Tag Archives: how I eat

Food Fight: The Way I Eat (and don’t be a food bully)

Everyone has their own idea about what a balanced good diet consists of and lately I’ve been feeling extremely annoyed with how aggressive people can get about their own dietary choices.  When someone starts eating a particular way and they feel great, lost weight, cured their aches and pains, or fixed all their relationships because of this plan for eating they’ve adopted it can become like a religion – it can transform people into evangelical zealots.  Everyone’s diet has scientific proof to back up its claims.  Special diets have become more than a way to eat – they’re becoming a way to fix everything in your life.  Panacea.

People are claiming that you can fix mental illness with gut health and that going gluten free can cure autism.  If the way you eat makes you feel fit, healthy, and happy, then you’re probably eating in a way that suits your body well.  What pisses me off is when you assume that the way you eat will make everyone feel the same way you do.  People have different bodies and though we all roughly have the same organs and functions – no two bodies are the same.  Eating lots of lentils makes me feel great but a good friend of mine can’t digest them.  No matter how much science can say we’re the same, clearly we’re not.  Most of my friends love sweet peppers and feel good when they include them in their diet but I cannot digest them without difficulty – we are not all the same.  It is clear that the foods that are optimal for my health will not necessarily be optimal for someone else’s health.

Outside of some ethical and environmental concerns I think everyone should listen to themselves and their own bodies to determine what way of eating is best for them and sharing ideas with friends is fine but trying to pound a vegetarian’s head with a juicy pork butt trying to convince them that meat should be a big part of their diet is a real asshole maneuver.  Don’t do it.  Likewise, a vegetarian trying to shove grains down the throat of a paleo eater and trying to guilt them about animal killing is an asshole maneuver.  Don’t do it.

More important than what kind of food or what balance of food groups a person eats is how our food is raised, grown, and processed.  That should concern everyone and it doesn’t yet.  Highly processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, and pesticides should be concerning everyone.  And it isn’t yet.  But even when it comes to these food issues about which I care passionately it isn’t helpful to be a jerk about it.  Be an example and an inspiration, not a bully or an evangelizing zealot.

My Eating Philosophy:

I am a vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy.  I eat mostly produce that is in season, locally sourced whenever possible, and organic as much as I can afford.  I eat mostly home made food and don’t eat a lot of processed food which keeps preservatives and high fructose corn syrup to a bare minimum in my diet.  The kind of food I make is largely influenced by Mediterranean style cooking with some Asian, Indian, and Mexican dishes thrown in.

I eat a wide variety of produce, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, eggs, and dairy and I believe that’s the best way to cover all nutritional needs.  I don’t believe any of the food groups are inherently bad for you (unless you’re allergic) and the recommended balance I strive for most closely matches that of Michael Pollan and Andrew Weild.

I believe that genetically modified organisms are not food.  All “food” that contains produce that’s been genetically engineered should be labeled so I can choose not eat it.  The biggest GMO crops in the US are corn and soy so if you don’t want to eat GMOs yourself, your best tactic is to buy only organic corn and soy products because GMOs (at this point in time) cannot be labeled organic.

I believe that one of the single most important things all of us can do to is to buy as much of our food from local sources as possible.  I don’t think I’m a zealot and I certainly buy some imported foods, but I believe it’s important to make the effort to tip the scales of your food buying to local sources for both freshness, supporting local economies, and strengthening local food sheds.

The healthiest eating habits for ME are: to eat 3 meals a day, (heavy breakfast, medium lunch, light dinner).  Eating modest portions of things like cheese is important to my health.  It doesn’t feel natural or comfortable to me to eat more than three meals a day and I do better when I don’t snack often.  Eating sweets only occasionally is best.

I don’t believe in dieting but I do believe that if you are very overweight and you want to lose some it’s helpful to count calories at least for a while to see how many you are consuming in a day and to gain perspective on how many calories your favorite treats have as well as monitoring how many calories you burn in a day.  You don’t have to be scientific and I don’t think it’s ever healthy to starve yourself.  No matter what anyone else says about weight loss – there’s no magic diet or pill or method.  Calories in and calories out is still a very important aspect of losing weight.  How many calories you consume in a day does not determine how healthy you are, of course, as you could be consuming all your calories in fats or all of them in sugar.  But it’s an important factor.

I know this works for me because I lost all my pregnancy weight (40 lbs) using portion control, increased exercise, and eating what I consider a well balanced diet.  I never gave up eating cheese or bread or pasta but all of these things I ate with more moderation than I had been while pregnant and right after giving birth.  I didn’t lose weight fast but I lost it steadily and I never felt better in my life than during that period.  So for me – that’s what works and what makes me feel good physically.

