, but then I felt worse than ever: weighed down and exhausted. How could I eat with the goal of feeling better when I didn’t know what feeling good really felt like?
Finally, when faced with enough health issues to have a wake-up call, I took a step back and did two things that changed my relationship with food for the better:
- I did my nutrition homework. I learned about our body’s basic nutritional needs, what portions were optimal, and what foods were nutritional powerhouses.
- I started to listen to my body. I began to pay attention to how I felt after meals and did a bit of detective work to discover how various foods affected my energy level, mood and digestion.
I’ve learned that the more I pay attention to my body, the better I do at feeding myself well. And the more I feed myself well, the better I feel. Now I know what it’s like to actually feel better after a meal and not worse. Game changer.
I’m always learning and make new discoveries all of the time. Sometimes I stumble upon a new food that is both nutritionally sound AND hits the spot when it comes to taste. In other words: a food that truly makes me feel better.
My latest food crush that fits this bill is bison.
The fact that bison is appearing so regularly on our dinner table is a surprise to this vegetarian-raised, plant-loving girl. I didn’t start eating red meat until my teens, and then spent the next decade making up for years lost. I lived on a steady stream of red meat for a long time, but when I started digging into my diet to find solutions to my out-of-whack digestion, I discovered that beef was not my friend. It was one of the foods making me feel sluggish and weighed down. Nowadays even one reasonably-sized burger gives me the meat sweats. Definitely not feel-good food for me.
Bison on the other hand, delivers all the same meaty flavor as beef, but is easier to digest. I find that it has less fat so it doesn’t weigh me down. Better yet, it’s got a rich, complex taste that makes it a good swap for beef in many recipes.
For fellow nutrition nerds, here’s the skinny on bison:
Grass-fed bison (which is NOT all bison — read your labels and do your homework when purchasing) is as high in Omega-3s as salmon and has high concentrations of selenium (a trace mineral that is loaded with antioxidants and may act as an anti-inflammation aid and mood-elevator). It’s also leaner than it’s grass-fed beef counterpart.
I love ground bison because it’s versatile, satisfying and relatively easy to find. I’ve been using it for burgers, chili, shepherd’s pie, these meatballs and for this Indian Kheema. But most often, I make this Bison Mushroom Ragu. Maybe it’s because I tend to have the ingredients on hand. Maybe it’s because it is good on so many things (pasta, baked sweet potatoes, cauliflower puree….). When I’m craving something beefy and rich and full of flavor, this ragu does the trick. Tons of mushrooms bring layers of earthy umami to the party, and a nice dose of vegetables to such a meaty dish.
Cooking with bison reminds me how important it is to try new foods and pay attention to how they make my body feel. Had I kept a narrow view of red meat, I would likely have avoided bison all together thinking it would be too heavy and rich. Instead, I experimented, I kept an open mind and I listened to my body.
I’m still learning how to feed myself well. Trusting my gut is helping me get better at it every day.
- 1 pound crimini mushrooms, cleaned & quartered
- 1 small white onion, peeled, cut into large chunks
- 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into large chunks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, smashed (NOTE: I like to smash fennel seeds in a mortar & pestle to break them up a bit, but you can also leave them whole.)
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 pound ground bison
- 1 teaspoon salt
- cracked black pepper
- 15 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1 large sprig basil
- 1 cup water or beef stock or vegetable stock
- Place the chopped mushrooms, onions and carrots in a food processor.
- Pulse until finely chopped but NOT pureed.
- (Do this in two batches as needed.)
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat.
- Add the olive oil and the minced vegetables.
- Cook over high heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until mushrooms have softened and given up most of their liquid. Keep the heat high so that liquid evaporates quickly.
- Add the fennel, chili flakes and oregano.
- Add the bison, salt and some cracked black pepper.
- Continue to cook over high heat, breaking apart the meat, until bison is mostly browned.
- Add the tomatoes, basil sprig and water/stock.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
- Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes until carrots are very tender.
- Serve over pasta, baked sweet potatoes, cauliflower puree or any other way you can imagine!