This is a guest blog post by Ashley Koff, RD
For years, people would routinely pose the same question me “so what are you?” Pretty sure that people are clear that I’m a brunette, a female, even that I’m a dietitian (though sometimes they confuse that with a nutritionist – sorry folks, I have a license and years of education plus internship to show for it).
Since the question usually came amidst a conversation about food choices, I would presume they were asking about my eating habits. And for years, I wouldn’t really have an answer.
I had been a vegan, a pesco-tarian, a person following a macrobiotic diet and later Westin Price’s protocol; I had dabbled with Atkins out of curiosity (and the promise of daily lattes with half and half), the Body Ecology diet (despite not having a yeast problem, call it ‘professional curiosity’) as well as other “plans”.
So the question was about my eating for sure, but I also realized that it came with undertones. Obviously if I, as a nutrition expert, was eating in a certain fashion, that must be the plan I endorsed for others.
It got me thinking – what protocol or plan do I endorse?
A few years ago I had the good fortune to vacation, truly vacation – as in no cellular service once we hit the seventeen miles of dirt road that took me to the ranch, as in no cell service while I was casting, wading, or glaring at the bank in search of snakes, and as in not eating a single thing from a package.
During that trip, a ranch hand cooked dinner for me one night, a fly fishing guide brought me lunch daily, and a group of women invited me to their gathering where I sampled some of their amazing treats. Yet, I was in Montana – and in Montana they eat meat, and not just meat but game.
I haven’t eaten meat in 15 years after a rather memorable experience with some veins in a supposed chicken breast in my college campus café almost sent me right into the hands of my frozen yogurt-loving, bin-food candy eating friends. While that didn’t work out to well as fuel for college requiring energy, the no meat part lasted.
But back to Montana. At first I declined to eat antelope, to taste bison, or try any other meat. I said no to the dairy from the cow whom I could see eating the grass just outside the window. Then, someone said to me “so what’s your objection? Is it animal cruelty, taste, or what they might be fed, cause I can tell you I treat these animals like they are my kids – no hormones, plenty of grass…” and then he chuckled and looked at his grown son “and I do kill them when it’s time – I guess that’s where it’s a little different than my kids.”
“So what was my objection,” I pondered.
I object to animals fed food they wouldn’t eat in nature, to the medications used to treat them when they develop illness related to eating the wrong foods; I object to artificial ingredients, chemical combinations made in a lab to look like things in nature but that don’t chemically resemble what’s in nature. I object to genetic modification of plants (and certainly of animals) so that we can speed growth up or get more of something when what nature provides should be plenty. And I object to making claims about components of foods when one doesn’t have anything nice (or worthy) to say about the rest of the food or product. Thus, I realized, I had no objection, other than what my palate may or may not enjoy, to the meat being presented to me in Montana. It was quality food.
And so, “Qualitarianism” was born.
Being a qualitarian, is, I believe, the solution to our health issues today – all of them. We wouldn’t have the quantity and intensity of health issues (mental and physical) if we ate better quality foods exclusively. And if we all ate better quality foods, they would cost less resulting from greater demand for food coupled with lesser need for advertising money to be spent to counter the poor quality food products. If we all ate better quality food, better quality food would be more available, too.
What does it mean to be a qualitarian?
It means, first and foremost, that you choose to be the gatekeeper for what goes into your body. That you don’t feel deprived but rather empowered when you turn down a veggie burger with genetically engineered ingredients or hexane and rather enjoy one made from organic quinoa and mushrooms or a wild salmon burger or a grass-fed burger.
It also means saying no to a ready-to-eat salad of chemically sprayed lettuces in favor of cooking your own organic broccoli (great to start with frozen too).
And it means taking pride in being smarter than the front of a package or a commercial. Yes, you are smarter than both of those; yes, you are. You are smarter than the package that tells you what it wants you to know but doesn’t tell you the rest of the story.
There are so many amazing resources out there today to help you on the journey to becoming a qualitarian. I have added one more – the Ashley Koff Approved lists – so that if you don’t know what questions to ask, don’t have the time, energy, or even don’t care to do the work, you can feel comfortable that I have asked the questions and have evaluated the products for you. Why should you trust me? Because I became and remain a registered dietitian to address my curiosity, which can be at times relentless, about what is actually good quality in our food system. That, and because I am not paid to evaluate any products – the Ashley Koff Approved stamp of nutrition for optimal health can’t be bought, it’s earned.
I hope you will join me in becoming a qualitarian and please email me (email@example.com) questions and follow me on facebook at the Ashley Koff Approved fan page or on Twitter @ashleykoff for daily tips and discoveries on being a qualitarian.
Ashley Koff RD, founder of Ashley Koff approved (AKA), the stamp of optimal nutrition, is your go-to source for any questions about food, dietary supplements, why and how to be a Qualitarian. Seen regularly in such media outlets such as The Huffington Post, Good Morning America Health, E! News, O! The Oprah Magazine, Redbook and Glamour, Koff is the resident nutritionist for the upcoming CW’s “Shedding for the Wedding.”