The details

No Meat:

I was raised as a vegetarian so I’ve been one since I was born.  I’ve tried many kinds of fish and meat at different times to see if I really wanted to be a vegetarian and what I discovered every single time is – the flesh of animals disgusts me.  Everyone living needs to eat food that used to be alive so it’s not that the animals used to be alive that bothers me (because plants used to be alive too) it’s the carcass factor.  I do not recognize carrion as food.  Humans are animals and so I don’t see any real difference between eating cows and eating humans.  In addition to that, I loathe the texture and the taste of flesh.  The taste and texture make it very hard for me to swallow it and once I choke it down it takes some work to keep it in my stomach.  Nice, huh?  And if I manage to keep it in my stomach I then get to enjoy the fun of my body struggling to digest it (the sensation of iron balls in my stomach for days and sometimes meat-burps for a few hours).  Especially red meat.  I will happily remain a vegetarian for life.

I don’t, however, think it’s wrong for other people to eat meat IF they are only eating meat that was raised in as kind and natural a setting as possible and killed in a setting as clean and unfrightening as possible.  CAFOs are evil and so are slaughterhouses.  The only ethical way to eat meat is to eat animals that are pastured on small farms and who don’t have to wait around in a pen smelling the fear and blood of the animals being killed before them.  The most ethical and honest way to consume meat is to either raise and kill it yourself or hunt for it.

One last objection to eating meat is that I don’t think it’s a sustainable way to feed the 7 billion people on this earth.  The amount of land it takes to feed the meat appetites of humans means that the only way to meet it is through CAFOs.  Raising meat in a natural and healthy way is much too costly and takes much too much land to keep up with meat eating.  I believe that meat production is doing a tremendous amount of damage to our land (so is factory farming).  I think the only way forward for human beings as a species is to eat a lot less meat.

Or stop having so many babies in order to drastically reduce the world population.  That’s the choice but at this moment people are still eating tons of meat and having tons of babies.  The future is not looking like a good place to be for all the people being born right now.

Eggs and Dairy:

I have an uneasy relationship with eggs and dairy.  I can raise my own hens (and have) and give them a great comfortable life as loved animals and do not feel bad about stealing their eggs from them (if anyone wanted to steal my eggs I’d give them all away – unfortunately by the time mine come out they’re useless plus too small to eat).  It doesn’t harm them for me to take their eggs.  However, I can’t always have hens and buying eggs from the store is ethically unsound.  I obviously buy “cage free” eggs but that term doesn’t mean the hens are actually roaming around a nice big yard.  Sometimes all it means is that all the hens are allowed to crowd together inside a giant pen.  That’s not a good healthy life for any hen.  I try to get eggs from local people who I know have hens for their own use and are truly cage free.

Dairy, on the other hand, doesn’t harm the cow it’s coming from necessarily (if the cow is raised with care and allowed to pasture) but you can’t keep a cow in milk unless you keep her having calfs and if all calfs born were girls who could produce more babies and milk – this would be harmless.  Except that obviously it can’t work that way.  To produce dairy a number of bulls are always being born and if no one is eating them then you have animals who eat food but don’t provide anything in return.  Dairy farming only works because people are eating the boys.  This bothers me as I don’t want to contribute to the meat industry.  But everyone who knows me knows I love cheese almost more than any other food.  This is really a tough one for me and I am heading towards a personal compromise of simply eating less dairy overall.


I have no argument with grains.  Not wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, millet (though I don’t like millet), corn… grains don’t disagree with me or make me sick and I’m tired of people trying to convince me that I’m poisoning myself but just don’t know it.  I’m tired of people vilifying something humans have been eating without problem for thousands of years.  People didn’t start having horrible dietary issues until the mid-twentieth century when processed foods took over the food scene.  So enough with this!

Many people DO have allergies to wheat and those people need to cut it from their diet.  I respect that.  Most of those people had health problems that eventually led to a discovery that wheat was destroying their intestines and preventing them from absorbing or using all the nutrients from their food.  That’s serious shit.  That’s real and it matters – but don’t tell me that everyone is allergic to wheat because it just isn’t so.  Also – if you want to not eat any grains because you think that’s the best way to eat – good for you!  But don’t try to convince me that they are evil for everyone.  Thousands of years of eating them and digesting them without difficulty is enough proof for me that for most people grains are an awesome way to get nutrients and protein in their diet.

I do believe that eating a variety of them rather than only eating wheat and sticking mostly to wholegrains is the healthiest way to go.


