Locavores, Pescatarians and Paleo's - oh my!

In the seven months since I decided to stop using this blog as my soapbox on how to make healthy living choices both O and mine's siblings have both adopted new restrictive eating habits. One became paleo, the other pescatarian (and I don't think either reads this blog). Confused? So was my Mom (understandably). This is how I broke it down for  her: 

• Paleo - If cavemen didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t either. This means no refined sugar, dairy, legumes or grains (cavemen didn't farm). Instead your entire diet must revolve around foods that the caveman could find, kill/pick and eat himself. This means: meat, fish, poultry, fruits, and veggies. 
• Pescatarian - a diet that includes seafood and excludes all other animals. Think of it as stepping stone towards becoming a vegetarian.
• Locavore - someone who is committed to eating food that is grown or produced within their local community or region. 

Before I dive into why I don't recommend paleo and pescatarian eating habits I'd like to further explain my own: The term "locavore" touches only part of my food goals. Foremost: I focus on heart healthy foods and portion sizes. Second: I choose local foods over organic foods (farmer's market kale instead of organic kale from California). Third:  I choose long distance real/whole foods over local processed foods (example: banana from Guatemala instead of a pre-packaged snack food made near Atlanta). Fourth: No CAFO* meats! Fifth: Processed foods of any kind are only eaten as a splurge (example: Lay's Potato Chips or corn chips with queso) and all above rules may be broke when I am someone's guest (as a Southern Lady, I enjoy anything offered by my host). 

The paleos and pescatarians in my life arrived at their new food lifestyles in completely legitimate and respectables ways. I appreciate and applaud their goals and reasons; I just think they're a little misguided. Here's why:

  1. Paleo very specifically forbids the foods that O & I put so much emphasis on eating. Foods such as black beans, oatmeal, Greek yogurt and whole wheat rice. A healthy food lifestyle shouldn't ban it's participants from adopting more healthy eating habits.
  2. Paleo focuses on asking yourself the wrong question. Instead of "did Cavemen consider this food" a better question would be "did my great-grandmother consider this food**"? Your great-grandmother might stare in disbelief at Fruit Loops but she'll be happy to dig into some oatmeal with real maple syrup.
  3. At it's core the Paleo diet is not one that is realistically maintained for a lifetime. For the short term it's too reminiscent of the awful Atkins fad. And you remember Atkins don't you? People lost tons of weight eating red meat and cheese - only to put all the weight back on when they returned to their normal eating habits.

Our pescatarian sibling made this choice out of respect for the mistreatment of CAFO* animals. It's true, not eating meat is a sure fire way to make sure you're not responsible for the mistreatment of factory farm animals; but I feel more strongly aligned with the alternative "vote with your fork***" philosophy. Instead of giving up meat altogether spend a little more money on meat that was raised ethically. If it's too expensive then eat less of it. Supporting the "good" farmers helps reduce factory farming more then boycotting the "bad" farmers. 

This last point, supporting farmers who ethically raise chicken, pigs and cows is one that I want to work on myself. I have a reliable egg source and all our meat comes from a farmer's market that promises organic origins - but what do I really know about those animals' living conditions? Organic labeling may also hint about being "free range" but it doesn't always guarantee it. I talk a big talk but it's time for me to walk the walk. My goal for this spring: find a meat CSA or local farm to start buying from.

* Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Also known as Factory Farming
**credit to Michael Pollan's Food Rules
***"The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world. Now, it may seem a little daunting to think, 'Oh my God, I’ve got to vote right three times a day.' And, you know...you don’t and you won’t. We all have our junk foods that we can’t resist, and that’s fine...But if you get it right once a day, you can produce a more sustainable agriculture, a cleaner environment, diminish climate change, and improve the lot of animals. That’s an amazing power that we have, and we all have it." - Michael Pollan: http://www.nourishlife.org/2011/03/vote-with-your-fork/