The Quest for Dietary Perfection

Food Pyramid (2)

Recently I was doing a TV interview when the reporter asked me what I thought was the “perfect food.” I told her I wasn’t aware of a “perfect food” – more like a list of incredibly imperfect ones.

She said she thought bananas were the perfect food. I said that, yes, bananas are awesome, and we probably go through about two bunches per week – however, after reading Animal Vegetable Miracle I became aware that bananas were never actually in season in Pennsylvania and eating them meant thousands of miles of travel through dirty fuel to bring them to my doorstep. So, no, they aren’t perfect. But we eat them anyway.

That’s why I’m not a fan of the “Always” and “Never” lifestyle or the kind of heavy-handed articles that attempt to enforce that. While I believe the scientific research articles on pesticides and environment that scare the hell out of us do need to be shared and taken seriously, the reactionary advice to families might be tempered with a bit more understanding.

Often when we hit people over the head with how terrible their choices are, the reaction can go from paralyzing fear to “f it” in a matter of minutes. And that’s pretty dangerous, especially in an age of food deserts and a fight for minimum wage – although, as a food activist friend once said, “No one has to drink Mountain Dew.”

Personally, I want to do the best I can to provide healthy, minimally processed food for my family – but I also don’t want to force them to live in a bubble. So I might cringe at the constant birthday Munchkins at preschool and the Goldfish passed at the playground, but I won’t tell my children they can’t have them. And when Girl Scout Cookie season comes around in all its GMO glory, I allow a box of Thin Mints or two, letting my children and I stuff our bellies until they ache and we remember why unhealthy foods make us feel so yucky.

I will never keep bees or chickens and while I may know what a scoby is, I will never brew my own kombucha. I do bake my own bread but also order out for pizza. I don’t boycott the organic brands who have sold to corporations, though I do keep a watchful eye. I caved and bought conventional grapes when organic were nowhere to be found, but I also participate in a “cow share.” Soda and gum are the only two things that are verboten for my children, though they’ve seen me occasionally indulge in both. Fresh Direct is a gift and a curse. I haven’t had McDonalds in at least five years but I think that maybe, just maybe, I will someday secretly eat a carton of fries.

We all want to do our best, and it’s about making healthy, sustainable diets manageable, practical, and affordable. I hope this blog helps offer you the tips and tricks to do better, without letting perfect be the enemy of good.

So where do you fall on the quest for dietary perfection?

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