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A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed for an article about soda . I am not anti caffeine or completely anti sugar but I am not a soda fan and if you read the article that’s very clear. From my research, I am convinced soda is not something I should drink, nor do I keep it in the house or have my children drink it. One of my colleagues, a colleague I respect tremendously, read the article. She’s a diet soda drinker and proceeded to make a good case for her habit. She explained she had an “otherwise healthful and balanced diet” and that we all have our vices and said ‘if I were convinced from the research that it was really the devil I would find a way to cut it out.” I love a debate and here, in my face, was the case for moderation, the case for there being no bad foods, a case that is sensible, logical and completely not the way I think when it come to food and weight.
For better or for worse, I believe there are foods or food products we shouldn’t eat. I don’t believe in artificial sweeteners blue, pink or yellow (though there is probably a hierarchy of nastiness). I also have a hard time with fake meats and many meat substitutes made with TVP. I think many vegetarians and vegans who rely on these products are replacing one dietary danger with another. I don’t eat wheat and feel there are many better, more wholesome grain choices even for those who do. And I’m not afraid to say most bread, at delis and sandwich shops, that people eat is junk. I am also frankly scared by factory farming. I don’t know how anyone can see Food Inc, read the work of Michael Pollan and others and not be. And finally there are products with multiple food colorings, high fructose corn syrup and preservatives, that means most supermarket products unless you sift through carefully, skip those too. Simply said, choose natural over chemical in all cases.
I see approximately 10 clients a day in at Foodtrainers. In these sessions I get a good sense of what they are eating and also the questions that arise as individuals try to change their diets. “Is sugar free Jell-O going to kill me” or “how bad is HFCS” are the types of questions that come up time and again. The truth is no research study, no matter how well designed, is going to prove that eating a food (no matter how chemical or fake) will lead to immediate death. It would be unethical to administer the amounts of these ingredients in a matter that would simulate 36,500 sodas (2 a day over 50 years), 87,600 packs of aspartame (4 a day over 60 years). In the meantime, I think we have to see the worrisome writing on the wall. Whether it’s cancer, kidney damage, diabetes blood sugar complications or any other lifelong ailment, if I see a few studies connecting a food to a disease, I’m going to take it seriously. If, in the process, I cut out a food coloring from my diet or my clients’ diets that ends up seeming safe, no harm done. Call it alarmist, extremist (wow I sound like a terrorist) whatever you will (and you will) but with food I say guilty until proven innocent though our government seems to disagree.
I am not a vegan or vegetarian but admire them. While I have no plans to give up fish or eggs, I know the passion it requires to maintain a meat or animal free diet successfully. I also enjoy the manner in which vegans network, share ideas and inspire others to try new recipes or discover new ingredients. A post on one of my favorite sites, No Meat Athlete, caught my attention. Here, (he happened to be explaining the use of the term “no meat” versus pro vegetable) he said “safe has a shortcoming: by its very nature, it doesn’t hold onto passionate people to help share it. I don’t know many passionate almost-vegetarians.” I completely agree though I’d like to hold the flag for passionate almost-vegetarians. Though not everyone will jump on board and some will run away I think, when it comes to helping people navigate their food choices, you have to take sides. I too think safe has a shortcoming and frankly isn’t always safe. Web media expert published a list of 15 steps to social medial success. I especially liked “be daring. The most memorable stories tell the unexpected, speak directly to the heart or dare customers to live life to the fullest.”
And that’s just the thing, when you suggest that there are things we shouldn’t eat you’ll inevitably encounter someone saying, as another commenter did following my soda summary “You can always just drink water, if you want to remain totally safe and consume no calories. Gee, what fun” I call it the “where’s the fun” retort. The truth is, eating chemical-free, well produced food is fun and there’s a wonderful peace of mind that comes from putting good, real food in your body. And though this commenter thinks differently, there are lots of beverages to drink, even with the removal of the soda group. I love fruit smoothies and coconut water, Fizzy Lizzy drinks and all sorts of iced teas. As for food, believe it or not, I don’t suggest my clients hole up with organic broccoli and brown rice and call it a day. I love Farmers’ markets and fresh herbs, spices and once in a while a juicy (grass-fed) burger and yes, I’d like a glass of wine with that burger.
Do you think (and be honest) that all foods, even soda, have a place in our diets? Do you believe in moderation? I’d love to hear what you think.