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Are You What You Eat: A brief overview of diets that may support health and the environment

Does what you consume reflect your attitude? Are you eating to preserve your body, your wallet, or your world? Do you have enough energy to think about it? With so many diets claiming to be the best way to have energy, health, and well-being while saving the planet, which is a conscious consumer to choose?

Here’s a very brief overview of a few:

Vegetarian: A vegetarian is anyone who does not eat meat—whether for health reasons, reasons of ethics in terms of believing that animals should not be slaughtered for consumption or that inhumane practices are used for raising and slaughtering animals, or for environmental reasons, as the farming of animals is significantly depleting our natural resources. Many types of ‘variations on vegetarians’ exist.

“Most vegetarians consume dairy products, and many eat eggs. Lacto-vegetarianism includes dairy products but excludes eggs, ovo-vegetarianism includes eggs but not dairy, and lacto-ovo vegetarianism includes both eggs and dairy products. Semi-vegetarianism consists of a diet largely of vegetarian foods, but may include fish and sometimes poultry, as well as dairy products and eggs. The association of semi-vegetarianism with vegetarianism in popular vernacular, particularly pescetarianism”1

Vegan: A vegan does not consume any animal product—including products that come from an animal, but do not involve killing the animals- such as all dairy, eggs, and honey.

Gluten free: A gluten free diet is one without gluten: a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—and, therefore, in most breads, pastas, and even in items like soy sauce. A gluten free diet may be eaten by choice, or by necessity—about 1% of the population has celiac disease—an intolerance to gluten.

Raw: Raw foodists believe all they consume should be eaten in its raw form—in other words, only unprocessed and uncooked plant products (including grains, fruit, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and sprouts) that are never heated beyond 116 degrees—the temperature at which it is believed vital enzymes in the foods begin to be destroyed.

Locavore: This diet refers to those who commit to eating only food grown locally. Locavores proclaim this diet benefits the environment because food is not transported long distances, thus necessiting emissions polluting vehicles and potentially more preservatives and pesticides to maintain the foods. Those who eat primarily local foods tend to eat only fresh and seasonal foods, thus generally eating a healthier diet.

“"Locavore" was coined by Jessica Prentice from the San Francisco Bay Area on the occasion of World Environment Day 2005 to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet consisting of food harvested from within an area most commonly bound by a 100-mile (160 km) radius. "Localvore" is sometimes also used.”.2

Macrobiotic: A macrobiotic diet involves a whole theory and method of ingesting food, as opposed to just allowing or forbidding certain foods. A macrobiotic diet involves assessing the yin and yang energy of each food item, and finding a harmonious balance in the body. The diet focuses on consuming grains, certain vegetables, and beans, but many other foods are allowed in moderation. Proponents also follow a certain manner of consumption that includes chewing each bite thoroughly to ensure proper digestion and controlling portion sizes. As an added bonus, ” Macrobiotics has long been advocated by some as a preventative and cure for cancer.” 3

Caloric Reduction: Having gained much recent acclaim from coverage on Oprah, folks following a caloric reduction have, traditionally, begun eating these reduced-calorie, high-energy diets to lose weight. However, the caloric –reduction diet s said to possibly be the only diet likely to enable humans to live 50% longer lifetimes—to well over 100 years old. A diet that involves consuming under 2000 calories per day in a highly managed style that encompasses a great deal of natural foods and foods that maximize nutrients and energy potential in compact, low-calorie portions, involves a lot of counting and weighing, but apparently offers very impressive tradeoffs. While pros include claims of longevity, high-energy, and weight-loss, the diet can be very time consuming, and some may not consider this an ethical alternative-meat is allowed and, while portions is weighed, environmental factors are not!

Flexitarian: A wonderful homage to finding balance in all things, the Flexitarian diet, created by registered dietician, Dawn Jackson Blatner, is a great choice for those who want to make a healthy and environmentally friendly shift in their diets, but aren’t prepared for anything too radical. Being a Flexitarian involves replacing one less healthy meal per day, with a nutritious vegetarian alternative. After a given amount of time, perhaps a week or a month, one may choose to up the ante, replacing two meals a day, and, eventually, three, with the new diet. “Unlike the many fad-diets, which have little long-term benefits, flexitarianism is a sensible approach to incorporating more plant-based meals and minimizing meat without eliminating it altogether.” 4

Here are four Atlanta-area outlets to purchase essentials for any of these diets:

Whole Foods: While across North America the store has received the notorious nickname of “Whole Paycheck” the stores do seem to consistently offer a vast and fresh selection of natural produce. They also have a fantastic selection of herbal medicines and supplements, homeopathic products, and natural toiletries, and tend to have a very well-educated staff to advise on their products. Plus, as far as I know, all Whole Foods allow you to return anything you try from these departments, if you are unsatisfied for any reason. Sometimes you get what you pay for and occasional bargains, vast selection, and kind and knowledgeable staff make Whole Foods a worthy visit.

Trader Joe’s: Trader Joe’s is a fantastic outlet for gourmet, natural pantry stockers at fantastic prices. While TJ’s may offer the best all-around deals, the wise shopper will be choosy here. Produce tends to be overly packaged, thus creating more waste, and without nearly the selection of Whole Foods or the farmers’ markets.

Dekalb farmers market: For independent shoppers ready to explore, this location may be your mecca. It is a year-round, indoor market in a large warehouse featuring global products—some at great deals. That being said, you must turn in your canvas bags before shopping, the area can be a bit cumbersome and industrial, and staff may not be of great assistance in terms of knowing where one may find products outside of their immediate area.

Sevananda natural foods: Step into Sevananda and be on the lookout for flower girls and Birkenstocks. This store feels like the real deal—a step back into a time when ingredients were pure and simple. The store, which has been in existence since the early seventies, is, according to its website, “one of the largest natural foods cooperatives in the southeastern United States”.5 While anyone can shop at the store, Customers who wish to become members pay a small fee, and generally volunteer some time, in exchange for discounted shopping and part-ownership of the business. The store seems to truly have some of the best fresh, organic produce, products for all forms of special needs diets, and natural products for body, mind, and spirit, at competitive prices.

Take good care of yourself— listen to your self, and, of course, consult with professionals, as to what will best nourish you. Remember that your body is a sacred vessel for strength, energy, and love.

Rev. Dawn Smith-Camacho is an Interfaith Officiant, author, and spiritual & holistic living coach. She is the founder of, a job board for the soul. She can most closely be described as an ovo-pesco locavore vegetarian with a penchant for cupcakes. She can be reached at

1 Wikipedia, Vegetarianism, (July 2009). 2 Wikpedia, Local Food, (July 2009). 3 Wikipedia, Macrobiotic Diet, (July 2009). 4 Michelle Thompson, MS, She Knows, Vegetarian Flexibility, Michelle Thompson, MS. (July 2009) 5 Sevananda Natural Foods Store, About Us, Our History & Green Practices, (July 2009).

About the Author

Rev. Dawn Smith-Camacho is an Interfaith Minister, mom, and the founder of, a job board exclusively for Southern Californians passionate about organics, well-being, spirituality, and the earth. Rev. Dawn officiates ceremonies, serves as a spiritual coach and counselor, and writes articles about holistic health, spirituality, and well-being. She currently resides in the Atlanta area. She can be reached through the websites and

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