Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What to Eat, or Not...

Is anyone else totally frustrated with the current state of "our" (collectively) relationship with food these days?

That might be somewhat of a rhetorical question considering all of the books and documentary films hitting the market these days on that very topic. Currently in my bedside reading table...The Omnivore's Dilemma.

On one hand it is so interesting to learn how we have gotten to the place we are in America's food culture. On the other it's down right frustrating trying to sort through it all and figure out the healthiest way to feed one's self...not to mention a growing family.

For the most part we eat pretty simple in our family. We try to stay away from highly processed foods, though you will still find a few boxes of crackers, snack bars, store bought cereals, and a loaf of store bought bread next to the name brand peanut butter in the pantry. (Not to mention my weakness for Pepsi.) I try to make sure we are eating fresh when we can and opt for the closest thing to fresh when we can't. (Such as choosing frozen veggies over canned.) I for one like to know what I am eating rather than wonder just how many unpronounceable ingredients went in to making my dinner. (Also the reason we opt for real sugar, not sugar substitutes...no "diet" items for this household.)

Trips to the grocery store usually go pretty quickly since most of our shopping happens around the parameter of the store...through produce to meats to dairy through frozen and done. Granted there are a few frequently visited isles in the middle too...mostly for cereal, pasta, bread, and baking ingredients...but most days we can be in and out in 15-20 minutes, depending on the wait time at the meat counter (if we are getting a meat item) and the check out lane.

I've been eating mostly gluten free for about 2 months now. (I say mostly because sometimes I choose not to avoid it...like this weekend when we ordered pizza out. Or those days I just want to enjoy a beer...you know, a REAL beer, not a GF one.) For the most part I am still very happy that I made the decision to move in the GF direction...even without medical evidence that it's what my body needs. I can FEEL that my body is happier and that's good enough for me.

(Side note: I find it sad that we have become so disconnected with how food nurtures our bodies, or doesn't, that we don't feel empowered to make food choices without some medical evidence or proof of "good or bad" provided by studies and recommendations of the food industry. Many often willingly follow the latest diet/food fads without stopping to think "how is MY body responding to this change?" or about "how do I individually feel about the limitations presented by this certain diet?" But I digress...)

While the change hasn't been always easy, it hasn't been hard either. Since we already eat pretty basic foods, changing some of the ingredients we use to cook/bake with has simply meant trying products to take the place of the old. That doesn't mean we have increased the amount of processed foods in our diets in search of the "gluten free" label. Processed is processed. Period.

Today my Mom's email asked if I had seen any articles about the problems that can arise as a result of eating gluten free when it's not deemed medically necessary.


So, I did what I always do when posed with such a question...Google search.

Which provided a number of articles from what I consider to be reliable sources. Nothing earth shattering...you know, nothing like how I'm gonna die tomorrow from eating gluten free without the advisement of my doctor. I particularly like this article and this article. I also found this related article on the food industry interesting, even though it really has nothing to do with eating gluten free or not.

(Another side note: I love how articles written to disprove a certain diet, whether potentially healthy or imbalanced by design, always point out how said diet could cause nutrient deficiencies "if not properly planned." As if our regular dietary habits are so perfectly balanced. You know...never too much fat or sodium or sugar, never consisting of empty calories. Um yea...)

So, I'm not too worried about giving up my new (mostly) gluten free ways.

I AM to a point where I'm just tired of thinking about making the best food choices for our family. I'm tired of reading labels. Even though I know I have made the choice not to go vegetarian, I find myself unable to eat meat without thinking about the animal that gave its life to provide my meal, wondering what type of life (and death) that animal experienced. I notice myself reading WHERE a food item has come from trying to make my selections of which brand/item to buy based on how far that item had to travel to get to my store.


And sad. I miss simply being able to enjoy food for the experience of the taste or the textures in my mouth. I miss being able to savor a meal (or a treat) without thinking about trans-fats or processed sugars or bacterial contamination or environmental impact. With the holidays close at hand I find myself already stressing about how/what choices I will make about food through the next 2 months...about how strictly I will stick to being gluten free and just when it's going to be OK to throw all caution to the wind. I feel as if there's been one more layer of complication added to a time of year that I already find emotionally challenging on so many levels.

My brother and I were having a conversation this summer about awareness, being connected to the present moment, and understanding how our individual actions can affect the greater world. At one point I commented that sometimes I wished I could go back to going through life mostly "unaware." At which time he responded that because of the path I have chosen, that's simply not going to happen.

Hmm. Bummer.



s said...

Have you read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan? I think that his philosophy is great...and helps me sort through the "stuff."

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