A lot of us ask: Should I eat meat? What about pork vs. beef vs. chicken, is one better than the other? How about dairy? It comes from animals, should that be off the table? Should you only consume fruits and vegetables? Are fruits okay to eat? Should you ditch all grains and no longer eat peanuts?
So much advice out in the world, and even more scare tactics and fear-inducing articles. Before I get to my advice and how I choose to feed myself and my family, let’s break down a few of these lifestyles and make sure you really understand what they mean.
The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as “someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish*, insects, by-products of slaughter** or any food made with processing aids created from these.”
Within vegetarianism, there are four groups of people.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs; this is the most common type of vegetarian diet.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarian. Eats eggs but not dairy products.
- Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.
Ideally, vegans and vegetarians are eating meals rich with fruits and vegetables. Although that is simply not always the case. There is a vast selection of faux meat products, which are as processed as a hotdog, although they are made without meat. Just because you are vegan or vegetarian does not in itself mean you are healthy, but the likelihood is there.
The paleo way of eating is to eat as the hunters and gatherers would have way back in the day. If you could hunt it, gather it, then you can have it. Meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, and seeds are all on the table. What you cannot have are grains, legumes (beans, peanuts), potatoes, refined sugars, processed foods and dairy, to name a few.
Parts of the paleo diet I can get behind. Cutting out processed packaged foods, completely for that. Eliminating refined sugars, dairy and grains, I can get behind. Although I don’t eliminate any foods, permanently. And you certainly better not take my peanut butter away!
I don’t villanize any food. I believe that when you tell yourself you can no longer eat this or that, immediately it is all you want.
If you have a craving for a food that is off limits, then all of a sudden you are filled with guilt and shame because you believe the food is bad and you shouldn’t be eating it. I am not living like a hunter and gatherer. I certainly don’t homestead (although I would love to one day), so why the strict dietary rules as if I was a hunter and gatherer?
How do I choose to eat?
I believe the season of life and your current physical and emotional health play great importance into how you should be eating.
I do not like labels and I really don’t like putting myself, or anyone else in a box. I believe variety is essential. You do not want to get bored with your food. This means textures, spices, and flavors should vary. Keep your taste buds happy and your food delicious.
About 4 times a year (each season) you should do a detox, or a cleanse. This gives the body a break, specifically your digestive system. Our bodies are a workhorse, and to give it some extra TLC, you need to lighten the load and let it have a little bit of a vacation.
If I ever feel like I am becoming consumed with cravings, for example sugar, which just happened this last holiday season. Read this post right here: Chronicles of a Winter Break Sugar Addiction. In those instances, you need to eliminate specific foods to break the addiction.
I just spoke to a woman a couple of days ago that I had advised to quit her Splenda addiction. I had given her tips on how and why it would benefit her health. She took it to heart and she did it. She proceeded to drop a significant amount of weight all because of that one action. She had broken her addiction to sweets simply by stopping use of her sweetener. Even though it is not sugar, it has a negative domino effect on the body. It causes intense cravings for sweet foods, along with a myriad of other negative effects.
So yes, at times certain foods need to be eliminated.
If you are sick, ill or diagnosed with a condition, these times require dietary modifications of a more intense nature.
Emotional health is directly tied to physical health. If someone told me I couldn’t ever have a slice of dark chocolate cake again, my mental state would plummet. This would directly affect my physical health because of my emotional state. It is all about balancing, and learning the balancing act. As you begin to eliminate packaged processed foods, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, you body balances itself out. Therefore, you get off of the sweet then salty cycle of eating. When you body receives proper nourishment, it is content, no longer yearning and grasping for any and all foods because you aren’t feeding it properly.
The way I choose to eat is a mix of paleo, vegetarian, vegan and everything in-between. I limit my dairy and grain intake because that is how I feel best and I believe most others do too. Animal products, grains and dairy are inflammatory to the body. Everyone’s body.
Some weeks I barely consume any animal products, other weeks I may eat some meat most dinners, but no matter what the predominant part of my meal is veggie-rich. I know this is attainable for families. It is a well-rounded approach that won’t demonize any specific foods. Yes, I do have potato chips in my home. No, I do not make everything from scratch. Nothing is totally off limits.
A funny thing happens when you start enjoying meals made with beautiful fruits and vegetables, you yearn for them. If you eat a burger and fries, you can’t wait to get back to your veggies because they make you feel so darn good.
If you need any help with a meal plan for your family, I would love to give you a FREE 7 day meal plan with a mix of paleo, vegetarian, & vegan meals. Trust me, in 7 days you will have a noticeable improvement in your health, every single person in your family. Click here to get your free plan!
Make sure to sign up for the FREE 3 Day Spring Clean Your Body & Mind Challenge.
Completely free, filled with info to help you drop weight and feel great! 3 days, I challenge you to do it. Share with your friends because everyone loves to have a partner in crime.