Sunday, August 8, 2010

Diet-Mixing 101: Dining with the Differently Dieting

I've been thinking a lot lately about diet-mixing in its many forms. Katie and I often discuss the nuts and bolts and pros and cons of different low carb approaches to eating, from Atkins to the The Glycemic Load Diet to The Belly Fat Cure, and we often end up mixing the guidelines of lots of different plans to find what works for both our individual tastes and specific food situations.

There's also the kind of diet-mixing that happens when two (or more) people who follow different eating plans eat together. Sometimes, this involves the everyday negotiations that go on between partners or within families over what's for dinner, and other times, it's the difficulty of figuring out a single meal with someone with whom you rarely dine.

Just last week, for example, I was invited over to a friend's house for dinner, knowing fully well that this friend is a fat-gram-watcher/calorie-counter and NOT a low-carber like me. Having no idea what I would be served for dinner, I prepared myself to bite the bullet and graciously accept whatever was available. (I realize that a lot of serious low carbers would scold me for my willingness to compromise, but I still, in many ways, value social comfort over complete control over my food.) Even though my friend had thoughtfully Googled low carb recipes before my visit and ended up planning something mostly acceptable for my way of eating, I still found it SO interesting how much our food choices clashed. As we prepared stir-fried chicken breast and vegetables together in her kitchen, I had to stifle a cringe when she added I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and bottled lite vinaigrette to the skillet. Dessert consisted of mountains of watermelon and mango slices, and even though I've allowed myself fruit ever since I branched out from strict Atkins Induction a few years ago, those are some of the more sugary options and not the ones I usually reach for.

When we chatted over dinner about what sorts of things we eat, she went on about how she's horrified to learn how many calories are actually in many of her favorite foods and how she has grudgingly switched from mayonnaise to mustard on her sandwiches. I explained back that I can eat all the mayo I want as long as I skip the bread. She mentioned that she eats a lot of Lean Cuisine meals, and even though I envied her for a split second for the total convenience of those little frozen dinners, I quickly remembered how tiny and utterly tasteless they are and how hungry I was always left whenever I tried making a meal out of them in the past. At least with low carb, I'm eating real foods full of healthy fats and no added sugars or starches to make my blood sugar go crazy. Even though it's sometimes really hard to avoid carbs, I think it's finally starting to sink in for me that it's so much more satisfying than avoiding fat could ever be.