This past week I mentioned a few times on Facebook that I was going out to eat. Once I mentioned something about meatballs, another time a burger and then fried chicken. The response from my friends was pretty uniform:
“YOU EAT MEAT?!?!”
I can understand the confusion. I spend pretty much all my free time trying to convince my readers that eating more vegetables, legumes and whole grains, while cutting back on red meat and refined carbohydrates will help you lose weight, keep your heart healthy and stave off cancer. My recipes almost never include meat or dairy and, it’s true, I don’t eat much of these things (at least not compared to most Americans).
But I do eat pork, beef, cheese and cake, and I love them!
What really distinguishes my eating habits from a typical Western diet is the quantity and quality of the unhealthy foods I eat, as well as the quantity and diversity of the healthy foods.
As I have explained before, taste is a huge factor in what I decide to consume. I do not eat gross foods just because they are supposed to be healthy, and I do not deprive myself of foods that I love. Instead I have learned to cook myself healthy food that tastes amazing–food I would be proud to serve to friends and chefs alike. My method is to get the best ingredients I can get my hands on, and that involves seasonal shopping every weekend at the farmers market.
I have a similar strategy for less healthy foods.
When I do choose to eat meat, cheese or dessert I do so with the understanding that these foods are treats I cannot take for granted. And because I know they are not indulgences I can (or want) to make very often, when the time comes I make sure that whatever I am eating is unquestionably worth it. In San Francisco this probably means I’ll be having the best ______ I’ve ever eaten in my life.
I never waste my health or time on cheap junk food.
Besides excellent food there are occasionally other circumstances that give me valid reasons to stray off course. For example, once in a while an experience justifies making an exception. In these cases it can be more important to spend quality time with friends or loved ones than it is to have a balanced meal. No one likes a food snob, so when faced with a situation like this I just eat whatever foods I like, relax and enjoy myself. If the food happens to be unhealthy, I make some effort to not eat too much of it.
The reason I do not stress about these situations is because the biggest impact on your health comes from how you choose to eat most of the time, not what you eat some of the time.
Look at any of my grocery lists or recipes and you know that my diet consists of abundant fresh vegetables, legumes, fish, grains and fruit. This is why my cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose, iron, body fat and pretty much any other health measure you can think of are so impressive (my HDL is higher than my LDL!). But I do still eat eggs, poultry and cheese on occasion, and sometimes even bread, sugar and red meat.
Most importantly, everything I eat is absolutely delicious and there is no question in my mind I can sustain these habits indefinitely. I never feel deprived of anything. I always feel healthy and nourished. And with the changing seasons, my meals never get boring.
But trust me, if I am really feeling the burger at Absinthe I don’t hesitate to go get me one.
- Do you think there is room in a healthy diet for indulgences?
- Is there room for health in an indulgent diet?