The science of nutrition is confusing. There is so much conflicting information out there. What’s a mama to do?
A few years ago, Jennifer Seinfeld’s cookbook Deceptively Delicious launched a storm of blog posts. The book featured recipes with sneaky ways of putting vegetables into kids’ food.
Some people were outspoken in their criticism of the book, saying that it was wrong to deceive kids.
But you know what? I don’t get it. Modern moms are inundated with advice on feeding their kids. Thousands of books and blogs are written about the topic, and much of what they say is contradictory.
We Moms get to feel guilty that our kids aren’t eating enough vegetables. But if we sneak them into their food we get to feel guilty about duping them?
There is no way to win this conundrum. Our culture tells us over and over that we moms are to stay mired in perpetual mommy guilt. We simply cannot win.
I have always aimed to feed my kids a whole foods diet. When my now 14 year old daughter was 4, she didn’t know what a hot dog was. I admit to brainwashing my kids a little when it comes to nutrition.
I don’t buy or bake junk food. We eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I never buy sodas or juice and discourage my kids from eating poorly. For the most part, they’ve made the connection for themselves that eating junk makes them feel bad.
But the older I get, the less confident I am about any particular diet being ideal.
There is so much contradictory information out there on the topic of nutrition. I opt out of spending my entire waking life trying to get to the bottom of it all.
The doctors, health experts and researchers, foodie bloggers and authors of nutrition books don’t even agree on this stuff. Care to join me in a quick rundown of the existing opinions on nutrition?
For every group convinced of one way of eating, there is an opposing camp with an equally logical sounding argument.
One camp says that meat is evil and will make you fat, congested, ooze cancer cells and die early, there are those who say you need it for optimal health and that our ancestors and all cultures the world over eat it and thrive. And then there’s the French paradox.
One camp says that milk is nasty and slimy and causes everything from bad breath to constipation to failed marriages (ok maybe not but almost), and then there are those who say milk is a perfect heath food but it needs to be raw. Is raw milk safe? Depends on who you ask. I guess it’s safe unless you’re one of the people who drinks it and dies. Then again, people die from eating raw spinach so who knows?
One camp says that food should be eaten raw. The opposing camp says we don’t have multiple stomachs to digest raw fibrous vegetables easily and even monkeys have the sense to “cook” their food to get the maximum nutrients.
One camp says that fruit has too much sugar and it should be avoided. The other group says that the body can’t tell the difference between “natural” sugar and the white stuff once it hits your blood stream so go ahead and eat fruit … with a cookie on top while you’re at it!
One camp says that carbohydrates are from the devil, that they cause tooth decay, overweight, diabetes, low blood sugar, schizophrenia, mood swings and other evils. The opposing camp says that it’s too much protein that is the dearth of humankind and that can lead to osteoporosis and other ills. Who is right? I haven’t a clue.
One group swears that fat is bad and makes you have heart attacks. The other says fat is a health food and necessary for brain development and nervous system health. This group even tries to debunk the cholesterol thing that doctors have been preaching for decades as myth.
One group is convinced that food combining is necessary for good health. The other group says that’s nonsense and that your stomach contains the equivalent of battery acid that can handle whatever you throw at it.
One camp says that you should only eat foods that work with your blood type, others say that’s utter poppycock and there’s no scientific evidence in favor or it.
One camp says fish is absolutely essential to good health and a veritable wonder food. Their detractors cry “mercury!” and “overfishing!” and would prefer we spend $10 for a deck-of-cards-sized fresh fillet.
One group says gluten, flour and wheat are bad for everyone and will make your teeth fall out, and that the grains you do eat should be sprouted. Others say bread is the staff of life, a gift from God and the way to salvation. (The latest confusion for me on this topic? The phytic-acid-is-bad versus phytic-acid-is-our-friend folks! Don’t get me started on the white versus brown rice argument.)
One camp says that soy will prevent hot flashes and help you stay thin. The other side claims that soy is industrial waste, a poison, and that it will give your sons boobs and make your hair fall out.
Then there’s the GMO and organic schools of thought. Some say non-GMO and organic food is no better, so don’t worry about spending more money on food. And that GMOs will cure world hunger.
What about beverages? Any controversies there?
For everyone who says coffee is bad for you, there is another study showing some health benefit to drinking it.
And the water thing. Some people swear that drinking a gallon of it cures every disease known to mankind. Others say Adam and Eve didn’t tote bottled water around and that drinking that much can actually harm the kidneys and cause death by overhydration. And before that, it will lower blood sugar and metabolism.
Tea. Tea is safe, right? Not so fast! Tea may have tons of antioxidants and make you relaxed, but you gotta watch out for … fluoride! Zing!
Here’s another thing to ponder.
People all over the world eat profoundly different diets yet are healthy.
How is it that the Masai peoples in Africa subsist on meat, blood and milk and are healthier than most vegetarians? And how is it that one billion people who eat mostly rice are also healthy? The Inuit and other northern tribes thrived on a diet of mostly fat with no (gasp!) vegetables or fruit. And the Irish built a civilization and they ate mostly fish, potatoes and oats?
It’s enough to make a mom a little nutso. Could it be that it just doesn’t matter as much as we believe it does? That we’re all just looking for something to feel constant guilt and obsess over?
Maybe we need to relax and not to take it all too seriously.
If the experts can’t even agree, can any of us ever find the truth?
The pursuit of the perfect diet is not unlike an eating disorder in itself.
It’s called Orthorexia. The truth is, if we are obsessed with every crumb that passes our lips, we may be creating more dis-ease than if we have a more relaxed, balanced approach.
To our grandmothers who lived during the Great Depression, all food was good food. Nowadays people are as passionate about their food choices as they used to be about their politics or religion. I wonder if we’re healthier as a result?
So maybe in the end, the best thing to do is eat what makes you feel well. (For me, that means being sugar-free. I also don’t do well as a vegetarian, so meat is necessary.)
But other than that, maybe we need to stop questioning food so much. At the very least you would have more time to devote to other endeavors.
I read a book on nutrition that may just be the last I ever read on the topic. It’s called The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong.
Just one tiny thing about the book that I thought was fabulous:
In one study, when subjects ate foods they enjoyed, they gleaned more nutrients from that food. When the researchers gave that food to people who didn’t enjoy it, their bodies absorbed less nutrition.
Bingo! Our brains have a lot to do with it. Gasp! Enjoying your food…. pretty controversial stuff.