Whatever I cook for  you.

Food choices are so complicated that you can spend as much time as you like trying to answer that question. You still won’t find one good answer for most people.

brocha on flickr
brocha on flickr

So you want to stop eating cows because they are adorable? Fine with me. You want to believe that you are what you eat and want also to be strong like bull? Also fine. You want to stop eating all genetically modified products? Maybe, but you’ll starve if you are too strict. People started tinkering with food genetics before it ever had a name.

Farmer college came before space camp, ya know.

The only diet I will completely refuse to support is this one: The Food Free Diet.

Eating locally wasn’t a choice 200 years ago, it was the way all people had to live. There were no refrigerated airplanes or trains or ships that could bring you food from another continent.

By the time my grandparents were kids, tropical fruits were still a treat to people in North America. People here went utterly bananas for bananas.

Of course now, we have food transportation that allows us to have a fruit bowl that mingles specimens from all over the planet. Grapes from Chile with Florida oranges and Kiwi from New Zealand can hang out on the table being all blasé and asking, “What? We do this all the time.”

It’s a wonderful luxury that we can do that, but should we? Local fruit might only be apples, pears and pumpkins at the moment, but they’ll be cheaper and tastier than that guava that had to hitch a ride from India.

I’ve been studying nutrition for something less than 200 years, and while there’s plenty to make us worry, there’s as much to be hopeful about. More smart people than ever before are trying to figure out what and how most people can eat healthfully without destroying the planet, and that is very good news.

If you want to learn facts about food, read nutrition journals rather than magazine articles or splashy web blurbs. That way you’re getting the information from the source, rather than some sensationalized translation. Stories are continually published making declarations such as “eating nuts will save your life,” and they exaggerate the findings to make it sounds like you’ll be immortal if you eat nuts. That’s… crazy.

Just because Mediterraneans on “The Mediterranean Diet” are statistically healthier longer than other populations, that doesn’t mean it’s ideal for every little lady in China.

As we learn more about genetics, there may be a batch of recommendations based on your DNA that could provide you a tailored diet to reduce the risk of this and boost the odds of that. (Watching as people do not follow their tailored diets would be entertaining, too).

Diets and guidelines don’t only have economic and political components, there’s always fashion to consider. Just today I bought a four-dollar box a pea shoots for no reason that I can explain in words. Okay, maybe I can. I saw them there and I was charmed by the idea of eating baby greens. That wasn’t a thing that reasonable people did when I was your age. It’s just a fashion thing–paying too much for a baby plant because it just seems fresher and cuter.

With so much nonsense and conflicting information, how are you supposed to decide how to eat?

Remember when you were little and the rule was that you guys had to taste everything on your plate? That’s the way I want you to approach finding your diet. Try everything. Keep the desire in your snacks. Peel things; pick, pile, pounce, and play with your food. Don’t let any regimen take the joy out of food for you.

Also, please don’t do anything too radical without understanding the science as best you can. People can overdo anything, including fear of food.

My favorite distillation of eating advice is Michael Pollan’s: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

That’s a great place to start.


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