The Natural Diet: Is It Possible?

“You will thank me later.” – Adrian Monk, former homicide detective, SFPD

One of the reasons that this blog is called Jejune Diet is because food is one of the focus areas of my efforts as a blogger. Not just recipes and writing about food, but the food that we consume in other ways, the books we read, the music we listen to, the films we watch, and the thoughts and ideas that we pay attention to.

My goal is to help readers feel better about what society might call a jejune diet, one devoid of titillation and spice, one devoid of gossip and controversy, and one devoid of malicious conflict and hatred. My desire is to awaken in readers the realization that what is truly worthy of being included in our mental and spiritual diet is usually not what the media insists you have to consume.

As one learns to savor the tranquility of selective attention, of deliberate living, one discovers the true joys of life, freedom from ignorance, greed and anger, and is able to appreciate the magic that life is all about.

This post, however, deals exclusively with food as in what we eat to stay alive physically.


Almost all food that we recognize as food is life in another form. The act of eating is an act of using the vital energies and nutrients contained in another life form in order to sustain ourselves. It is an act of destroying life in order to sustain our own. And this applies to plant life just as much as it applies to animal life. Even if you are a hard core vegan, you are still consuming other life forms to sustain your own.

In addition to this is the fact that not all that is kept on the “food” shelves of the stores is really natural and organic food. Close your eyes and visualize the food aisles of your favorite supermarket, and you will realize that most of the items there are processed foods with liberal doses of preservatives that prevent them from behaving like organic food and break down. The process of creating and packaging food products involves steps that rob them of both their natural flavors and their natural appearance. Therefore, taste enhancers and colors are added to make them attractive and look and taste like food. So what you end up eating is really several times removed from food.

For urban dwellers like me, there are certain very powerful barriers to being able to eat natural. Availability of natural produce, time, and opportunity top the list, at least for me. With time and attention, I have been able to break down some of these barriers, while with others, perhaps it is easier to learn to live with them and compensate with goodness elsewhere.


Here are some easy ways that you can develop a natural and healthy diet without compromising your lifestyle. Most of these tips are built around the two basic acts of procuring supplies and preparing meals.


1. If you cannot carry it, you do not need it. The first principle of eating naturally is to eat fresh, which means stocking up as little at a time as possible. As you enter the store, take a basket instead of a trolley. Even if you are shopping for the week for a large family, take a basket along with the trolley. The act of carrying the weight of the basket will cue your mind as to how much you really need to buy. Once your basket is too heavy to carry, transfer the contents to the trolley and continue shopping with the basket. Overshopping and overeating are two of the most common mistakes most people make.

2. Improvise. This tip is the opposite of conventional wisdom, but it works for me. While I shop from a list for all other items, I do not list out fruits and veggies that I need to buy before I go to the store. I create a menu plan after I have brought the veggies home and sorted them out into the pantry and the refrigerator. The reason for this is perhaps my location and the stores I go to. I have found that if you go with a list based on a menu plan, the store will not have exactly the veggies that you have on your list. If this is not the case with you, and if you are comfortable working out of a menu plan and a list, go ahead and ignore this tip.

3. Audit your waste. It is not uncommon that periodically, you will discover fruits or produce, and even pantry items that you have bought which is going southwards and needs to be thrown out. Keep a page in a diary or a whiteboard corner earmarked for this, and enter the approximate price of what you are disposing of. This will help you discipline your shopping and eating habits.

4. Fill her up. When you go shopping, start by going to the fruits and veggies section first. Typically, and especially in the more contemporary supermarket format stores, these will either be at the farthest exterior wall or towards the end of the natural flow of aisle traffic. Learn to pick up your basket, not look right or left, but head straight for the produce and fruits section. I use this same principle when eating out or at a buffet. Help yourself generously to the salads and veggies first, then use the remaining space (on your plate, in your stomach, and in your visual appetite) for the fried or fatty stuff. This also helps combat the need for dessert or at least, second helpings of it.

5. Go seasonal. The basic principle to apply with fruits and veggies is to pick up 70-80% of stuff that is seasonal. Seasonal produce contains all that your body needs most for that particular season. This is why summer vegetables are typically watery and fleshy while winter vegetables are firm and lend themselves to more fiery and spicy dishes. In these global times, a lot of the stuff you will find in the produce section are brought in from other regions and other countries. Stock up on the stuff that is grown locally and then consider stuff that does not belong to your clime.


6. Build a color palette. The next principle to apply is to make sure you have all the colors in your basket. Color of fruits and vegetables are indicators to the nutrients they are made of. Ensuring that you have a range of colors lets you get a balanced intake of all the nutrients that you can get.

7. Go green. The benefits of dark green leafy vegetables are myriad, and one can really not get enough of it. (One actually can though, and with disastrous results too, but then, not everyone is as crazy as me.) With leafy greens, overcooking and boiling robs them of their true nutrient value, so consider eating them raw, or blanched. Most Indian cultures have a solid body of knowledge with regard to leafy greens, but sadly, it is rapidly being lost, especially among urban, cosmopolitan populations who equate it with conservatism and backwardness. I find myself unable to identify more than half of the leafy greens that are available at the local farmer’s market, and have no clue how to cook many of the ones that I can identify. Grab your nearest grandaunt when you go shopping for veggies next and stock up on the greens with her help. In my case, they not only helped me out with the recipes, but even took over the kitchen and served up some yummy and unusual dishes made from the fresh greens.


