Although I’ve been eating meat for almost two years, many friends and family continue to call me a vegetarian.
The label has stuck because I still eat a lot of plants; meat and dairy don’t make up a large part of my diet because I eat these foods in their whole and natural forms.
By “whole” and “natural,” I mean I eat fat—full fat. I keep the skin on my chicken, turkey and fish, and I make gravy with poultry fat drippings. I avoid fat-free cheese and yogurt—and whole-y moly, does it make a difference. I don’t use butter too often, but when I do, it’s rich and creamy, and definitely not margarine.
Eating meat and dairy in its whole forms keeps me satiated. I’m not sure how rich food got such a bad rep when being rich is typically considered a good thing. (Oprah, that offer still stands on swapping lives.) Whole foods do a better job at satisfying both my taste buds and stomach—meaning I need less of it to be full and happy for a long time. More bang for my buck and bite.
Health advocates proclaim the virtues of whole grains and fruits, so why don’t they feel the same way about whole meat or milk?
On the website for Whole Foods, the George Mateljan Foundation, a non-profit health and wellness organization, explains why it generally favors low-fat dairy over whole: “At a simple glance, all whole-milk dairy products might seem more natural and less processed than any low-fat alternatives and better choices for that reason. Yet, we do not believe they make better choices for most individuals, given the current nature of the U.S. diet and commercial milk preparation.”
Ah, there’s the rub. The foundation cannot advise Americans to eat whole dairy because of the current nature of the U.S. diet.
The website goes on to say that Americans already consume too much “unhealthy” fat, typically in the form of processed foods, to allow whole dairy, which is 25% saturated fat, to be a regular part of their diets.
But what if eating whole dairy actually stopped you from eating processed foods in the first place?
Healthy living publications and organizations like George Mateljan create a loophole by recommending low-fat dairy and skin-free meat. They provide room in a consumer’s diet for processed foods by endorsing only low-fat yogurt.
By eating whole dairy and meat, however, I’m able to fill the rest of my plate with fruits, vegetables and grains, which means I generally stick to the group guidelines of the food pyramid. (I use the Harvard School of Nutrition’s pyramid.)
Wholesomeness doesn’t apply to some foods and not others. I wouldn’t eat as many whole fruits and vegetables if I consumed fat-free dairy. I would be too hungry and too eager for something more delicious—something, well, fatty.
Food is like anything else I purchase: It delivers more value when I use the whole thing.