I went for a hike in the forest on Mt. Hood yesterday, where I learned how to find, identify, and harvest wild Chanterelle mushrooms. It was such a great experience, that I thought I’d share it with all of you.

I’ve never harvested food from the wild before, and it reminded me of just how important the food we eat is, and how terrible most of the food available actually is. We go into the supermarkets and we’re confronted by all kinds of concoctions born from laboratories, claiming to be food. Vitamin infused wheat cakes. Rows upon rows of bottled bubbly corn syrup in plastic jugs (translation: coke, pepsi, yes, that crap.) Soy-pulp mush.

It’s difficult and time consuming to find and eat foods grown in the wild, but the benefits are worth the effort. Food grown from the forest floor is full of nutrients that over-cultivated soil just doesn’t produce.

A lot of us don’t eat real food anymore, and by doing that we’re alienating ourselves from our potential, and quite frankly killing ourselves.

This summer I read Michael Pollan‘s illuminating book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, which delved into a lot of these topics with a lot more depth, knowledge and research than I ever could offer. I strongly suggest you pick up a copy.

Mushrooms taste amazing, harvesting them myself was an incredibly fulfilling experience, but there are ways you can improve your diet without driving up Mt. Hood and romping around the woods, here are some that I use daily.

Rules for the Minimalist Diet:

1, Eat only food that will spoil.
If it won’t go bad, it’s probably bad for you. Vegetables spoil, meat spoils, bread that is good for you will go bad. These are both real foods. Buy them and learn to cook them.

I commonly only buy food that I’m going to eat that day. This way I can really listen to my body and see what I’m craving. Is today an Avocado day, or do I need mushrooms? I don’t eat meat often, but some days after a really hard workout my body will literally be crying for a piece of chicken.

By shopping for what I’m going to cook that day, I can answer these questions, and also eat fresher food.

2, Shop the periphery of the supermarket.
Most supermarkets are designed with the produce on your right as soon as you walk in, hit this area first. Fruits and vegetables are some of the most wonderful foods on earth – we should all eat them. Meat will be at the back, so that’s safe too.

Avoid the middle of the supermarket, that’s where the food products that last forever and thus are full of preservatives and crap food science.

3, Don’t buy anything that claims to be healthy.
Vegetables aren’t part of organizations, they don’t have public relations departments. This might be confusing, because there are a lot of products in the store proclaiming to be the solution to all of your problems. Like Froot Loops!?

4, Eat mostly vegetables.
Vegetables are truly amazing, they’re incredibly complex organisms that we’ve been thriving on for centuries, but modern food science has coaxed us away from them by tricking our senses with sugars and false promises.

I’ve been eating mostly vegetables since reading Pollan’s book, and the results have been amazing. Before I was constantly struggling with wildly fluctuating weight (mostly my tummy) and energy levels that just didn’t make sense. Now I feel healthy, and most importantly, I look healthy!

Not only are vegetables good for you, they’re also the simplest diet you can eat. There are no wrong choices in the produce section. The biggest challenge for those of us born in the modern age is learning how to cook them properly, but that’s the adventure. And that brings me to my last point:

5, Cook your own food

The best thing you can do for yourself is to prepare all of your food from raw ingredients. Not only is this the most fulfilling way to eat, it’s also the healthiest, and the cheapest. I do this for almost every meal, unless I’m away from my house.

When you eat food from random places (NYC bodegas come to mind, but also like everything) you have no idea where the food came from. Can you identify all of the ingredients? Probably not. Good food at restaurants is expensive, and most of us can’t afford to eat good food for every meal if we were to eat out.

I’ve found that I really enjoy cooking my own food. Last night I made a stir-fry with ingredients that I had harvested from the forest floor. Can you imagine how thrilling that was? And best of all, the main ingredient cost only $5 (and I still have a HUGE bag of mushrooms), that I put towards carpool gas. The rest of the ingredients cost me under three dollars, and I was cooking for two.

So cheap, so awesome. Go forth and eat well!

You might have noticed that I don’t have comments. It’s not because I don’t love you, it’s part of the minimalist approach. Comment systems have their upsides and downsides, and I’ve weighed both of these and come to the conclusion that I don’t want to spend time moderating comments on my website. But you can still comment: if you want to reply to anything that I write here, hit me up on Twitter!

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