Carbs... many women [and men, too, to a lesser extent] see them as the enemy. With this, I credit Dr. Atkins... a two-bit quack who told people across America to eat more meat and fat than carbohydrates. I have always been suspicious about the Atkins diet. It just doesn’t sound very healthy, and I feel like it’s more common sense than anything else.
Whatever my personal feelings about the wacko fat diet may be, the reality is that the Atkins diet greatly influenced the way American’s thought about food, and most effected by this was Italian- American food. Pasta sales went down following the popularity of the diet and people stopped eating pasta. While the fad diet has largely faded, there are still many people who “avoid carbs” as a matter of practice... as though it has become ingrained in our minds without our consent!
I am in an exercise class, which I love--it gives me a sense of community and kicks my ass three days a week so that I can enjoy eating virtually whatever I want. I stray to the side of healthy, but I am not going to deny myself. I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy eating and I think that is the way it should be. A few times, friends of mine have said that my cooking isn’t “healthy.”
It isn’t like me to have my feelings hurt, but saying that my food isn’t healthy has been bothering me. It got under my skin for some strange reason. I wondered if it was really unhealthy food. Well, if I was subscribing to the school of Mario Batalli, my food is healthy...Classically speaking, Italian food was boasted to be healthy fare. This was, of course, before Atkins declared carbs the “enemy.” But traditionally, Italian food is natural, healthy, and homemade. It incorporates simple ingredients and concepts. It’s uncomplicated cooking.
A while back, I was 40 pounds heavier than I am today. I was having issues with food, I suppose, after high school when the diet I ate consisted largely of cheesesteaks, ramen noodles, and other processed foods. It was around that time I picked up a copy of the Optimum Nutrition Bible. The book is the bible of good eating and it is cocked full of information on eating a balanced diet, as well as which foods to avoid.
The book changed my life (and I highly suggest everyone read it!). It’s main premise is to take vitamins, exercise, and to avoid processed foods as much as you can. Replace processed salad dressings with olive oil and vinegar. Make your own pasta, or other staples, like bread--don’t avoid them. This book said that MOST of your diet should be made up of carbohydrates. The big demon was really meat.
I lost 40 pounds after following the “diet” (which was really more a stye of eating than a diet), and I was elated! I felt great, and I was looking good, too. These concepts translated into what I now cook in my own kitchen, which is a fusion of healthy-style Italian-American dishes.
For me, it isn’t so much about monitoring myself or labeling my cooking as “healthy” or “unhealthy” as it is just enjoying what I eat. It’s more about the portion control and lots of exercise to balance out everything. But I do happen to think that I my cooking is healthier than most. I make all my own sauces; I use fresh ingredients, and I always know what is in my dishes. I don’t avoid carbohydrates in the slightest, and neither should you!
The Atkins Diet really helped to breed misconceptions about our friendly food group carbohydrates. Sure, you shouldn't pig out on a bag of potato chips followed by a loaf of bread slathered in butter and a then a huge plate of fettucine alfredo--everything in moderation, after all. But certainly you shouldn’t deny yourself great food, especially great Italian food!
So if you are subscribing to the school of low-carb, I urge you to think again. There is a whole world of great food that is waiting for you!!!