Being a LOCAVORE is an old concept with newfound popularity. It involves buying chow either grown or raised close to your geographic location. (A 100-mile radius is the most common parameter used.) Locavorism is better for the both the environment and your health, so you really can’t go wrong here. Call your CSA, man!
For more on locavorism, try: La Vida Locavore (Really, the title alone deserves a click.)
Do you know somebody on Atkins? Or Zone? Or, to a somewhat lesser extent, South Beach? Then you’ve encountered some of Earth’s most popular LOW-CARB diets. Folks on LCDs swap carbohydrates (breads, pasta, grains) out of their regimens, frequently for weight loss and/or health reasons. Some plans avoid carbs almost entirely. Others, like South Beach, are actually more like low-glycemic diets, meaning good carbs can be consumed in moderation.
For more on low-carb diets, try: About.com
Fun fact: I tried Atkins once. I lasted exactly five days. They were the best and worst five days of my life in that I ate a lot of bacon, but learned I could not subsist on bacon alone.
In recent years (decades, even), LOW-FAT plans have become pretty popular with dieters, since they’re a decent way to drop weight when followed correctly. They’ve been known to help gallbladder disease, gastroparesis, and fatty livers, as well. Fruit, veggies, legumes, whole grains, and lean meats are good options in low-fat diets, but beware of cutting too far back; fat is very necessary for maintaining good health.
For more on low-fat diets, try: Jackson Siegelmbaum Gastroenterology
A MACROBIOTIC diet actually sounds like a pretty good one: few processed foods, limited meat, not much fat, lots of produce, and a big emphasis on whole grains. Followers are supposed to chew slowly, eat only when hungry, and keep cooking areas clean. In a stunning twist, there’s a spiritual element to the macrobiotic diet, and adhering to the menu is apparently good for warding off disease, though some consider it a tad too restrictive.
For more on macrobiotic diets, try: Macrobiotic Guide
Fun fact: Madonna is a macrobiotic eater. Supposedly, it’s great for vogueing.
To be totally honest, I didn’t know MORMONS even had dietary restrictions until I began researching this article. But as it turns out, LDS don’t do coffee, tea, or alcohol. The Word of Wisdom also encourages grains and produce and moderation when it comes to meat. Individual adherence, as with every diet, varies.
For more on LDS diets, try: Mormon.org
MUSLIMS are forbidden from consuming pork, gelatin, booze, and blood. After that, many of the dietary restrictions relating to slaughter and certification vary on a person-by-person or region-by-region basis. The term Halaal is often associated with the Islamic diet, and simply means “lawful according to the Qur’an,” or “yes, this is okay to eat.”
For more on Muslim diets, try: The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (INFANCA)
Fun fact: I live near a Halaal Chinese food place. It is, without exaggeration, the cleanest Chinese joint I've ever seen. By a country mile.
Eating ORGANIC is tricky. Organic food can be pricey, tough to find, and there’s a ton of ambiguity in the term itself. Still, there are lots of apparent benefits to whole foods grown without pesticides or the specter of genetic modification. One is less poison. Another is tastier produce. A third is supporting local farms, where lots of organic produce still comes from. The list goes on.
For more on organic food, try: Organic.com
Fun fact: I (unintentionally) misspell “organic” as “orgasmic” every now and then. Good times, especially when you’re writing about eggplant.
PHENYLKETONURICS have phenylketonuria (PKY), meaning they can’t break down the amino acid phenylalanine. It’s genetic, and U.S. babies are screened for it a few days after being born. Untreated and/or ignored, it can have some pretty serious consequences (like mental retardation), but most folks keep it under control with a low-protein, lots-o-produce diet.
For more on Phenylketonuria, try: The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Fun fact: Now you know what "PHENYLKETONURICS: Contains phenylalanine" means on the side of soda cans.
If you’re attempting a RAW diet, I applaud you. (Go Dan!) Because avoiding foods heated over 116°F is hard. If you’re not, here’s the lowdown: believers in the raw movement feel that cooking kills important enzymes and reduces the quantities of vitamins and minerals in food. Subsequently, the majority of raw foodies are vegetarians. They tend to prefer organic produce, and believe their regimen will ward off disease, promote health, and increase energy.
Never, ever: take away a raw foodie’s blender. He will shiv you (with a carrot).
For more on raw diets, try: Living and Raw Foods
We all need salt, but too much of it can be bad news for people with hypertension and heart disease (and slugs). RESTRICTED SODIUM (or low-salt) diets help to lessen fluid retention and maintain a decent blood pressure. This means forgoing cured meats, salty cheeses, pickled veggies, and many, many processed foods in favor of fresher edibles. Fortunately, peeps can still season the crap out of food with a variety of herbs and spices.
For more on restricted sodium diets, try: Saltwatcher
Fun fact: My friend H used to carry a salt shaker everywhere she went. If she ever called something too salty, I'd drop dead on the spot
The SLOW FOOD movement was founded in direct response to the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’amness of fast food, to further the emotional, intellectual, and physical investment of individuals in what they eat. Pretty cool, yet vague, right? Well, Slow Food USA has more details on the agricultural, cooking, and cultural aspects of the movement. Ten bucks you’ll see Alice Waters’ name come up at least twice.
For more on slow food, try: Slow Food USA
There’s a subtle, but all-important difference between vegetarians and VEGANS. While the former is free to eat dairy and eggs, the latter doesn’t consume any animal product whatsoever. Some folks go vegan for health or ethical reasons, and the benefits are said to be wondrous.
Never, ever: fear vegan food. It can be quite delicious. QUITE.
For more on veganism, try: VeganYumYum, FatFree Vegan Kitchen, and any blog or cookbook involving Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Fun fact: Famous vegans include Ellen DeGeneres, Portia DeRossi, Alice Walker, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, and a lot of guys in indie bands from Williamsburg.
Odds are you know at least one VEGETARIAN, if not several dozen. While there are many kinds of veg-heads (lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, etc.), most agree that eating meat is a no-no.
Never, ever: argue that vegetarians are missing out/unhealthy/dirty hippies. It’s largely untrue, and seriously starting to sound a little cliché. (With apologies to Tony Bourdain.)
For more on vegetarianism, try: Whoa, boy. Where don’t you try? I know CHG's own Leigh is a big fan of Vegetarian Times magazine, though, so it couldn’t hurt start there.
And that’s it. Sweet readers, what did I forget that you’d like to see? Is there anything I might have skewed a bit? Fire away in the comments section.
If you liked this article, you might also like:
- COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) for You and Me
- The FDA and USDA, Explained to the Best of My Ability: A Semi-Coherent Guide to the Government Agencies Regulating Food
- Veggie Might: Reaching into the Mailbag—Mom Seeks Help with Teen Veg