We Are What We Eat

In the March 2014 issue of Outside magazine, I found what I’d long searched for in a brief, un-credited piece called “Focus on Food Quality.”

According to the article, the foods we eat fall into ten basic categories and can be ranked by their nutritional value as follows:

1.  Vegetables
2.  Fruits
3.  Nuts, seeds and healthy oils
4.  Fish and lean meats like chicken and turkey
5.  Whole grains
6.  Dairy
7.  Refined grains like white pasta
8.  Fatty meats like bacon
9.  Sweets
10.Fried foods

Our daily diet should include more of the first food than the second, more of the second than the third, and so on. In general, we should “eat from the first five categories more often with only occasional dips into the second five.”

Finally, after years of wavering food pyramids and partitioned plates, I’d found an eating plan that fit my list-crazed mentality. I rarely bypass any article, news story, or blog based on a list. Perhaps this eating-guide-as-list could hold my attention beyond tomorrow’s breakfast.

Over the years, I’ve slowly self-corrected my earlier, unrestricted eating habits and adopted the first five foods as the bulk of my diet. So as I examined the list, I basked in the glow of my self-righteousness.

But smugness fled faster than a startled hummingbird when I read the phrase, “occasional dips into the second five.”

“Occasional” I could live with, because it’s open to interpretation. To some, it might mean on alternate Thursdays of months beginning with M — if there’s a full moon. Others might define “occasional” more liberally as no more than two out of every three meals.

But the word “dip” flummoxed me. It implies a quick trip in, then immediately out, and back to business as usual. Who can do that when faced with a dessert buffet? I can’t. I dive right in, the party’s on, and oh my, do I enjoy myself.

Fortunately, I’ve developed a related skill that helps me work my way back into the top half of the list before I drown in a sea of chocolate and caramel: self-forgiveness. I grant my binge-weary brain a full pardon for careening off into pepperoni pizza, fried everything, and assorted dessert items I’ve squirreled away in case an unexpected horde stops by for dinner.

Strengthened with forgiveness, I slowly return to the top five food categories on the list — my smugness a mere shadow of its former self.

Have any tricks you use
to eat more healthfully? Or not?
Please comment

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20 thoughts on “We Are What We Eat

  1. I try not to bring it into the house. Let it remain on the store shelves. Now, that’s for when I do the shopping. My hubby, the poster child for Jack Spratt, has stashes of goodies all over the house. He’s either a lousy hider, or I’m an excellent seeker.


  2. Too funny. In my case, I’m an excellent hider and my husband is an even better seeker; so when I go to retrieve something I have a hankering for, it has been found and consumed. And the man has never known guilt.


  3. I have had great results with Weight Watchers. It is not so much a diet plan as it is a system that makes you stop and think about what you are putting into your body. There are points assigned to everything and you are allotted so many points per day, with some flexibility in the bonus points for the week.


  4. I have dealt with “old Devil” fat since I was 14. It is important to recognize emotional eating. Working at this time in a Health Food Warehouse, I realize a lot of info is a racket, like panic over gluten. I come from a long line of short, dumpy women, in the store we get every age and size. I saw a card recently- Life is short, remember all those women on The Titianic who waved away the dessert cart. I think it was Erma Bombeck. So I avoid sugar in excess, and beets of course, thanks for a thought provoking post, yet again, from Sheila.


  5. Like lots of women food and weight have been a big part of my life. I still remember now being on conversation with someone about wasted calories who was clear that she’d only ever use them on things she loved the taste of. So I have followed this. I taste a biscuit and it’s not as good as I’d like so I simply stop eating it- before I’d have eaten it regardless of pleasure. Somehow it changes everything…. And luckily for me the things I mostly love the taste of are good for you things… With the sometimes treat of life’s essentials of chocolate and ice cream! So only eat what tastes delicious works for me….


  6. Erma my Guru to, saw a brilliant Biography of her. Do you have the story of Mike and his Dad’s lawn? I carried it in my wallet for years, still chokes me up. Glad food is a pleasure for you.


  7. I agree with you, Janet. I tend to dive into the “second five” more often than I dip into them.
    The only healthy eating trick or tip I have is to try and eat more foods that I grow myself, or eat more dinners that we cook up from scratch. But that resolve often disappears when faced with a tempting desert bar or some fine southern cooking!


  8. I’m glad you found the list worthy of thought. I certainly did. It was at once validating and indicative of changes I could still make. And I agree with you about the sweets. At least they weren’t dead last. Good to hear from you, Cindy.


  9. This you ask of a woman who just downed two hot dogs loaded with onions with a large helping of Lay’s potato chips on the side? Yeah, right! ;>) I told myself it’s “the 4th”, so I’ve gotta eat what everyone else is eating, right? (It’s only “the first”, so I’m a tad early with my excuse…..Oh well…as my realtor always says, “It’s all good”!!) ;>)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too funny, Lucie. Joel and I just decided to have ribs, potato salad, and baked beans with root beer floats for our celebration; and I’m sure I’ll prepare enough of all of that to have leftovers we have to eat for a few days. And hot dogs. I love hot dogs. We once had them and all the potato chips we could eat for Christmas Eve dinner when we weren’t with family and wanted to eat something decadent we both love.


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