Frustrated. That’s about the only word to describe how I feel when it comes to nutrition research and what we’re supposed to be eating in a healthy diet. And when I say “diet”, I’m talking about our day-to-day food intake. Not some crazy fad diet to help a person fit in size 0 jeans. (If you really want that, try the flu.)
I want to make healthy food choices. I think the vast majority of people feel the same way. I don’t always make those good choices. Occasionally I’ll grab lunch at the drive-through and lately I’ve been on a Dr. Pepper kick.
But a lot of the time? I’m thinking about health when I think about food, because what we put in our bodies has a direct impact on how we feel, how our bodies perform and our long-term quality of life (and short-term, as well).
My family has been raising beef cattle for many generations, providing a great source of protein for people who don’t have the resources to raise their own. Did you know there are 29 lean cuts of beef? Total fat content falls between a skinless chicken breast and a skinless chicken thigh. Cattle ranching is my passion; it always will be.
But I also have many friends who are in the business of raising plant protein – dry peas, lentils and chickpeas. Those legumes are stocked in my kitchen cupboards too. It seems there is a misconception that people who are meat eaters never, ever have something good to say about plants or eat vegetarian dishes.
I love beef. And pork. (Bacon!) But I also eat plants, vegetables and fruit. And chocolate cake.
It seems like one day we’re being told that all meat is bad. In a week, some red meat is okay, but only if we eat it on Tuesdays. Three months down the road, we’re only supposed to eat fish, no chips, with an extra serving of leafy greens and mineral water. And then it’s absolutely no grains of any kind unless it was grown 4,000 years ago.
So what is the best practice for choosing what to eat? These are guidelines I try to follow:
- Eat in moderation. Just because it’s good for me doesn’t mean overeating is justified. Likewise, eating sugar or fries on occasion is okay.
- Balance. Both animal protein and plant protein are good choices.
- Read the research, but always think for myself. This goes for just about everything in life.
- Go to the source. Questions about how a cow is raised? Find a rancher to talk to. Wondering about the slaughtering process? Visit a butcher. Even for those who live in cities, the internet age has put these types of things within reach.
No one is an expert on food as a whole, and I would highly advise no one view what the media reports as expert. While I have a great understanding of how beef is produced, I don’t know much about pomegranates and salmon.
We’re all in search of information on food; let’s help each other out.
* This post was written for Blog Action Day, a day each year where bloggers around the world write about the same issue (this year it is food) to help raise awareness and fuel discussions. Today is also World Food Day.