Barbequing ‘healthy’ alternatives

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Australia Day BBQs. Where ‘yummy’ trumps ‘healthy’

Australia day for many is an obligatory day of barbeques. The sausages are cooked to perfection with charcoal on the outside and still some raw bits in the middle and often stuck between slices of ultra-white bread with tomato sauce. Then eaten. And washed down with beer.

In terms of healthy eating, this is an epic fail. Never mind the fat content of the sausages or the carbohydrate load of the bread, charred meat is straight up carcinogenic. But we won’t mention that because it’s Australia day and it’s a barbeque and stop being so un-Australian.

Exactly what constitutes healthy eating is the subject of ongoing online debates with the same foods killing or curing you in equal measure. As far as I can tell, everything inexpensive and readily available seems lethal while expensive and precious super-foods are the only things that can save humanity.

Different diets have surged in popularity over the years and each have very loyal followers. Team Paleo hold the romantic idea of eating as our ancestors did all those millennia ago without acknowledging that we may have changed as a species over that time.

But it’s the rules I don’t get. No potatoes or lentils? That doesn’t even make sense. People have been eating versions of these crops for thousands of years and there seems no reason to stop now.

And yet at its core, the Paleo diet is a good idea. Less processed foods means less refined sugar and more fibre and that has to be beneficial.

Team Alkaline seem to think that anything acidic is evil and anything alkaline is pure and good and disease-preventing. Yet different systems in our bodies have different levels of acidity for different purposes.

The acid in our stomach is perfectly suited to food digestion and enjoyed by the microflora that live there while our blood is ever so slightly alkaline. Both systems are pH-buffered, which means that the extent of acidity or alkalinity won’t change with what we eat, so there seems little point worrying about food pH.

The really confusing part of the Alkaline diet are the explanations as to why it recommends eating acidic fruits like lemons and berries. Apparently lemon juice isn’t actually acidic despite containing large amounts of citric acid. And having a pH of 2, which is less than 7 and therefore, by definition, acidic. My bad.

After a valiant attempt to get over the term “Alkaline”, I realised that this diet does have some really great elements. Basically it says to eat more fruit and green leafy vegetables, drink less alcohol and stop smoking. That’s got to be good for you.

Many of the popular diets may work for some people because they are effectively touting the same tried and true practices that have existed for generations – eat more fruits and vegetables, lentils and grains, eat less fats and sugar and eat meat in moderation. But that’s boring. Better to add some crazy rules and fancy words to make it sound like it’s a completely revolutionary diet that must be tried.

Ultimately, people can and will eat how they like. Curiosity and a willingness to try new foods and test new ideas are always good strategies. For me, I’m happy with the “everything in moderation” approach. Including the odd carefully burnt sausage at a barbeque.

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