Can Processed & Red Meats Fit?

I wanted to discuss the recent publication WHO (World Health Organization) put out about carcinogenic processed meats as well as red meat. When the study first came out it was being talked about everywhere! Being an aspiring health care professional, foodie, and nutrition junkie myself, I had a handful of thoughts on the subject..

-My initial thoughts were, “wow this is great, this ougtta show people not to eat hot dogs or deli meats anymore.”

-But then I found my second thoughts being, “I sound like a complete hypocrite because I enjoy a nice browned hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard or a red juicy steak once in a while..” –Yes, I give your permission to laugh at me.

-My third thoughts along with my boyfriends first thoughts were, “didn’t people already know this stuff was bad for them? We already knew this!”


How Much is Too much?

A few friends continued to talk to me about the information and I noticed a trend in each conversation… But how much is too much? I must admit I found myself wondering the same thing. So, I decided to look into it. In the WHO publication itself it states, “50 grams of processed meats eaten daily will increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.” This would be equivalent to ONE of the following:

  • 6 pieces of bacon
  • 3/4 of a large sausage
  • 1 hot dog
  • 2 ounce serving of ham
  • 4 slices of salami.

You get the drift. So, yes these foods should be eaten in moderation. But if consumed in moderation or very little it may pose a much lower if any major health risk. Therefore, if you have three pieces of bacon on your BLT for lunch, you’re NOT going to get cancer.

But the how much is too much question gives rise to another semi-issue – most people are still going to eat this stuff. From a health advocates stand point this is the cross roads I continue to find myself at all the time. Do I advise people to never eat these foods again? Or do I give them an alternative piece of advise? I guess my advice is a little bit of both.

Success = Attainable Goals

I could tell you, never eat another piece of bacon or a salami sandwich again! But first of all that would make me a hypocrite and second of all I bet 90% of people wouldn’t see that as an attainable goal. Therefore, they wouldn’t do it. The most important thing when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle and tackling the malnutrition epidemic we have here in America is setting practical goals. You can tell someone that chocolate cake is horrible for their health, therefore they should never eat it again. But will that really convince them to never eat another piece of chocolate cake again? Probably not. And actually, it may even spark a new set of problems such as over eating that chocolate cake when they have the chance, or sneaking it behind friend/families backs.

Of course I’m not trying to give everyone an excuse to eat unhealthy foods. But I’m also not trying to be a drill sargent and tell you, you can only eat vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and nuts for the rest of your lives either. Although, that would be ideal, its not practical and therefore its setting people up for failure. Leaving some sort of choice out there makes things less complicated, less strict, and therefore less frustrating. I’m going to bring up the 80/20 thing you may have seen in my past posts. I think its very useful in this situation and will help to leave you with a piece of mind but still a good taste in your mouth. No pun intended.

Your Relationship with Food

Eating well 80% of the time and treating yourself 20% of the time helps you maintain your nutritional standards as well as satisfying your own foodie pleasures. Majority of the time people suffering from bad nutrition fail to have a good relationship with food. We fail to care about the ingredients that make up our food, how its made or grown, how its processed, where its from, and what it means for our health. Imagine having a relationship with a person (friend, family, or spouse) who you had no idea about, where or how they grew up, who their friends/family are, what their thoughts entailed, or how their presence effected your own well being. Hows that for a crazy thought? But if you think about it, its scary true. If we all treated the relationship we have with food like the relationships we hold with loved ones, this task of what and how much to eat could easily be solved. Just like we decide who to keep in our daily lives, who to be around once in a while, and who to dedicate very little to no time to.

The 80/20 idea can relate to the relationship comparison in another aspect too. Things aren’t perfect 100% of the time in any relationship, likewise in any diet. People disagree – people eat an ice cream cone. Putting into numbers, a healthy and fair balance – 80/20 would be the answer to this balanced equation.

People relationships- enjoy someones presence 80% of the time, 20% of the time sharing differences.

Food Relationships- eat healthy, healing foods 80% of the time, indulge in sometimes food 20% of the time.

All Foods can Fit

Ultimately, what I’ve stated above should give each and everyone of us a guideline of what a non stressful, practical, healthy diet should look like. This type of diet will also help you lead a more accepting, smoother, happier lifestyle all at the same time! Could it really be that simple? I’m giving you hope ladies and gentlemen, it is that simple.

So how can we relate all this to the WHO’s publication? Red and processed meats would DEFINITELY fit into the 20% part of the equation. But if you notice, it does fit. Eating a hot dog at your summer cookout is in fact acceptable, and even more its not going to kill you, so long as your not eating a hot dog everyday. Did that put a smile on your face?

– Learning to love foods for all that they are & all that they add to your life, will help you to love foods a little less for all they aren’t & all that they take away from your life. But, each side of the spectrum still leaves room for love.

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