Our society has many, many different messages out there about what we should eat and how we should prepare it. Even among those that honestly believe in their advice, there's incredible diversity. Adding considerably to the confusion are the charlatans and snake oil salesmen looking for a slice of the billions of dollars spent in the pursuit of healthy eating.
One reason for the different messages is the differing motivations behind the recommendations. People can choose what they eat on many different criteria. Some of these are:
- Aesthetics -- concern centered on the culinary quality (taste, etc) of the food. Some of the drive behind the "eat local" movement is centered in this concern. Vegetables grown from legacy varieties and plucked from the local farm this morning are probably going to taste much better than veggies bred for shelf life that have spent a week or so in trucks and warehouses. How much we enjoy our food is important to some degree to most of us, though -- not many of us can treat food strictly as fuel.
- Nutrition -- concern centered on what our food does for (and to) our bodies. There's a tremendous amount of conflicting advice about what foods constitute the optimal fuel and even on how that food should be prepared. If there's a medical goal such as treatment of obesity, diabetes, or other conditions, the individual faces choices that are that much more confusing. My take is that we simply don't know all that much about human metabolism (as if PWD's need to be told that), and that the next decade or so may bring some clarity.
- Ethics -- concern centered on the effect on others of our food choices. We can choose food based on the environmental impact of its production and shipping, on the economic effects of our choices, and on moral issues such as the eating of animals.
- Other considerations -- many other factors affect our food choices: product availability, what will fit comfortably within our budget, what can be prepared with our cooking skill sets, and what our families will put up with.
In about a week, I'm due to have a phone consultation with a dietitian supplied by my insurance company. I'm hoping to get some personalized recommendation on daily carbs and fat grams and some notion of how to meet those targets. I know how to eat low carb, and I know how to eat low fat, but I don't know how to do both and get enough calories to keep me from yelling at strangers.
Food. It's complicated.