By Jane Trask
I spend about 80 per cent of my day some days thinking about food. What to eat? What not to eat? When to eat? How much to eat? What my next meal or snack will be? What will I cook that night for my family that meets everyone's needs and that my children might consider eating?
I've always thought a lot about food. Growing up in a dance environment and studying physical education, health and nutrition, I have a bit of an idea of what makes a good diet.
Unfortunately being a dancer, my diet has and is not always ideal and something I have to make a conscious effort to engage my willpower to stick to consuming food I know will make me feel good as well as fuelling my body for daily purpose.
Looking at oneself constantly in a mirror up to six hours a day while teaching is not always good for the mental health either!
I'm not a big meat fan and only ate chicken and fish during the ages of 15 to about 30 years of age.
It was only when I was pregnant with my first son I craved sausage rolls. I've slowly introduced a little more meat into my diet but the truth is I just don't like it.
I don't eat lamb and can't stand the smell of it cooking. I eat very little beef, occasionally pork and then my usual chicken and fish. In reality though, I'm not even the biggest fan of chicken and fish some days.
So you'd think I'd be the perfect candidate to be a vegetarian. Except, I'm not the biggest vegetable fan either.
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There are about 10 different vegetables that are on my meal rotation but I reckon my taste buds just don't like some flavours. Fussy? Perhaps.
I have an intolerance to dairy and gluten and I guess at different times in my life a high addiction to sugar, chocolate and processed foods all of which I know are not good for me.
Vegetarian, meat lover, paleo, keto, FODMAP, vegan are all terms we hear regularly from friends, family or advertisements of people trying different lifestyle choices that centre around defining themselves by the types of food they consume.
'Pasterarian' was what I used to want to be before my intolerance to gluten escalated. Apparently you can eat too much pasta.
Balance, moderation and making good choices are key. You can eat meat but make good choices about the organic way the meat you purchase is farmed.
You can eat dairy but only buy free range products or you can be vegan and eat only a plant based diet. If you love vegetables you can be a vegetarian and even try growing your own.
Humans are by nature drawn to eat both meat and vegetables to sustain energy and a balanced diet. To some extent putting labels and pressure on ourselves to eat only one type of food or follow one type of diet is not always sustainable and can be detrimental to our health.
Some body types respond differently to different diets and what is right for one isn't always suited or right for another.
My girlfriends and I have a monthly dinner club that we affectionately call DC.
This is our sixth year of getting together and each month one of us chooses and books a Rotorua restaurant. We use this excuse to dress up, leave our husbands with the role of both mum and dad for the evening and sneak out earlier than need be for pre-dinner drinks, dinner and endless chatting and laughter over life.
We challenge ourselves to at least stay out until double digits before we head home with hearts and minds full of girl chat and renewed energy to once again face mum life the next day.
We have a mixture of dietary requirements in our group along with favourite foods that not everyone shares a love for. Here we are, all of us trying to find the balance between making good food choices and treating ourselves on this once a month girl's night out. We've tried so many restaurants over the past six years and we definitely have our favourites.
It hit me last Friday night like a revelation.
My friend who had been trying the vegan lifestyle for the past year ordered pork tacos. The entire table stopped and stared. "Look," she said proudly. "I'm a Flexitarian."
I think 'Flexitarian' might be my new go to food label as well. We continued to chat and defined it as "making ethical and sustainable choices about what we eat, dependent on what we feel like, but also trying to eat healthy and make conscious decisions".
Maybe it will catch on.
• Jane Trask is a Rotorua mother and a former dance and physical education teacher. She has a bachelor of sport and leisure studies and a postgraduate teaching diploma in PE and dance. She studied journalism as part of her university degree and she has always had a strong interest in print journalism.