Twentieth-century food science saw the creation of fat- and sugar-bombs the world had never seen (Twinkie, anyone?), and they hit all our evolutionary buttons. We never stood a chance.
It’s been beneficial to my health that I’ve often lived in other parts of the world, experiencing different cultures and lifestyles. I’ve found that every time I live, for any length of time, away from home, I end up losing weight and feeling healthier. I love to eat; it’s certainly not a question of me coincidentally starting to count calories while abroad. What are they doing right, then, that we’re doing wrong? I’ve been paying attention and I’ll tell you what I’ve learned.
1) You don’t need meat in every meal. Meat is calorically-dense, particularly compared to high-fiber items like green vegetables, beans and rice. There is also evidence that factory-farmed beef, which is brought to slaughter weight so quickly thanks in large part to a high-calorie corn-based diet (instead of grass), is fattier and higher in cholesterol than it needs to be.
When I lived in China, I didn’t become a vegetarian, but my meat consumption probably dropped by a factor of 10. Many Chinese dishes involve meat, but it is used sparingly, thin slices of chicken or beef are sprinkled throughout a dish that is 90% vegetables. Rice is served on the side. In North America, we invert that ratio, with a large steak and (maybe) a token side dish of green vegetables.
In Central America, black or red beans were frequently the protein source of a meatless meal, mixed with peppers and other vegetables and served with rice or wrapped in a corn tortilla. Indian cooking similarly makes good use of legumes paired with veggies — usually chickpeas, rather than beans.