In March 2017, Healthyish published an article entitled, Lies We Tell Ourselves About Avocado Toast. The author ended the article with the drippingly patronizing, “Once we all get sick of eating it, we’ll drop the fib, recognize avo toast for the delicious, fatty, carby slab that it is, and move on to new faux-healthy delights. Isn’t adulthood fun?” This is my response.
We can’t keep up anymore with how to eat. One day it’s anything but eggs; the next, it’s a new study extolling the virtues of the egg (and, gasp, even the yolk!). We move on to avocado toast and even put the whole egg on our avocado toast. Before long, we’re told it’s another lie. We’ve been duped again by the nutrition gods! How stupid of us mere mortals to think we were smart enough to know how to feed ourselves.
But avocado on toast isn’t a trend; it’s not even new. Jane Grigson’s infamous Vegetable Book, originally published in 1978, is a reference bible of vegetables, stories, and recipes. In her section on avocados, she recommends putting avocado on toasted bread. What we’re currently experiencing is a rediscovery of a previously enjoyed food. And the key here is food. Real food. Because we’re finally getting back to real food over its processed counterparts.
We, for too long, have fallen into the camp of nutritionism, or reducing food to the sum of its parts — proteins, carbs, fats, nutrient content, etc. And if we were healthier for it then perhaps I’d espouse this viewpoint as well. But we aren’t. We aren’t healthier and we’re more confused. And we’ve lost food enjoyment along the way. Far too often I hear someone exclaim that they don’t buy into what is healthy because it’ll change tomorrow. By reducing avocado toast to a ‘fatty, carby slab’, we’re falling victim to nutritionism and adding to the swirling nutrition confusion. We have (finally!) swapped our sugary, processed breakfast bars and cereals for a whole fat that sustains us through our mornings. And if you don’t feel it’s the best breakfast/snack/meal for you, then that’s O.K. too. But to patronize those who enjoy it is just plain wrong. And misleading.
And full of judgement. We need to stop passing judgment on each other so readily for food choices. Let’s empower one another to make healthy food choices most of the time. Because we want to. Because we owe it to ourselves and the one body we have. Because we feel better when we eat better. Because how we eat is how we live. Pick any reason.
As I coach women to repair their relationship with food, I often find a common thread: they want to eat well and don’t know how. So, they try. And they might pick a processed food that markets its healthy attributes but is, in reality, anything but. We slowly work toward switching to whole, life-giving foods. And maybe they do put a bit too much honey on their plain yogurt in the beginning, but that switch is to be applauded, not disparaged. I’m proud that they switched from yogurt with 18 grams of sugar and additives to a plain yogurt where they are in control of the honey they add. Even if they add 3 teaspoons of honey to their yogurt at 5 grams of sugar a teaspoon, they’re still coming in ahead. And we can work on how much added sugar they consume. But we can’t minimize the preservatives and additives in processed foods if we’re consuming them.
If a client (or anyone for that matter) switches from a processed breakfast to avocado toast, I’m surely not turning up my nose at them. They’re learning to reach for whole foods and to savor and enjoy them. And that’s something we can all do a bit more of. We’re doing just fine. All of us.
There’s this scene in the movie, Ever After, where Drew Barrymore’s character is nervously entering a masquerade ball and she whispers to herself, ‘Breathe. Just breathe.’ Good advice. We begin to breathe and rid ourselves of the anxiety and judgment that comes from trying to eat perfectly. There is no perfect diet. It’s a one-degree shift we make each day to do a bit better for ourselves. And we do it with pleasure. Because adulthood is complicated enough without mystifying something we do three times every day.
I’m pulling up a chair. Pass me the avocado.