Talking about health and nutrition is almost like talking politics and religion– everyone has their own deep- seated beliefs on what’s best, what’s right, what’s wrong. Maybe you’ve experienced it, too, that overbearing, but well-meaning friend who bombards you with unsolicited nutritional advice.
Because every college requires a certain number of health credits, and I have never particularly enjoyed athletics, I was content to take a nutrition class to satisfy my requirements. The class was fascinating – I learned about the difference in calories between fat and proteins, between good fats and bad fats, and between natural and supplemental nutrients.
This was all before the hyper-nutritional awareness of the modern era. You know– back before Pinterest, Instagram, and blogging. We didn’t learn about the benefits of a gluten-free diet, or the importance of eating
organic, or even the dangers of food dyes. Part of that is because our opinions and perspectives on food change so much over time. Whenever I hear a study about how this or that food or additive is good for you, I think back to a potato chip tin I once found in an antique shop in Leavenworth, Kansas. To this day I kick myself for not buying it. “The Latest Health Food” the can advertised. Remember, these were potato chips. “Scientifically enhanced Trans Fats for better energy!” it claimed. WHAT??
Back then, it was the new hip-n-happenin’ thing. Early tests showed that it had good traits. It was only over time that we have learned that Trans fats are anything but good for our bodies. Still, I loved that visual reminder that today’s must-eat health food could end up being tomorrow’s dietary reject.
|Great-Great Grandpa Bowers standing among
his tomatoes in Cooleemee, NC in the 1950s.
As a society, we’ve learned a lot about the food we eat. We’ve gone from a culture of producers, backyard farmers, growing most of what we eat or trading it for money or other goods, to becoming a society of consumers, loading up on pre-made, fully processed, packaged foods.
And then we got burned by claims like those on that tin can. We made food choices based on what science assured us was going to help us live the longest, healthiest life possible. Those ever-changing assurances threw us into the arms of doctors and dietitians who were happy to help us sort through it all– just buy their new book and you’ll learn everything you need to know.
Suddenly we had to select a food philosophy. There are the all carbs diets, the no carbs diets, the vegetarian, raw, only-smoothies, gluten-free, and back-to-the-Bible diets. And everything has to be organic. Every eating regime has its claims of being the only perfect, right, and healthy means of losing weight and improving your health. And this is where the trouble starts.
Any time I mention a health issue– a hangnail, for instance– I get e-mails and messages from people assuring me that if I would just take baked potatoes out of my diet, I will never get a hang-nail again, along with a lengthy explanation of how baked potatoes cause hangnails and why I should never so much as LOOK at a baked potato again ever in my life. My kid’s behavior issues? Well, if I would just stop letting him eat such-and-such, the problem would be cured. Tired? Stop eating that. Coughing? Stop eating this.
The reality is that our bodies NEED food. God created these bodies, and He created foods for us. In a perfect world, we could all eat whatever we wanted and not get fat, not develop cancer or diabetes. But our bodies weren’t designed to deal with all the artificial preservatives, colors, and other additives. I truly believe that eating foods the way God created them is our best bet at a healthy diet.
However, I’m also a single, working mom of three boys. There are days where a trip through the drive-thru is the best I can do. I would love to have the time to bake all natural, home-made graham crackers and dehydrate fruit I picked myself and maintain an herb garden. But it’s just not where I am in life. I’m grateful for the drive-thru, such that it is. But I could do without the judgement. Maybe you could, too.