I have been a dietitian for almost all of my adult life. I only recently resigned from my provincial regulatory body, meaning I am no longer allowed to practice dietetics in Alberta. That’s okay because I’m also not allowed to work in the Cayman Islands.
I still consider myself a dietitian and my hackles still rise when I hear self described “nutritionists”, a title that is not protected by any regulatory body, make nutrition claims with little to no basis in science.
This is not going to be a rant. My point now is that I have always looked at the world through the eyes of a dietitian, and not an “evangelist” dietitian as my friend describes them. I have always believed in certain things in my food philosophy. My favourite word is moderation. If that makes me boring, so be it. It also makes me healthy and happy and I believe, a reasonable person. Moderation in all things is my motto.
The other thing I believe in is the 80-20 rule. If you are restricting certain foods for a health problem, for example, heart disease or high blood pressure, try to be cautious 80 percent of the time. If you can do that, you can justify a treat 20 percent of the time. My other philosophy? There are no good or bad foods.
Both of the last two philosophies obviously go out the window if you are talking about a severe food allergy, or something like Coeliac disease. There is no room for gluten in a Coeliac diet and no room for trace amounts of any allergen when the reaction is anaphylaxis.
I strongly believe that food is meant to be enjoyed. We don’t need to suffer to be healthy. If you want to lose weight, you need to increase your activity, so that your expenditure is more than your intake. That doesn’t mean you should be miserable. It means you need to exercise, probably at least an hour each day, and decrease portion sizes. Most people didn’t become overweight in a week, so it’s going to take more than a week to lose excess weight. Bad habits develop over a lifetime, so it takes a commitment to change them.
How are my philosophies working for me in the Caribbean? Perfectly. In a country with such a diversity of cultures blending with the local culture, the food possibilities are endless. I’ve never became attached to any food “products” because I make almost everything from scratch, so I don’t miss a particular brand of product. That works well for me everywhere. Buy local produce and as much of the local protein sources as possible. It certainly helps that we do have a market here and there is hydoponic gardening. There was a time where many things would have to be shipped in. Now, we can buy eggs, chicken and fish that are sourced locally.
I love trying new restaurants, and I know that maybe in the restaurants they use more butter and oil than I would use at home. That’s why we don’t eat out every day. That’s why I try to swim every day!
While visiting Italy, we ate and drank whatever we wanted, in moderation. The food in restaurants was all prepared from fresh local ingredients. We also walked almost everywhere. After a month of eating to my heart’s content, I didn’t gain a pound. I can’t say that after every vacation, so sometimes I think if I’m living in Paradise now, Italy must be heaven.
I’m not the best person to tell a busy person how to fit in exercise and how to prepare everything from scratch. I was a very busy person at one time, but now I have the luxury of time. I know that I’ve always made these things a priority. If you wake up a half hour early you can do a short workout or swim. If you can make it an hour of exercise, even better. Preparing food from scratch requires a lot of planning, and a little freezer space, but it’s worth it.
Since moving to Grand Cayman, I’ve had to do some of my own research and digging to tweak the healthy eating plan. For example, should we still be taking Vitamin D supplements, even with all this sunshine? What is the nutritional value of eggplants, a vegetable that seems to grow very well here? Is it possible to overdose on mangoes during the awesome season we just experienced?
I decided that we should probably still take Vitamin D when we remember. As we age our ability to produce Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight diminishes. Besides that, we are usually covered in SPF 60 sunscreen, which also reduces our Vitamin D synthesis.
The eggplant is very high in soluble fibre and very low in calories, as well as providing some folate, manganese and phytosterols. I use it on pizza, in Thai spicy eggplant, in Eggplant Parimigiana and in ratatouille.
If you live in the Caribbean, you probably have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fruit. Most fruit is an excellent source of fibre, potassium, vitamin C and sometimes vitamin A. Enjoy the riches! Yes, mangoes are sweet, but the are also good for you! Remember, moderation. Eat a starfruit, share a mango and eat that banana to help you through that morning swim before breakfast. These alone are not going to throw your blood sugar over the roof, especially when eaten throughout the day and intermittently with protein, grains and vegetables. The traditional rice and beans are high in soluble fibre, the plantains high in potassium. Welcome to the Caribbean!