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.