The big picture

I try to not be judgmental about other people eating patterns, largely because there was a time when my eating patterns were less than ideal (you know, the whole “Pot, meet Kettle” thing). But that doesn’t mean I don’t notice people’s eating patterns. I mean, they’re right out there for people to see (except for any food eaten on the sly, I suppose). And I can’t help but take note when there is a sizable gap between current eating patterns and a generally accepted healthy eating pattern. (By “generally healthy” I mean appropriate calorie intake, a good amount of vegetables and fruit and a minimum of refined white flour products, fast food and other highly processed foods.)
There’s a family I know who has a strict rule that their young children are allowed only one juice box per day. That’s a pretty good rule, since whole fruit (which these children do eat) is much healthier than juice, and because juice is lacking the fiber from the whole fruit, the natural fruit sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream quite rapidly.
Now here’s the problem: These children are not drowning in juice, but they are consuming a lot of refined sugary food. White bread. Pastries. Dessert. The sugary half of frosted shredded wheat cereal. And while these kids are perfectly willing to eat healthier foods when they are offered, if bread or sugary foods are at hand, then it’s those foods that get eaten first (and by eaten, I mean inhaled). Then there’s no more room in their small tummies for the healthy stuff.
So I can see this dietary “big picture,” and it drives me nuts, because I know the parents are trying to do the right thing, but they are so fixated on isolated details (like juice) that they don’t see that the sum total of the sugar their kids are eating is not healthy.
I see this a lot with other people. Here are some examples of common fixations coupled with less-than-healthy big pictures:
  • Fixation on eating low-fat + consumption of lots of highly processed, low-nutrient convenience foods, like low-fat frozen entrees and sugary nonfat yogurt.
  • Fixation on not eating meat + consumption of almost any non-meat food, healthy or not (like tons of white bread, pasta and cheese).
  • Fixation on not eating grains (paleo diet) + consumption of anything “meat” (including lots of processed meats).
  • Fixation on eating a low-calorie diet + consumption of a limited range of foods that are low calorie but also low in nutrients.
If your diet is healthy in the big picture, you don’t have to sweat the small stuff so much. You can have an occasional splurge meal or sweet treat. But if you get tunnel vision about isolated elements of your diet, you may end up spinning your wheels and getting no healthier for your efforts. Just some food for thought!