It’s only food. Don’t freak out.

I don’t follow a diet.  I try to live by the seven word Michael Pollan directive – ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’  I’ve added three more words: ‘don’t freak out.” I included that because it’s hard not to panic when you read headlines like, “These 5 food will kill you in your sleep and then ass-rape your children.’ 

Look, food is more than just a bunch of nutrients that you ingest to give your clearer skin, lower cholesterol or make you a ‘sexual tyrannosaur’ (thank you Jesse Ventura).  You don’t pop a meal, like you would a pill prescribed by a doctor.  

stir fry

I made this stir fry with homemade mock duck. It was delightful.

That was part of the message I gleaned from this NYTimes article about studies that show that saturated fat is not as bad for you as you were told before.

“The single macronutrient approach is outdated,” said Dr. Hu, who was not involved in the study. “I think future dietary guidelines will put more and more emphasis on real food rather than giving an absolute upper limit or cutoff point for certain macronutrients.”

In other words, stop focusing on the individual bits in food and concentrate on eating real food – the whole food – than obsess over the stuff that’s in it.  I’ve done the same thing too.  

Being healthy is more than just getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids from the food you eat.  Happy is healthy.  Bacon cheeseburgers  and chocolate mousse make me happy, but so does looking svelte and feeling energetic. If I eat too many burgers and chocolate I will no longer be happy.

There are no evil foods.  There are just some that you should eat more often than others.  The Times article points out that in the freak out over saturated fat, people have replaced those fatty foods with lots of carbs, sugars and processed, pre-packaged foods.

“It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines,” he said. “If anything is driving your low-density lipoproteins in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.” 

So watch out for another freak out about ‘evil carbs and sugars.’  I’ve already seen articles like this one, in which a woman writes about her family’s one year prohibition on sugar. I get it.  Because of my family’s history of hypertension, I’ve become a sodium-watcher.  And like sodium, added sugar in foods is responsible for a lot of food-related illnesses like diabetes and the like.  But from what I gather, the best way to avoid sugar is to stop eating processes, pre-packaged foods – including those Annie’s frozen vegan burritos.  Which, are tasty by the way.  

I thought we’d learned by now that diets that rely on strict prohibitions just lead to imbalances in other ways.

A lifestyle with strict prohibitions on certain foods is just not sustainable for me.  Some folks can do it.  More power to them. 

In addition to the 10 words to eat by, I follow a couple other guidelines.  I cook most of my own dinners.  I know a lot of people say they don’t have time to cook.  I, on the other hand, have at least an hour a day I can devote to cooking or doing advanced prep like washing and organizing salad greens and veggies for later consumption.  I do it, not only because it’s a way to avoid the added sugar and sodium from processed foods.  But I really like cooking.  It makes me happy.  It’s a creative outlet that really enables me to enjoy the fruits of my labor. 

Also usually two-thirds of the meals I eat are vegan.   It’s not really difficult. My breakfast usually consists of oatmeal with raisins, walnuts and almond milk – for lunch, I have a big salad with a small chunk of whole grain bread or vegetable soup or stews. But if I want to have a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch one day – no problem.  I like to make my own cashew milk – which has become even more fun with my new Nutribullet. (I’m not anti-dairy, but I don’t like cow’s milk in my oatmeal.)  I’m looking forward to using that thing to make some kickass sauces and marinades.  I also like making seitan – which some people call mock duck or ‘wheat meat.’

Apparently, people like marketable labels like Mark Bittman’s VB6 (vegan before 6 p.m.) to explain their diets or lifestyles.  I like the term ‘flexitarian.’  Or militant food moderate.  


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