When eating a shrimp po'boy the size of your head is healthy

First, let me clarify - a shrimp po' boy the size of an adult woman's head is not a healthy choice. My sincerest apologies if you only clicked on the post to learn about the new fried shrimp and baguette diet. Now, let me explain the title. In my Monday post, I mentioned we went to a Mardi Gras party at our local organic farm this weekend. That morning, I woke up early to get things done beforehand, but I got so wrapped up in checking items off my list, that I completely forgot to eat more than a quick snack. Normally by 2 pm, I've eaten breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, and my stomach is just starting to rumble for an afternoon snack. So as you can imagine, when we got to the party and I was confronted with an array of food trucks selling every fried food you could think of, my self control was limited to none, especially after throwing a few IPAs into the mix. I'll save you the gory details, but lets just say the day culminated in me devouring a shrimp po'boy approximately the size of my head and then having a passionate conversation about the importance of nutrition, all while shoving cheese sticks down my throat. Oops.

So no, while po' boys, fried cheese sticks and a few too many beers are certainly not healthy, sometimes it's healthy to indulge in them - guilt free.

It thrills me to see the growing sense of nutrition awareness in the general public. Thanks to a powerful and vocal food movement, most people now understand the danger of a heavily processed diet. But sometimes I worry unhealthy foods have been demonized to the point of interfering with normal eating. We feel guilty for enjoying an oreo on occasion or choosing coffee over green juice in the morning, habits that should be 100% shame-free.

Normal eating, as described by super dietitian Ellyn Satter, is the following:

“Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.”*

It is not normal to eat perfectly every single day. It is normal to make a conscious effort to be your healthiest self...and totally fail on occasion.

I've discussed my concept of worth-it splurges in previous posts - those foods you absolutely love, regardless of whether it's healthy or not.  No matter the calories, ingredients or sugar content, it's worth every bite. Think thin crust pizza in Italy, that cheesecake you only make for the holidays or the perfect pimento cheeseburger from the neighborhood burger joint.

Now, the po' boy I ate doesn't compare the to the ones I enjoyed in New Orleans. The fries I stole from my husbands plate? Well, I don't even like fries! And the cheese sticks I devoured tasted pretty much like the ones you get from the freezer section (which if I'm being honest, are pretty delicious). Sometimes it's not the quality of food that makes a splurge worthwhile, but the experience. I had such an amazing time with our friends. And we had a great laugh over "the po' boy incident" at a birthday dinner this week (I ordered a much needed salad, by the way). In hindsight, I could have cooked a healthy lunch at home and went to the party later. Yes, it would have been a better choice to pack snacks since I knew we would be there most of the day. But I didn't. And that's okay!

Your attempt to live a healthy life shouldn't get in the way of living life to it's fullest. A healthy, balanced diet should enrich your life. Sometimes you need kale and quinoa, other times, it's a massive shrimp po' boy and cheese sticks!

*Copyright © 2009 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com. For more eating competently (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008. Also see www.EllynSatter.com/shopping to purchase books and to review other resources.