Palio/Keto, Vegan and the shunned balanced diet in the middle

Palio/Keto, Vegan and the shunned balanced diet in the middle

Only eat meat it is the most healthy option, you will lose the weight by cutting carbs. No, don't eat meat at all it is cruel and unhealthy. Whatever happened to the balanced diet?

Are you as confused as I am? Growing up in the '70s and '80s with an aunt who is a dietician, the conversation around the dinner table and at family get-togethers very often resolved to the balanced diet. I fondly remember she had a way to explain the food groups where the thumb was the protein, but the rest of the fingers are somewhat foggy. The message was clear to eat a balanced diet.

Fast-forward to today, and I am as confused as can be. Disclaimer, I am not a dietician nor do I know anything about diets and have developed my bad habits over the years. I do however notice the cultural shift around me and the writing of this article is a way to make sense of the noise. I switch on Netflix and get messages of people miraculously being cured by only eating protein and fat, and others changing to a Vegan diet.

Paleo, Keto and our carnivore friends

I have to admit I have tried this one and am an advocate for reducing the carbs. I lost just under 10kg by changing some of my eating (and drinking) habits. By following some simple rules like replace beer for wine, no carbs at dinner reduced carbs the rest of the day I lost a few kilograms. I did gain some of it back after the diet started slipping. I am still in that struggle to keep it off. The reason, I have to admit, a nice cold beer is great on a warm summers day.
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I found the diet nice and intuitive and was able to reduce my sugar intake by replacing chocolate for 70% dark (which I love, a bonus). My switch did not include a high fat intake, due to my conservation focus, I have mainly switched to purchasing game meat. Some amazing studies on how the consumption of game meat (venison) rather than beef can reduce the impact on the environment has inspire me to do so. In a country such as South Africa where the game adapted to the local ecology, the effect of wildlife on the environment is much less. More on that in later articles.

The Vegan, Vegetarian movement

The arrival of the vegan movement surrounds me, suddenly everyone around me has turned Vegan for moral reasons. Many of my friends are reducing their meat intake, and some are switching to being either vegetarian or vegan (or any of the many other versions such as flexitarians). The schools in our area seem to influence the children to consider a vegan diet, and in fact, I know of two kids in my circle who has recently changed to being vegan, requiring their parents to cook two meals.

The usual response by non-vegetarian/non-vegans are do you get in enough iron, vitamins and proteins — an issue which of course get some of the media channels buzzing. How can I have a conservation motive and spend my time on this site advocating conservation and still eat meat? To me, there are some disadvantages to following a vegan diet if you are a game meat consumer in that if the consumption of game meat falls away the farms housing the game will become obsolete and be replaced by monoculture, killing off whole ecosystems. I am not a fan of beef feedlots as you can see. I do however understand the moral argument for not killing another being for food that Vegans have and meditate on it all the time. The answer still escapes me.

So what are we to do?

Sorry to disappoint you but I don't have the magic recipe and certainly don't have the answer to the question of the century yet. My inbred omnivore balanced diet instincts will be hard to break. For now, I am purchasing game meat where I can. My local butcher has a hunting concession on a nature reserve, he gets called on when there are culling required. By requesting him to inform me when this arrives and stocking my fridge with venison rather than beef I am doing my bit, for now.

I also support my son and his meatless Wednesdays by reducing my meat intake. I fondly remember my dad always told us never to eat meat twice a day. Cutting down on meat to him was done for health reasons rather than ethical reasons, still, an excellent way to focus my mind on reducing my meat intake, which I am failing at more days than not. I increase my consumption of vegetables when I can. I watch my carb intake but do enjoy some potatoes, rice, and pap when I can. What that makes me I don't know, Venison eating, meat reducing, carb reducing, meatless Wednesday flexitarian?
Adriaan Buys
Adriaan BuysConservationMag
Founder of ConservationMag, Studying expansive conservation management strategy in a world of short term human needs. Researcher, Lecturer, PhD Student