Are you a vegetarian?
Are you a vegan?
Why do you choose not to eat meat?
Well, since you eat fish, you're not really a vegetarian, are you?
I get all of these questions and more from readers, friends, family members...strangers...on a regular basis, and there isn't really a simple answer to any of them. Why I eat what I eat is more complex than labeling myself a vegetarian or a vegan. It's about eating what I enjoy, what makes me feel best and provides the most benefit to my body.
Do I eat within these philosophies 100% of the time? Not exactly, but they're in my mind whenever I make a decision about what to put in my mouth.
1. Eat what you like.
I don't eat meat mostly because when I was eleven years old, I didn't like it. The texture disgusted me, the flavor was weird, and I more or less had to plug my nose when I swallowed to avoid throwing up when I ate it. On the same token, I do eat fish because I do like it. My family has a fishing lodge in Alaska and I have the privilege of a freezer full of the best quality fish possible, and I enjoy the heck out of it.
2. Eat what makes you feel good.
I love cheese. I could eat nothing but cheese all the time if I was basing my decisions solely on my taste buds. But cheese makes my whole body feel inadequate and droopy. I don't get all gassy and belly-icky, I just plain don't feel good on dairy. Pump me full of freshly squeezed juice made from whole fruits and vegetables, though, and my body sings.
|Mediterranean couscous salad (recipe here)|
3. Healthy food doesn't have to taste bad.
I won't tell you I always loved fruits and vegetables. When I first stopped eating meat I subsisted on cheese pizza and french fries. Hey, they were vegetarian weren't they!? I wanted to eat food that tasted good, and salads just weren't it.
As I grew up (I mean, come on, at eleven I was hardly educated in preparing my own meals) and started experimenting with different kinds of fruits and vegetables, I learned that a) most of them are pretty dang delicious all on their own and b) when you combine them together, they need little else to make your taste buds do back flips. I learned how to make my own healthy dressings for salad and developed an appreciation for the simple flavors of a strawberry in season or a perfectly grilled spear of asparagus.
|Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie (Recipe here)|
4. You can always have more later.
I grew up with brothers. And if you didn't grab the good stuff now, there wasn't going to be another chance. But now that I am an adult, that rule doesn't apply. I can savor a box of Godiva chocolates for as long as I want to. I can eat one piece at a time if I want and there will be plenty of time to have more later.
|Tomato Basil Pancakes (recipe here)|
5. Don't save the best for last.
I have always prefered to savor things. When eating a plate of food, I always saved the part I was looking forward to for last, getting the lesser stuff out of the way so I could fully enjoy that prized morsel.The problem with that method is that I often found myself full before I got to what I really wanted and stuffing myself so I didn't miss out on the best part of my meal.
I don't eat that way anymore. I find it far more beneficial to eat the best part first and then if I have room, stuff in some of the less exciting elements. I find myself eating less and ending on a blander note actually feels more satisfying because I'm not wanting more of the last taste in my mouth.
|Carrot and Fennel Soup (recipe here)|
6. Go ahead, have a treat.Because what fun is life if you can't have a treat now and again? Just make sure it stays a treat and doesn't become part of your daily intake and you'll be dandy.
There you have it. A few simple things I keep in mind when making choices about what I eat. I try to follow them as often as I can, but sometimes life (and cheese!) prevent perfection. I get too tired and we order pizza or I sit down with that box of Godiva and realize I've eaten four pieces and then I feel that rush of sugar invade my body. As long as I'm on the path the majority of the time, I feel healthy and excited about life...and about food.
Do you have any food philosophies? What do you consider when deciding what to eat?