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SO WHAT IS "EVERYTHING IN MODERATION"?

Sara Bloms

After completing a recent interview for WCCO’s Good Question, it got me thinking, how do I better explain “everything in moderation”?

The question that sparked this debate was, “How often should we eat fries?” After I responded with the familiar dietitian phrase “moderation is key,” I knew the next question was going to be, “What is moderation?”

If you ask 10 different dietitians that same question, you’ll get 10 different responses. So, how do we expect consumers to know what moderation is if there is not one clear answer? My answer for the interview was “Moderation is dependent on who you are. If you’re a person who eats out a lot, moderation is choosing French fries once a week. If you’re a health nut, moderation is once every three months.” I thought it was somewhat clear but still didn’t get down to the nitty gritty of what moderation is.

In a way “everything in moderation” assumes people should consume apples, cupcakes, tomatoes, soda and brown rice in a similar manner. The truth is, an apple isn’t the same as a cupcake and shouldn’t be consumed at the same frequency. A better approach would be to suggest foods in an always/sometimes/rarely manner or go/slow/whoa for the cool kids. Spinach? Always! Pop-Tarts? Rarely.

This new approach avoids the use of “never”, something “everything in moderation” embodied. Think about what might happen if you avoid your favorite foods all the time? You’ll likely have resentment towards your dieting and may even indulge in greater portions than you would have if you just let yourself have that mini cupcake. Choose the always/sometimes/rarely approach and pair it with the 80/20 rule or 90/10 if you want to be a little stricter. The rule of 80/20 or 90/10 is simple math. Eat “healthy” or “always” foods 80% of the time so that you can enjoy your “not-so-healthy” or “sometimes/rarely” treats the other 20% of the time.

If the pairing of these two approaches becomes too complicated, choose your own dietary creed. Here are some examples that I could get behind:

  • Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
  • Marion Nestle: “Eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Go easy on junk foods.”
  • Mark Bittmann: “Here's the summary: Eat less meat, and fewer animal products in general. Eat fewer refined carbohydrates, like white bread, cookies, white rice, and pretzels. Eat way less junk food: soda, chips, snack food, candy, and so on. And eat far more vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains—as much as you can. If you followed those general rules and read no farther, you'd be doing yourself and the earth a favor.”