Monday, August 23, 2010

Just What Momma Said: All Things in Moderation

As I have spent the summer discovering what it means to eat healthy, I have been searching for my diet niche. What is the word to describe how I eat, what I avoid, or why I eat the way I do? Am I vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, no-dairy, or only organic? The more I searched and the more I experimented in my diet, the more I seemed to find that I could not adhere to any named restrictions and obligations, although I do believe in many of their fundamentals. It is funny that after an entire summer of searching for my diet niche, I ended up right back to what my mother has been trying to teach me since I was three years old: moderation.

Vegetarian. My interest with a vegetarian diet came about when one of my best friend’s Mary decided that she wanted to try out eating vegetarian. She had seen a disturbing video on the production of meat and the treatment of the animals. Much to my hesitation, she showed me the video and that night we both decided we would spend the week refraining from meat. We both lasted the week, but after that I found it too hard to deny myself meat altogether and pretty much went back to my pre-video meat consumption except I still always thought twice before consuming it. Mary discovered that this was something that she both felt passionately about and something that she enjoyed (she will be posting about her reasons to go vegetarian later!). As the summer went on, I kept running into books, essays, and articles about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. I have finally come to believe that we has humans don’t need to eat the amount of meat that we on average do, that the majority of the meat industry has turned into an assembly line factory-like system with little regard to the quality of the meat, and that the treatment of the animals is both detestable and abhorrent. I do not however want to cut meat out of my life completely and I have therefore resolved to stick to eating around one vegetarian dish a day.

Gluten-free. I came across the idea of eating gluten-free when one of my good friends from home, Ashley, discovered that she was in fact gluten intolerant. Eating gluten wasn’t causing her body huge health problems but she constantly felt tired, groggy, and overall down. It was actually her acupuncturist who first told her that she had gluten intolerant. Once she took it out of her diet, she could not believe the difference it made in the way she felt. At the time I was convinced that if I wasn’t gluten intolerant, then it wasn’t something I needed to concern myself with. Then this past year I learned that Alexis too was gluten intolerant. The more I talked to her and Ashley about it, I began to realize that maybe there was something to be said for everyone cutting some gluten out of their diet. I haven’t fully come to figure out how this will play out in my daily diet but I am planning on doing a week without eating gluten and see if my body feels any differently.

No- dairy. The idea of refraining from dairy in one’s diet is still very new to me and I was really on introduced to the idea this summer after reading some different vegan blogs and bits from my good friend Ana (hopefully she will be posting soon!). The arguments I am attracted to for not consuming dairy would be the high caloric intake that often comes with dairy and coming from similar inhumane factories (or farms) that produce meat. I highly doubt that I will ever cut dairy out of my diet completely but I do try and watch how much dairy that I do it. It is very important to consume enough calcium in my diet, so I am very consciousness that if I am refraining from some dairy that I am replacing it with some other calcium source. One of my favorite and easiest ways to replace dairy while still keeping the calcium is to simply replace regular milk with soy milk.

Organic. As every health-conscious person, I am naturally drawn to the word organic on any food label or menu description. As a college student I am also naturally wary about the usual inflated price and critical of how organic something really is. Despite this, I do try to eat organic whenever possible because I believe in its importance to my health. Besides organic though, I also pay attention to food that has the word local attached to it. Often I would rather by food that is produced locally but not 100% organically than to buy food that is produced organically but has to be flown half way across the world. Also it is important to be critical of what a food company is claiming as organic. The word organic is often exploited and it is important to do a little investigating into the true nature of the production of some of your staple food items such as chicken, fruits, and vegetables. Overall I believe the simpler and more natural the production of my food is, the better it is for me.

It has taken twenty years and hundreds of thousands of meals to come back to what my mom has been trying to teach me all along: moderation. I will not completely deny my self much that I generally crave but I do have food and diet principles that I won’t compromise on account of gluttony. Food should never be something you see as evil or a burden (the day you do, a huge source of happiness has left your life) but rather it is something to love and enjoy. When you eat good and wholesome food, it becomes less about how many calories or carbs or fats there are and more about how many nutrients and vitamins and goodness is inside your delicious meal. I will leave this with a quote from one of the most famous and beloved chefs, Julia Child.

“Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.”

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