Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eating to stay healthy, with a twist

The eating habits of Americans (and this Indian) are a favorite object of my analysis. Over the past few years, I have made some changes to my dietary choices, to how I shop at the grocery store, and where I dine out. This New York Times article kinda validates the changes I have made, and provides some insight from nutritionists that is worth your attention.

The first change I made was to stop obsessing about the fat and calorific content of food. Since I had already figured out the most "harmful" foods, I caved in to my cravings for them every now and again. The key was to watch the portions I consumed of these foods.
"AFTER decades of obsessing about fat, calories and carbs, many dieters have made the unorthodox decision to simply enjoy food again.

That doesn’t mean they’re giving up on health or even weight loss. Instead, consumers and nutritionists say they are seeing a shift toward “positive eating” — shunning deprivation diets and instead focusing on adding seasonal vegetables, nuts, berries and other healthful foods to their plates.


Even the Calorie Control Council, which represents makers of commercial diet foods, notes the percentage of people who are dieting has declined — to 29 percent in 2007 from 33 percent in 2004.

And there are other indicators of a shift in eating habits. In May, the market research firm Information Resources reported that 53 percent of consumers say they are cooking from scratch more than they did just six months ago, in part, no doubt, because of the rising cost of prepared foods.
I had heard of the "Slow Movement", but this is the first time that I actually paid attention.
"Some former dieters say they’ve been influenced by the international Slow Food movement, a 10-year-old group that encourages locally grown, unprocessed food. Over the Labor Day weekend an estimated 60,000 people attended the Slow Food Nation festival in San Francisco.

Alice Waters, of the restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and a prominent supporter of the Slow Food movement, said food habits change when a person begins to cook at home more. Her efforts to encourage home cooking include a new campaign of Internet cooking videos from the Slow Food Nation event, such as one from the chef Bryant Terry, who showed how to strip corn from the cob and saute it with chili."
My new approach towards food required a change to my life-style - I substituted the take-out meal with a home cooked one, and did my best to avoid late night binges. Even though my grocery bills are higher than they used to be, I know that the raw ingredients I use meet a high quality bar, something that I can't be assured of in a restaurant meal. Buying more fruit, eating peanuts or almonds instead of chips, using reduced fat butter - those changes were easier to make.

Even after making these adjustments, it's easy to let yourself go and become over-weight; when you have to cook the huge meals yourself (and clean the dishes after), the process becomes just a little more tedious. Or, you just give up, reach for the phone and dial Pizza Hut :)

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