This past weekend, I had a girl’s night with some of my friends. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and what better way to catch up than over dinner and drinks … of course, I had to pick the place, which sounds easy, but was actually really hard. See, while my friend and I have virtually no food limitations, our other friend doesn’t eat red meat or gluten. This excluded more than a few places, which meant I actually had to research restaurants that fit her qualifications.
Luckily, I found a place; we all enjoyed the food and had a great a time. But the culinary conundrum got me thinking: It’s interesting how both of us view food and a healthy diet. While I have to limit the amount of foods with lactose, my diet has almost no restrictions compared to my friend, who has chosen to remove entire groups of food. And you can bet that we both believe we eat healthfully … and the thing is, we both do, just in our own way.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that an eating pattern can be tailored to the individual’s socio-cultural and personal preferences, meaning there’s more than one way to eat healthfully. Even though my friend doesn’t consume gluten, there are many other gluten-free whole grains, like teff and corn, that she can eat, ensuring that she fulfills the necessary 6 ounces a day. Red meat is an excellent source of protein and other healthy nutrients like iron. But, luckily for my friend, there are other healthy sources of these nutrients that she can choose.
Anyone can follow the Dietary Guidelines regardless of their restrictions and preferences. Let’s say that instead of being lactose-intolerant, I were allergic to dairy. Instead of consuming milk, cheese, or yogurt, I could consume soy foods and beverages. And if I couldn’t consume soy, well, I just need to make sure that I get the nutrients that milk and soy provide–protein, potassium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin A–from other foods.
Even though it’s not ideal to remove an entire food group out of the diet, for some it’s necessary. But a healthy eating pattern still can be created based on an individual’s needs.
Our 2016 Food and Health Survey revealed that one-third of consumers define healthy food as what it doesn’t contain, as opposed to what it does. While a healthy food can be debated, the good thing is that science tells us that a healthy diet includes moderation, variety, and balance, and the public agrees with these aspects.
Our diets, just like us, are unique and diverse. As long as we are getting the right amount of calories, macronutrients, vitamins, minerals and other healthful components, there’s no reason we need to conform to how someone else eats … even if you are planning a girl’s night.