Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don't Always Be The Food Police

After seeing the light of good nutrition, some people become 'The Food Police.'  Sometimes it is good to be the the Food Police, most notably when eating at home, shopping for groceries, or if you have food allergies/sensitivities.  However, there are times when leaving your badge at home is a better idea.

1. You've been invited to a picnic and have been instructed to bring your own meat to grill, sides and condiments will be provided.  While standing around chatting please do not make the host ashamed of their potato salad by discussing the evils of the processed fats in lowfat mayo, or the fact that the ketchup is full of high fructose corn syrup, or how even diet soda may lead to diabetes and Alzheimer's.  Unless they ask of-course...  Ultimately, people are there to enjoy the food and the company; lets keep it light hearted.  You could always bring some veggies to grill for yourself or just offer to make the potato salad.

2.  You're at a party and someone offers you a slice of store bought cake.  Be polite, and simply say no thank-you.  A birthday or graduation is not the time to educate people on trans fats and artificial food colorings.

3.  You're at a party and someone offers you a slice of homemade cake (butter, sugar, flour...) the real deal.  EAT IT!  Unless it sends you into a sugar binge, then a simple "No Thanks" is just fine.  When love is put into baking something like a cake, it's fine to have a treat.  It's not something you eat everyday.

4.  While eating out, do not interrogate the waitress about every ingredient, especially if you are at an Applebees, Chili's, or TGI-Friday.  Do your homework beforehand and look at the menu and ingredients at home on the internet to help you make an informed decision.  "May I have real butter on my potato?" or "May I just have some olive oil for my salad dressing?" are some appropriate non-threatening questions.  When eating out, you give up a large portion of control and to some extent will have to deal with it.

5. The grandparents are watching the grandkids for the weekend.  Yes, you can request that they not go to Mc Donalds, or that Spaghettios not be heated on the stove.  Unless your little ones have food allergies/sensitivities, you might have to accept the fact that a little soda, a few Cheeze-its, and even an ice-cream cone are going to make it into their mouths.  I promise they will live.  If you know that your child reacts poorly to certain foods or ingredients, help out by supplying some safe foods, or giving a list of foods that are and are-not appropriate.  This will make the weekend much more enjoyable for everyone.

6. You don't want your kid eating the school lunch.  Most schools will print out the month's menu, as well as post it on their website.  Instead of packing the same turkey sandwich everyday, see if you can't include some similar items with what the school is serving.  Preservative free hotdogs, homemade meatballs or chicken nuggets, full fat yogurt with real fruit.  There will probably be days when the lunch is not too offending: chili, chicken noodle soup, and tacos.  Let your child eat the school lunch some days, this helps them feel more like their peers.

7.  Your doctor sent you to a dietitian for your high cholesterol and she wants you to eat low fat and count calories.  Please don't be rude, or discourteous.  She is only telling you what she learned in college and during her internship.  Let her know that you appreciate the time she is taking with you, but that you feel some of her information is outdated.  You are trying a whole foods approach to eating and want to see what kind of difference it makes.  She spent a lot of money on her education, please don't make her feel stupid.  It's not her fault the USDA and ADA propagate an inflammation and disease promoting diet.

8.  You have changed your diet, but your spouse has not.  Educate them slowly on why you are making these changes.  Constant comments about their diet habits and how bad that bag of popcorn is for their blood sugar, will not make them want to change.  Even if they are not on-board with everything, they can still help cook the meals that you eat together.  After a while they will probably come around, at least a little.

As educated consumers, and health conscious eaters it is our job to spread the word of balanced eating and good nutrition. However, if we beat people over the head with information when they are not ready, it only builds resistance and resentment.  Be an example to others by bringing your lunch to work.  When people ask why you eat the way you do, an answer such as, "I'm eating in balance; it's much different from what most typical diets promote, but I feel really good and have more energy."  This type of phrase is non-threatening and will probably stimulate some good conversations.

Remember to be the good cop, not the bad cop when it comes to food.  You will meet less resistance when your not handcuffing people into your ideals.


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  5. I must say I'm guilty in most situations you described. I see it as a way of sticking to my principles and also showing people how to live healthier. I will politely say no and will only explain why if the other person asks. But since I'm kind of a freak regarding food ingredients (it did help me solve my health problems), I started a website which lists products along with their ingredient labels so people may know what's in their food.

    Cheers, Nikola

    1. Thanks Nikola. Everyone moves at their own pace, especially when change is involved. It's great that you are such an advocate for healthy ingredients. Good luck spreading the word GENTLY to others.