Reading My Way to Eating Smart

“I’m all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily.” — The Clash

Do you have any idea what to eat? It used to be so simple, you just opened the fridge and cooked up something that looked good. But nowadays it seems like every day there are new warnings about certain types of foods and new specialty diets that swear they have the answers. Eat like the Japanese. No, eat like the Greeks. No, eat like grandma told you. Aargh! Eating isn’t as fun as it used to be, despite what Anthony Bordain thinks. If you’re like me, you’re concerned about your health but you’re just not sure what’s right anymore.

I have a family history that predisposes me to adult-onset diabetes and heart disease. I’m healthy, but I’m a ticking time bomb. A few years ago, in his early 60s, my father had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery. In order to stave off a similar fate I went to a cardiologist who ran some tests, told me I was fine, suggested I pop an aspirin every day and come see him again in five years. Thanks doc, but that still didn’t help me understand what to eat. So I started reading.

I haven’t set foot in a McDonald’s since reading Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. In Defense of Food gave me some good ideas and a manifesto (Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants). The South Beach Diet was a bust (have you ever tried to eliminate carbs?). All that reading led me to think seriously about eliminating red meat but I did not. And of course it made sense to increase my intake of fruits, veggies and super foods (whatever they are). Then I saw the film Food Inc. and that pushed me over the edge — I walked out of the theater having sworn off all meat except seafood. Yep, I became a pescetarian. That was two years ago, and in that time I think the only meat I’ve had (aside from fish) is half a grass fed beef cheeseburger and a few bites of turkey at Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I am exactly the same weight and bored to death at mealtimes. And I eat way too many carbs!

I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m not an ethical vegetarian — I’m a Darwinian so that would be hypocritical (survival of the fittest and all). I’m just confused and hungry. I saw an interesting documentary a few weeks ago called Food Matters, and that made me go out and buy multivitamins and a juicer. I’m still unsure about meat though. There are all those chemicals, antibiotics and all that darn corn. Corn huh? Maybe that’s the key?

So last week I picked up Michael Pollan‘s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and started reading. He’s the unofficial spokesperson for eating healthy, and he eats meat. The book begins by posing the question — what should we have for dinner? I’m halfway through the book and have no idea what to eat, but I definitely have a new opinion of what it means for a food to be “organic” and now I’m not even sure that means anything. I am also convinced that corn is evil and grass is good. But I hope the second half of the book actually helps me answer the “what to have for dinner” question because frankly I could really sink my teeth into a big juicy steak right about now! I’ll keep you posted. And if you know what the hell I should eat I’m all ears.

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3 thoughts on “Reading My Way to Eating Smart

  1. Food, Inc. was a helluva movie. How sad that, with all the fiscal issues facing our country these days, the cost of a Big Mac is still subsidized to cost less than the makings of a healthy sandwich.

    That’s a movie that will change your world, methinks. My eating habits are less structured than yours, sir, but I do try to do more of the organic stuff. Sprouts Farmer’s Market has really spoiled us. The food just tastes better.

    Good luck with your dilemma.

  2. Knowing what to eat CAN be tough. I guess one of my main eating habits is trying to not eat things that are too processed. Meaning eating things more in their natural state. I also usually eat an apple a day :o)

  3. I’ve been ovo-lacto vegetarian for 20 years, Len, and Kelly and I decided to finally go vegan a month ago. I’ve been convinced for a long time that it’s the responsible thing to do for the planet, the compassionate choice, and hands down, the healthiest way to eat. Having learned that my father went “code blue” on a treadmill test and was rushed into surgery afterward was added incentive. We’d tried South Beach years ago (lost weight, suffered, gained it all back), and lately, we’d really been packing on the pounds—and feeling really badly about how we’d been eating.

    In the past month, I’ve been more energetic, dropped weight without trying, and watched my allergies lessen and my dependence on antacids disappear. On top of that, we’re spending far less on groceries, and the food we’re eating—which I feared would be bland and boring—is so interesting and tasty that our kids have been competing with us for it, forcing us to cook enough for them. That’s not what I expected at all. Doing all the meal planning, shopping, and cooking, I thought I’d be cooking once each meal for them, and once for us. Even the girl next door went vegan for Lent after trying some of the things I’d cooked!

    Just my experience, and while I HATE preachy vegetarians (or preachy anythings, for that matter), I can’t advocate this strongly enough. If you have even the slightest interest, I highly recommend Dr. Neal Barnard’s “21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health.” Based on medical science and research, it’s not preachy at all, but highly motivating (and includes recipes). Give it a try—21 days is easy!

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