#2: On Nutrition

#2: On Nutrition

I have been fascinated with nutrition for years. I loved learning about the four food groups as a kid. I was secretly excited every time my mom went on a health kick and made us eat nuts, cheese and fruit for an afternoon snack. I also knew, though, it wouldn’t be long until she caved and my sister and I would come home from school to the scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  While I was always happy to smell those cookies, I always wondered how long I could have gone without them.

As I’ve grown up, I have adopted a fairly nutritious diet. I have come to a point where I mainly stay away from all processed foods, except for the occasional indulgence in a box of Pasta Roni Fettuccini or a bag of Cheetos.  I love to cook from scratch and even grind my own wheat. Overall, I have felt pretty virtuous, even a bit smug, about my food choices.

I was knocked down a few pegs, however, this summer while I was visiting my family in Florida. My mother wanted us to watch this documentary that her doctor had recommended called Forks over Knives. The bottom line of the film was that for optimal heart health and to prevent cancer and all sorts of other scary diseases, we should adopt a fat-free vegan diet. It was backed up by extensive research and case studies. By the end, my parents and I were completely on board. That is until we really started thinking things through. No avocados, no ice cream, no olive oil, NO CHEESE???!?!?! WHAT????????

I was deflated. Here I had been thinking that I was doing so well and yet, there was still so much more I could do. Mom ordered one of the books and we kept researching and thinking and discussing. What would this look like in everyday life? What could we actually, practically do? And who should we listen to? So many others are saying things like “olive oil is heart healthy,” “eat more fish,” “eat more dairy.” There is just so much information to navigate, how can we figure out who to trust? And yet, I was intrigued and began wondering if I could actually do it.

I know one thing about myself, though. If I tell myself that I can’t eat a certain food ever again, that food will quickly become my obsession and eventually I will cave and eat it. But, if I focus on finding things I like and that I CAN eat, pretty soon, I realize that it’s been several months since I’ve eaten “bad food x” and I’ve hardly missed it. This past year, I had already decided that I would try eating only one meat meal a day. In the process, I discovered several vegetarian meals that I like and enjoy. I even found that I often had completely meatless days. And I was fine. I didn’t miss the meat as much as I thought.

So this summer, I gave myself the following challenge: Don’t bring meat into the house. I let myself have it in restaurants and at friends’ houses, just not at home. To soften the blow, though, I allowed myself to bring fish into the house, so I didn’t completely meet the challenge – but I have done pretty well. Currently, I am working on adding new vegetarian and vegan recipes to my repertoire. I’m having fun experimenting and realizing that I’m not missing meat as much as I thought I would. I am continuing this experiment now that school has started.  I am curious to find out where it all will lead. Will I eventually go vegan? Who knows? Not sure I’ll ever be able to completely give up dairy, but anything is possible one step at a time.

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