By Nicole Laidler

When day dreaming about tonight’s dinner, do you imagine yourself slicing into a juicy steak or sinking your chopstick into a delicious vegetable stir-fry? It may sound like a simple question but don’t be fooled…

It is a serious dilemma. If you’re interested in healthy eating, you already know that there’s a war going on between your mouth and stomach.

LET’S CALL IT THE BATTLE OF THE FORKS

In one corner are the omnivores, the meat-eaters, and the ‘low carb’ advocates, disciples of the Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet, and the Paleo Diet. Across the ring sit the undecided “flexitarians,” the leaf-loving vegetarians, the hard-core vegans, and the raw food converts. Each group claims to have found the best balance between food and health. Let’s clear the table and take a closer look.

THE ATKINS DIET

Robert Atkins, MD, wrote his ground breaking Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution more than 40 years ago; a plan, that at the height of its popularity, was followed by nearly10 percent of American adults.

The Atkins diet turns North America’s carb-heavy way of eating on its head. Followers drastically reduce their consumption of bread, pasta, potatoes and sweets, while indulging their love for red meat, eggs and butter.

THE SOUTH BEACH DEIT

This 3-phase eating plan, created by cardiologist Arthur Agatson, has been around since 2003.

South Beach uses the glycemic index to make the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs.  During Phase 1, all fruit, bread, and starchy vegetables are phased out. However, followers are free to load up on lean meats, cheese and eggs.

THE PALEO DIET

Also referred to as the “caveman diet,” those who follow a Palaeolithic diet regime eat like our hunting and gathering ancestors in an effort to achieve “optimal health.”

Its creator, Dr. Loren Cordain, argues that our modern processed food is at the root of numerous health problems ranging from obesity to cancer. So say goodbye to wheat, dairy, refined oils, and sugar, and say hello to an abundance of fresh meat, fish, fruits and vegetables.

In the green corner…

 FLEXITARIANS

Registered dietician, Dawn Jackson Blatner, coined the term “flexitarian” in 2009. People who embrace this dietary philosophy follow a plant-based diet, with the occasional piece of fish or meat thrown in.

Vegetarian / Pescatarian / Lacto-vegetarian / Lacto-ovo vegetarian / Vegan

Confused? Here’s the low-down.

Vegetarians eat food that comes mostly from plants, like vegetables, fruits, and seeds. Pescatarians also eat seafood. Lacto-vegetarians also indulge in dairy products. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy products and eggs. Vegans stay clear of any and all animal products and animal by-products including eggs, milk and honey.

RAW FOOD DIET

No more slaving over a hot stove on this eating plan! Those who live according to a raw food diet believe that heating food completely destroys its nutritional value and may even make it toxic. Followers load up on an immense amount of raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains.

THE VERDICT

If you were paying attention, you would have noticed that both the Paleo and vegetarian diets advocate eating plenty of whole, unprocessed foods. Whether or not your plate includes meat, fish, eggs, or dairy, filling your body with natural unprocessed food is undoubtedly a good choice.

Unfortunately, too many of us reach for foods that are “convenient” and packed with sugar, starch, salt, processed fats, and unpronounceable chemical additives.


 

It’s time to call a truce between the meat-eaters and the plant-lovers. Both options can be healthy, if you follow a few simple tips:

• If Mother Nature did not create it, take a pass.

• If you can’t avoid buying ready-made, look for the shortest ingredient list.

• Shop local and buy organic as much as possible.

• Plan your meals and learn to love your kitchen. If you can read a recipe, you can cook!

• Keep portion sizes under control. Leftovers can be great for lunch!

When it comes to eating for optimal health, remember the words of Hippocrates: “Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food.”