Fruit and vegetables.  I eat a lot of them.  Mostly vegetables.  Organic is always best.  I can’t always afford to buy all organic but if I could – I would never eat produce that has been sprayed with pesticides.  I pay attention to the “Dirty Dozen” list and use it as a guideline of priority when I have to make a choice.  I think eating mostly local produce is even more important than eating local grains.  I allow myself a small amount of imported produce like avocados but always try to maintain a mostly local buying policy.  This automatically means I eat mostly seasonally too.  No tomatoes in winter.  No zucchini or green beans or eggplants in winter either.  I’m not a zealot and if friends make me a meal in winter that uses all summer ingredients I’d never say a thing or think twice about eating it and appreciating their hospitality.

I like most vegetables except for peppers.  I can’t digest sweet peppers and even hot peppers can be tricky.  Cayenne doesn’t ever seem to be a problem.  There are other vegetables I’m not that fond of but I’ll eat them if you put them in front of me.  I find Jerusalem artichokes to be a bit dreary.  Broccoli rabe is okay but I don’t love it so I never buy it.  Same with kohrabi.  Turnips aren’t a favorite of mine and neither are radishes though I’ll eat both and I’m fine with it, but I never get all excited to cook with them.  Bitter greens… oh bitter greens and how everyone loves you but me.  I can take small amounts of bitter greens but I don’t enjoy a big plateful of them.

Fruit – I like most fruit except mangos and papayas.  I like dried figs a lot but don’t care for them fresh.  Fruit eaten only in season is a revelation.


I don’t believe fat is evil any more than I think grains are evil.  I believe in baking with butter and cooking with olive oil.  Those are my staples.  I don’t bake a lot so I don’t personally consume a ton of butter.  I use it on toast sometimes but I use a modest amount.  I use safflower oil and am making an effort to only get vegetable oils that weren’t made from GMO crops.  My mom says I “grease up” my food but in reality I don’t use a crazy amount of oil when I’m sauteeing.  Usually a tablespoon for stir fries and two tablespoons for large batches of soup.  My big oil extravaganza is when I roast vegetables which I’m trying to reform now to use less.  I eat whole fat cheeses (low fat cheeses are rarely worth eating) but I do use low fat milk and low fat yogurt because I like them better.

I don’t eat much fried food.  Fried food makes me feel gross and sometimes even gives me the burps.  While I love french fries and apple fritters, I eat french fries seldom and doughnuts even less.  I love spring rolls but rarely eat those either.  It is lucky for me that fried food upsets my stomach enough to keep me from making a habit of it.  I am a girl naturally attracted to fats and starch and the two go brilliantly together when fried.  I don’t believe fried foods are part of a healthy diet except as a treat.


I eat a lot of legumes.  I love beans, lentils, peas, and tofu.  I am only buying organic tofu now because one of the biggest GMO crops in the world is soy.  Some people can’t digest legumes well and if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t eat them or at least not often.  However, I have never had difficulty digesting legumes.  I especially love lentils and feel really good eating them.

Nuts and Seeds:

I eat a modest amount of nuts and seeds.  Mostly nuts.  Mostly walnuts.  I love peanuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pine nuts, and almonds but since where I live I’ve been managing to get walnuts for free I eat more of them than any of the others.  I hate hazelnuts.  I really do.  I like sunflower and sesame seeds but don’t eat too many of them.  I even like pumpkin seeds but I don’t buy them because it’s ridiculously easy to roast your own.  But I don’t like the hulls and it’s tedious to remove them…so I end up not eating them at all.


I don’t view sugar as my enemy either.  I don’t eat a ton of it.  I don’t even eat a lot of it.  My son has a sweet tooth but I don’t.  Eating too much sugar or eating even a single overly sweet dessert (lemon bars come to mind) can make my throat swell up or make me feel gross.  While I don’t crave sweets usually if they’re sitting around and I start eating them I have a hard time stopping.  In our house we use both refined and unrefined sugars.

Food Philosophy: Eating Local

I have agreed to give a talk about doing the 100 mile diet at my local library.  I did the 100 mile diet for 10 months a couple of years ago.  It changed how I eat irrevocably.  I didn’t stick to the 100 mile diet but I did stick with a strong dedication to eating mostly local produce and a determination to seek out as many pantry staples that are produced locally as I can.    Before I write up my notes on how I ate during my 100 mile diet challenge, I want to chronicle, for clarity, how I eat now.  What does eating local mean for me?

First of all, eating local is NOT a contest.  It’s not a “trend” to follow and then abandon just because too many other people are doing it and it’s stopped being cool (that’s a particular species of personality I disrespect in general).    Eating local is something all people need to re-learn to do for the sake of regional food supply security.  Eating locally means eating seasonally which means that your food will taste better and be texturally more appealing (think of out of season mealy apples).  Eating locally supports your local economy and naturally ends up supporting smaller local farms.  Eating locally will connect you to your own community in new (and good) ways.

