We hear these phrases often: “Everything in moderation,” “It’s fine in moderation,” “It’s safe–in moderation.”. “Moderation” is such a relative term, though, no?
What does “in moderation” mean to you?
I’ve always known my version of “in moderation” is quite different from most, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized it’s FAR different from the definition with which I grew up. My parents did a great job of providing my brothers and I with balanced, home-cooked meals, which, for the most part, were healthy and made of real ingredients. We were denied sugary cereals and rarely had candy save for holidays or special occasions. Soda was a treat for birthday parties, and processed snacks were limited to tortilla chips and potato chips.
However, a “special occasion” could also mean: the weekend, a trip to the beach, or a long car trip. Meaning, Twizzlers were staple beach fare (so, at least once a week in the summer). Soda accompanied pizza (once a week). Fast food? Road trips and class trips (once a month, tops.) Ice cream or cookies were allowable treats EVERY NIGHT, so long as one ate her dinner. This level of junk-food allowance was fine for my family and, thankfully, we’ve got the skinny genes and relatively good health. But, will I allow my son to have a sugary snack every night, or will I place a Tastykake & mini bag of Doritos in his lunch each day, just because “I turned out all right?” (I think you know the answer to those rhetorical questions. 🙂 )
“In moderation,” of course, means something else in different scenarios. After choosing to eat such strict diets in the past, what works best for us is to maintain healthful standards almost all of the time, so that we can indulge in a shared pizza with friends, imbibe a six-pack of beer, or enjoy an ice cream cone occasionally–without guilt or consequence. To me, “in moderation” means “hardly ever” for the norm and “once a week” at the most.
Another realization hit my brain: if I came from tame junk food beginnings, making change must be incredibly difficult for those who are used to a higher level of processed foods in their diet.
And this is where a bit of self-realization and honesty with oneself comes into play. For example, eating fast food for lunch twice a week might be “in moderation” for someone who previously ate it all week long, but is twice a week really a healthy dose of moderation? Keep in mind that most fast food provides plenty of calories and sodium with little nutrient gain. Personally, fast food would be eaten in an emergency situation only. Defining clear health goals and how food aligns with those goals is key.
My hope is that if you’re reading this blog, you appreciate food as fuel. It’s primary function is to provide the body with nutrients–bonus points for stellar taste and presentation! It becomes a personal choice how often you’re willing to step beyond those boundaries for the sake of convenience, the allure of sugar, or to simply celebrate an occasion.
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