The process of choosing what you will eat, preparing it, and eating it is really a deeply spiritual process. For some people, food turns into a way of denying themselves access to their inner feelings, while others look on it as nothing more than a survival function. There are some who believe that one cannot have a healthy diet unless one spends a good deal of money on food. There are others who confuse quality of eating with quantity of eating. If you try and use the ideas in this post, you will automatically be guided towards natural, wholesome and practical eating habits. Eating naturally leads to clear thinking, better health, and a greater connectedness to the universe. Give it a try, you will thank me later.

16 comments:

  1. Thank God I am a very sensible shopper. I think twice before buying packed/processed food. I believe in traditional Indian food and I stick to it. Dal, Curd, Veggies, Roti etc. Thanks for all the tips. I think I can use them and improvise.:)

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    1. Saru, traditional cuisines usually pack in a lot of nutritional and medicinal wisdom which we discard in the name of modernity and urban lifestyles. Indian spices, pickles, and podis (powdered accompaniments) are the obvious examples. The same applies for most traditional cuisines. Glad you found these tips useful.

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  2. Good stuff... even I avoid packaged and processed food... and anything with too much sugar, salt and fat content... One point I'd like to add is that its always good to read the labels of what you are buying, so you know its ingredients and calorie/nutrient content, that ways you can avoid stuff with too many preservatives / or too high in calories.

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    1. Reading labels is an excellent way to be sure of what you are consuming. Back it up with a better understanding of what food is and what isn't, along with the concepts of natural identical and permitted ingredients. Natural identical does not mean natural or good for health. Permitted does not mean safe. One of the best writers in this genre is Michael Pollan, and the books of his that I have read has changed my perception of food altogether - In defense of food, the omnivore's dilemma and the botany of desire (this one is strictly not about food but about the relationship between man and plants).

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  3. I cook at home, use fresh fruit and vegetables. I have stopped stocking junk food like processed stuff, aerated beverages, chocolates (my weakness), and I plan my menu not weekly but like you do based upon the ingredients I get. But, have you noticed that certain fruits and veggies are not seasonal anymore. We get them round the year. But, these days I am worried if what seems fresh is actually healthy. With pesticides, artificial chemicals for ripening, waxing agents, adulteration, sewage water used for cultivating greens etc., what meets the eye might be deceptive. Thank you for the tips!

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    1. Localization and eating seasonal is truly becoming more difficult with the advent of technology and professionally managed supply chains. Thankfully, Indian cities still give us access to farmers markets.

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  4. these are good tips..indian food cooked at home is the best i believe..my dad goes to the bazaar every morning to get fresh veggies and fish.i don't know what i will do if i move away.

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  5. That was filling, Subho!:) Aesthetically and spiritually! Could you also share those 'green' recipes that you picked your grandaunt's brains for?

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  6. A great one Subho, and considering it an expertly researched write-up I'm glad I closely match with most of the things in there:) Thanks:)

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  7. If you can not carry it, you do not need it..

    I liked this idea a lot, will remember it :))

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  8. Once again, a very important topic presented with conviction and expertise.
    Eating what is in season, also what is from your local area is an important part of eating right. Why eat an apple from overseas which was picked months ago, when you can eat the Seethaphal from our Deccan?

    I was a working mom,food was always prepared at home,and going out to eat was rare. All celebrations, festivals , entertainment were spent in family food time.

    The change in life style happened only about 15 years back.I am amazed at the way in which people go out and eat the chemical laden food , and loose the taste for good home cooked meal.
    Enjoying the food for its flavour and taste has become rare. This has led to lot of imbalances.sad.

    The fair complextion, size zero and junk food, are the artificial goals followed by a majority , now.

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  9. Love your pointers. Very true all of them, and i vote for no.8! Colorful food -pleasing to the eye and healthy too.And also, i support buying from the local grocer than going to the big-shot supermarkets.

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  10. Hi Subhorup

    That was one healthy post :)

    And thanks for the lovely tips...

    I do follow some of them like I buy the veggies first and then decide the menu...

    In my home, its home cooked food 95% of the time and eating out is more of an entertainment activity we do may be once a week.

    Being in Singapore where everything is imported we seem to have a supply of everything throughout the year and the weather is also quite steady throughout the year. So there is no question of going seasonal.

    As Rachna pointed out, with even fruits we seem to have to be cautious these days. We hear stories of artificial color being injected into pomegranates and watermelons and waxing the skin of apples to give it the shine.

    One advice I have is , Wash the veggies very well before use. The veggies should not be washed after chopping as it results in loss of nutrients.

    Also, do not discard the water used for boiling and use it in soups or for the curries and gravies.

    Here we get a variety of greens but the names are in Chinese and some of them I have absolutely no idea how they are supposed to be cooked or consumed.

    I love articles on health and hence absolutely loved this one. Thanks again :)

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  11. a healthy healthy post ..

    Well I surly cant follow this as my work timings and shifts mess up everything

    but thankfully I think stuff here that we get is pretty good and doesnot have that much bad element on them , but then you never know ..


    good to read all , i have to look after myself now because of the work i have got myself into so will kee pa note of this article for sure

    Bikram's

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  12. I am feeling healthier just reading it :D . I think eating healthy also helps to crack better jokes :D

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  13. I am feeling healthier just reading it :D . I think eating healthy also helps to crack better jokes :D

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