The best reason to eat local is because it brings greater pleasure to the table.

I am not a zealot about eating locally.  I try not to be a jerk about it.  There are people so serious and dedicated to eating locally that they would definitely not think I’m doing enough.  That’s okay with me because to me this isn’t a contest to see who can eat the most locally.  My rules for eating are not severe, not difficult, yet so many people I know think I’ve taken a vow of food chastity just because I won’t buy most produce out of season.

I am going to try to break it down into lists of how I eat NOW, this is NOT the 100 mile diet:

Imported foods I buy:

coffee, tea, oil, sugar, spices, limes, dry pasta, rice, some dried legumes, condiments, sometimes tofu, sometimes wine (I can’t afford local wines though we have lots of them), some nuts and seeds, food for Max, Parmesan cheese, avocados, fresh ginger, garlic (when the local farms don’t have any), flour, polenta, olives, some juices, chocolate (we consumer very little chocolate), canned tomatoes (when I run out of home canned), canned coconut milk.

I don’t consume a lot of rice, tofu, or wine.  Even though I don’t buy lemons (only on very rare occasions) I do keep limes on my constantly exempt list because I use it for seasoning in cooking a lot and there’s no good alternative.  I don’t buy any other citrus regularly.  Max food is one big exemption I’m okay making so my kid won’t starve to death.*  The list looks long and I assure you it was much shorter when I did the 100  mile diet.

Produce I never buy out of season (and buy strictly locally):

green beans, tomatoes, asparagus, all fruit (except apples for Max), eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, favas, tomatilloes, hot peppers (I don’t even eat sweet ones because they don’t agree with me), fennel, cabbage, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, lettuce**, corn, peas (fresh, though I will eat dried split peas).

Produce I will buy out of season but only from local sources (root vegetables can be eaten all year due to excellent storage quality):

beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabagas.

After doing the 100 mile diet for 10 months I decided to lighten up a little on the rules so that they would be more livable for me.  Every week I go shopping I allow myself a small portion of imported produce.  On my list of exceptions I included avocados and limes.  Here’s how it works: if I want to buy bananas, I can, but I can’ t buy bananas AND avocados.  I basically have two spots available on my grocery list to buy something that doesn’t ever grow here.  The following list is of produce I rarely buy and when I do I can’t also buy avocados and/or limes the same week.  Truth is, I haven’t bought most of those items since doing my 100 mile diet challenge.  I love avocados so much it takes a strong urge for tropical fruit or imported vegetables to oust them from my weekly indulgence list.

Produce I buy only very rarely:

pineapples, kiwis, bananas, tamarind, jicima, most melons, oranges, tangerines, dates, coconuts, pomegranates.

Things I ONLY buy locally:

honey, seasonal produce, walnuts, bread, milk, butter, eggs, most cheeses, fresh herbs (I grow most of my own) and dried herbs, beer, vodka, canned corn (there is a company within 100 miles that cans local corn, I rarely buy canned corn anyway but when I do I only buy from this company whose name I will get and record for those who want to know), fruit***.

I want to note here that I do quite a lot of food preserving so I don’t buy much commercially frozen or canned produce.  I make an exception sometimes for canned tomatoes when I run out of home canned, but I really don’t do that often.  Most years I just stop making anything tomato-y until the season starts again.  I freeze a lot of eggplant and fruit.  So it’s all local even though I’ll eat those out of season from my pantry- I never buy them out of season.

I think that sums of the bulk of my food buying habits.  Enough for now.  Next I want to do a post covering what those lists looked like while I was doing the 100 mile diet.

*He is an extreme picky eater largely because of tactile issues connected to his OCD and ADD, we don’t punish him for it.  I concentrate on keeping his food free of HFCS and preservatives and making his diet as organic as I can.

**This year is the first one I’ve cheated and bought out of season non-local lettuce.  I am determined to knock that off.  It really is worth waiting for it to come back in season.

***My policy has always been to buy Max whatever produce he’s willing to eat whether it’s in season or not, local or not, because he eats so little produce and I’m desperate to get him to eat any at all.  The funny thing is that he’s been learning (without my help) that the red grapes our friend Laurie grows and shares with us are a hundred times better than the ones I have bought him from the store which he now refuses to eat.  He’s discovered that apples out of season aren’t so good either.  This year he refused the out of season carrots, cucumbers, grapes, watermelon, and apples.  That’s all the produce he ever eats.  So this winter and spring he didn’t eat any produce.  Just tater tots.  So frozen potato products was the only “produce” he ate.  On the one hand this is very stressful to me, on the other, it’s proof that once you’ve gotten used to eating truly ripe seasonal produce there’s no going back.