WTH of the Week: Diet Double Standards

15 Apr


The other night I was combing through recipes online, looking for the perfect Sunday dinner, when I stumbled across a recipe for Paleo Pad Thai. It sounded delicious – zucchini noodles instead of, well, whatever noodles are ordinarily used in Pad Thai, loads of veggies, blackened chicken. Healthy, nutritious, and lighter than ‘real” Pad Thai? Sunday dinner plans, check.

I kept reading the recipe and was getting pretty hungry when I stumbled across a sentence (well, the latter half of a sentence) that made me burst out laughing. In describing the meal, the author was explaining the reason for subbing zucchini noodles rather than using “real” noodles, in a way that I perceived to be completely serious, was described as a perfect way to eliminate “troublesome poison-grains.”

Troublesome poison-grains?  OMG.  So, I know that grain isn’t exactly the Homecoming Queen these days, but poison grain? It was so extreme that it made me giggle.

Jump to the next sentence, which then suggests using blackened chicken as opposed to baked or rotisserie, because the char of the chicken adds to the flavor of the meal. End giggling, enter irritation/eye roll/sighs.

$100 Lululemon gift card to the first person who can guess why this is so irritating to me (and the answer “because everything irritates you, Meg” is not the one I’m looking for, although you might be on to something).

Ok fine, I’ll just tell you. First: the reference (although unintentionally funny) to “poison grain.”   I understand that every couple of years a new diet comes along that spreads a movement of “don’t eat this food group because new studies and even these old studies show it’s really terrible for you” and then some food group gets shut out. I get it, I don’t like it at all but fine. However– such dramatic language (eg, “poison grain”)  from anyone other than a team of scientists really gets under my skin.

But the part that really annoys me? Arbitrary “health” rules and double standards. Like, that gets wayyy under my skin. For instance, when the author of a recipe posted in a highly visible place decides to pick and choose what will and won’t kill you. Like what I’m saying is, maybe don’t call grains “poison” and then suggest adding a food that the National Cancer Institute, Cancer.org, and the American Cancer society recommend avoiding because of  studies potentially linking charred food to an increased cancer risk. Or call for a processed-soy (<- which is highly controversial in the food world) based sauce.

‘Cause you’re probably going to have some people scratching their heads.

I am totally not criticizing this author singularly (and seriously, my partially-poisonous dinner was absolutely delicious) –  it’s just an isolated example of a broader problem that I find deeply frustrating.  I’m also definitely not saying anyone who follows a particular diet or lifestyle is wrong or misguided. What I am saying is that we can get into some real trouble when we start making extreme claims to validate our dietary choices, even though the science behind nutrition is constantly evolving.  As an image and partially health-obsessed society who is always searching for an answer, we tend to buy into the latest “research” to the point where everything else is wrong, leading to extreme point of views, misinformation, and ultimately confusion.

And before you know it, we’re all terrified of food in general, thinking grains are poison and meat causes heart disease but soy will give me breast cancer so WTF do I eat?

We’ve replaced eating in moderation with a half dozen “lifestyles” that are all the only right way to eat, yet all contradict each other in terms of research.  To this I say, moderation, people. Neither a donut here or a burrito there is going to make you fat if you’re truly eating moderately, and it’s certainly not going to kill you. Unless you choke on it.  I’m 100% for good health, but I’m 110% not for scare tactics or extremes. There are enough things  to be afraid of and food, at least in my humble opinion, should not be one of them.




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