Friday, September 4, 2015

The Best Meal Plan

Here's another theory on how the First World diet got derailed.  It's not that the foods we eat are that bad. It's our pursuit of the "best".  Having the income, leisure, and abundance to choose, we pick badly and we pick too much.

We are always hearing of people who are around seeking after the [ideal diet]. I have never seen a (permanent) specimen. I think he has never lived. But I have seen several entirely sincere people who thought they were (permanent) Seekers after the [Perfect Diet]. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment- until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the [perfect food]. That was the end of the search. The man spent the rest of his hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his [diet] from the weather.- Apologies to Mark Twain, "What is Man?"

There are restrictions that blame individual ingredients, like MSG or gluten. Or diets that glorify or demonise an entire Macro-nutrient (protein, fats, carbohydrates). Diets that increase fiber, ethically restrict meat and dairy, or encourage fair trade practices. And there's the pursuit of "natural", "clean", "non-GMO" or "minimally processed". 

On top of this there's the national guides that typically promote a balanced diet with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Brazil has come out with a divergent plan that emphasizes minimally processed, eating slowly and dining with family. 

One of the consequences of this multiplicity of choices, is that serious dieters are a constant search for the perfect food. I'm of the mind, after three years of logging and dieting consistently, is that it's not one food or the other that makes or breaks a diet. Sometimes the best foods are the ones that sit right in the middle. I came to this revelation as I was browsing around nutritiondata one day, looking for high-protein, low-fat options. After several miserable searches roaming near the peaks of the caloric ratio pyramid, I started browsing the middle. I searched for foods with a ratio of 30:30:40 (Carbohydrates, Fats, Protein). Up popped Edamame. 

Right away, I started to see the advantages of this little bean for the diabetic as it provides a steady stream of energy; no peaks or valleys. The modest fat content provides staying power. I wandered around that magic triangle again today and came up with a short list of foods that naturally fit in this middle

Even foods that may be deficient one way or another, can be combined with it's partners to be so much better. Consider onions, beef, beans, and tomatoes. Together they make something great, possibly better than they can do on their own. When that chili is ready, sprinkle it with a little sharp cheddar and serve it with a buttered chunk of corn bread; even better.  Finish the meal off with a fruit salad garnished with a dollop of whipped cream. There's got to be a reason this sounds so satisfying, right?

So I suggest, for sanity's sake, relax your food choices. As long as you are eating a variety of foods in a modest amount, it's all good. Glory in the middle and leave the extremes.