Rationalizing My Ever-Changing Dietary Habits

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GrapevineIf the last quarter century has taught us anything it is that we are no longer “creatures of habit,” the well-turned phrase of older generations.

Growing up in my Italian household, I knew exactly what meal we were having on each night of the week – every week. I knew that every Sunday afternoon, after the traditional Sunday dinner, my parents would shepherd my siblings and me into the family car for our Sunday drive.    

My, how I’ve evolved. Now I am a creature of ever-changing habits. Technology, social media and mega consumer marketing companies have become agents of constant change. Today, change is considered the norm, not the exception.

For many in my Baby Boomer generation, change has been creeping up on us. Over the last quarter-century, I’ve been weaned off public payphones, hand-written checks, Rand McNally travel maps and DVDs/CDs. I’ve read that in the last 25 years science has impacted our lives more than in all human history. Today a creature of habit is at risk of extinction.

This brings me to the change that has affected me most in the last 25 years: my lifestyle and eating habits.

Over time, I’ve learned that eating red meat three to four times a week – and processed foods on a few of the other nights – is a sure formula for compromising my health. At first, I resisted change. The mantra of my early adult life was “it must be good for me if my parents cooked it, especially if it tasted so good.” Unfortunately, too many in my parents’ generation died in the prime of their lives from clogged arteries and mutant cells.

I had rationalized my unhealthy diet by developing a compensating habit of consuming a glass of red wine with evening meals. Resveratrol in red wine has been shown to be one of the factors behind the healthy Mediterranean Diet. Surely this insurance policy would allow me to continue my dietary habits. Wrong. I happened upon an article that described the ideal diet for modern man: the Stone Age diet.

The theory: human genetics have evolved very little over the last 10,000 years. Therefore, our bodies thrive best with a diet suitable to our inherited genetic profile. This diet consisted of root vegetables, fruits, nuts and an occasional Mastodon steak. It contained no significant amount of saturated fats, refined sugars or highly processed (or genetically modified) foods.

What about red wine? Early traces have been discovered and dated to 6,000 years ago. Not quite caveman times, but well before the life-changing innovations of the Industrial Age. I’ve rationalized that natural red wines are a direct product of nature and contain healthy compounds that are complementary to a healthy diet.

In the late ‘90s, studies were emerging that urged consumers to change their lifelong, deleterious diets by reducing the consumption of red meat and processed foods. So I began to change my diet. (I still miss Italian bread and sandwich meats.)

When a niece adopted a vegetarian diet, I changed again and inched a bit closer to the caveman diet. I now understand the plant-based food preferences and the growing influence of the millennial and Generation Z population.

Today, I’m eating more fish, plant protein and organic foods and wines. Coupled with outdoor running and visits to the gym, I now schedule my annual physicals with confidence rather than anxiety (and my physician endorses my moderate wine consumption regimen).

My choices are made easier by the changing food selections offered in restaurants and food markets. I now seek out menu legends and symbols that didn’t exist a few years ago at restaurants, including V, VG, GF, DF, SF and NF. (Did you decode them all?)

I now consider myself an educated omnivore – a balance between childhood upbringing and 21st-century sensibility. I haven’t progressed to strict vegetarianism; I enjoy the occasional steak or dairy product. But, my diet continues to evolve for the better. I raise my glass of organic (vegan?) red wine to my (and perhaps your) health and longevity.

Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.

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