This month’s article was written by Trina Weber, MS, RD, an active SMEDA Board member. She is a registered dietitian who specializes in the awareness, prevention, and treatment of eating disorders. She owns a private practice in Kalamazoo.
Back to Basics: Eating 101
Many in our society are afraid of food. There are numerous ways to eat – low-carb, gluten-free, lactose-free, Paleo, or raw vegan, to name a few. Some have genuine food allergies and sensitivities, but too many people cut out whole food groups because they are led to believe the popular myth that it's “better for you”. If a plate containing a ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, an apple, and some carrots was placed in front of most people, I wonder who would eat it? Some would ask: Is the produce organic? Did the ham come from a free-range pig? Can I get this on gluten-free bread?
Grocery stores don't make it any easier. There are so many choices between brand names, organic vs. non-organic, flavors, and cost that it easily becomes overwhelming. I reviewed pasta sauces at my local grocery store. There were nine different brands to choose from, and each brand had between 3 to 6 different flavors to choose from. That's almost 50 choices for just ONE food! I assume most of us buy several food items when we're grocery shopping.
So what do we do? We have to decide what is important and what is reasonable. If heart disease runs in your family, watch the sodium and saturated fat intake. If cancer runs in your family, eat a larger proportion of organic foods. If finances are tight, do the best you can with what you have. Be watchful that you are not cutting out too many food groups, decreasing variety, or becoming too rigid with food. If you want to be a vegan, aim for about 80% of your intake to be plant-based, but be open to animal products for the other 20%. Most of us get invited to parties and other social events that provide little to no vegan foods. Choose not to be so rigid that you “have to” bring only your own food, go hungry at the party because there is nothing you “can” eat, or, the worst decision of all, miss out on a fun social opportunity because there won't be any foods there you're willing to eat.
Choose not to micromanage your food. Stay focused on the big picture, which is choosing moderation, balance, and variety to ensure you get the best nutrition for optimal body function. (Notice I didn't mention weight?) We're all a work-in-progress, and do our best given our circumstances each day. Don't worry - if you feel like you “messed up” at a meal, you'll have another meal opportunity in a few short hours.