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What is moderation for you?

I keep reading all the time about how people eat in moderation. But I'm realizing that everybody has different definitions of what they consider moderation. Seriously, what does it mean? My dad used to eat beef three times a day when he was younger. I'll bet his idea of moderation back then was probably eating beef once or twice a day (which is far from my idea). And for households where they buy soda by the case, moderation for them may be twice a week. As my dad got older (and had a heart attack probably due to his thrice-a-day beef habit), he only has lamb about three times a year and refuses to eat all beef and products derived from beef.

These are my definitions pertaining to just me. While I don't follow these exactly, this is probably what it works out to. For example, it could be a few weeks that I don't have beef. But I can then eat an entire shortrib (which is probably about 1/2 lb of meat) or a burger 2 or 3 times in one week.

Beef/lamb -- 1-2x a week (1/4 lb portions)
Pork -- 1x every 2 to 3 weeks (1/4 lb portion)
Desserts (including bars of chocolate) -- 1-2x a week (a small cupcake I would consider 1/2 a dessert)
Eggs -- 3 or 4 a week (yolks included)
Super spicy foods (talking mabo tofu type of stuff) -- 1x a month
Foie gras -- 3 "portions" a year
Refined white sugar -- only in desserts and perhaps a fraction of a teaspoon here and there in a vegetable stir-fry
Butter -- whatever's in a dessert; otherwise about 1-2 TBS a week
French fries/potato chips -- 1-2x a month
Soda (not seltzer) -- 1 can a month
Coffee -- in desserts; once every two months
Cheese -- 1x (1-2 oz) every three weeks

And of course these definitions are not static and evolve over time.

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  1. ill bite:

    beef, pork, chicken, or turkey - 1-2 times a day
    fish - once a week
    shellfish - once a week
    eggs - 5-6 per week
    beer - 1+ case per week
    tequilla - 1+ bottle per week
    soda: I just quit - no big deal...(used to dring 2-3 a day)
    cheese - once a day
    coffee - never
    french fries - twice a month
    Italian Beef - 2-3 a month
    Gyros - 1-2 a month
    hotdogs/chili dogs - 6-10 a month
    butter - 4 sticks a week
    rice - 3-4 times a week
    pasta - 1-2 times a week
    potatoes - 1-2 times a week
    spicy food - 4-5 times a week
    green veggies - 1 x day
    fruits - 3-4 times a month
    cookies - 2-3 a month
    sweets - rare

    4 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      Thanks for your input.

      Ummm... about the 4 sticks of butter per week -- is that just for you? Are we talking about a stick being 1/2 cup? Or did you mean to say 4 sticks a month, or 4 sticks of butter for your entire family or something?

      1. re: Miss Needle

        a family of three for the butter. it is hard to break that one down since I make alot of cream soups, and other items where the butter goes into the mix(fried eggs, rice, etc). I just know a 4 pack of unsalted butter is pretty much a weekly item on the grocery list

      2. re: swsidejim

        "Italian Beef - 2-3 a month" Lucky you! I sure do miss my home town.

      3. i don't know what moderation means anymore. apparently i have an abnormal diet.

        fruit and veg at least every day
        sweets once a week or two weeks
        no potatoes
        no white rice/bread
        cheese every few days
        no other dairy
        no soda
        egg whites/tofu/fish alternating days
        no other meats (animals on land)

        but moderation is just giving yourself a break from time to time.
        if you can eat happily, and remain the same weight, then the scales are nicely balanced!
        although i do think many people eat too much unhealthy food... but they are quick, cheap and easy.

        but if i see macarons or creme brulee, i will throw guidelines out the window and devour all in my sight. but that doesn't happen often, so i let it go.

        you only live once!

        1 Reply
        1. re: dumpycactus

          Well, you do make a good point about the macarons. Actually, if I'm on vacation, all of this goes out the window as well -- or I guess I could inflate my previous values to incorporate my vacation eating.

        2. Your dad and beef sounds like me and coffee. I've recently started trying to cut back on my coffee consumption drastically (for fear of future osteoporosis). so now instead of having eight cups a day, i have two. it's a start!

          my other major vices i actually don't do too much to reign in, since i inevitably go through phases. once in a while, for a few days, i'll be obsessed with latkes and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. the next week, i might develop cravings for Brussels sprouts and eat an entire pound in one sitting. i usually don't eat any eggs in a week. today, i had three. i don't usually eat sunflower seeds on a regular basis, but the other day, i ate a full cup as part of my dinner.

          i remember you said once that you believe your body craves what it needs. i think that's a good theory! perhaps moderation is about listening to your body -- including 'binging' on certain foods when that's what your body needs, but not doing that all the time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cimui

            Oh, cimui, I used to be totally addicted to coffee. I loved the aroma and the taste of it. But it also made me jittery and gave me GI issues. It's a great thing that you cut your consumption. Cutting from eight to two is quite a big feat! I wish you luck with it. I drank a lot of tea to help me through my coffee addiction. It gave me a jolt of caffeine, but didn't give me the other negative symptoms I had with coffee.

          2. For most days, through the week sort of thing, moderation typically means what will fit within about a 1200-1500 calorie day. No I don't mean blowing it all on a huge slice of cake.

            Within that caloric range, I eat:
            -cheese, 1oz, at least once a day
            -olive oil, up to about a tablespoon a day. butter, if a recipe needs it, along the same range.
            -eggs, typically only on the weekends, but that's just because that's when i can have time to cook them.
            -usually one fruit, but many veg's throughout the day
            -typically for me, no "white" carbs....I keep my carbs in the whole grain variety (quinoa, wheatberry, beans, barley etc). I only eat bread at a restaurant, same goes for white rice and the occasional pasta. Even more rarely white potatoes.
            -soy foods up to the daily protein requirememt.
            -I drink at least one large coffee a day.
            -if and when i happen to crave a sweet, which is very rare, i'll cave.
            -same goes for pop, if i want it, i have it, in the sugar free varieities.
            -very very occasionally, I have seafood. No meat for me, by choice. I would live off french fries or potatoes in any form if given the chance, at the expense of proteins, veg and such, so I make myself limit those things to a very rare treat.
            -occasional glass of wine or two during the week, and I don't count it on the weekends.

            I see nothing wrong with eating regular fat yogurt, butter, cheese, piece of chocolate etc, as long as you're not gorging on it. Same goes for the occasional dessert, or dinner out on weekends. The occasional treat of deep fried items is also ok in my books. Again, as long as you're not living off the stuff.

            I limit frankenfoods in my diet, and think real butter and olive oil is superior to any of the weird margarine things out there. I just use less of it. I do use canned beans, but lately avoid canned soups and such, I try to cook my own instead.

            I don't buy frozen dinners such as lean cuisine etc, that some friends tell me that they eat because they are "healthy".

            4 Replies
            1. re: im_nomad

              You're so lucky that you don't have sugar cravings. All of my friends in grad school used to say that I should become a pastry chef because every time they saw me, I was eating a cookie or a pastry or something.

              I also know a lot of people who think that Lean Cuisine is very "healthy," but they tend to define healthy in just terms of calories and fats. In the low-carb craze, anything with low carbs was considered "healthy" as well. I had to endure many work lunches were everybody wanted to order the "healthy" Dominos thin-crust pizza.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                I don't crave sweets, but a potato chip wouldn't survive the night in my house :) therefore they are rarely bought. There are exceptions to the sweets rule as I can't resist a peanut butter cup or mike and ikes if they are in the house, but i don't go looking for them either.

                It's a good thing too, for a long while I made and sold cheesecakes from my home and thankfully was never ever tempted to eat them.

                As for Lean Cuisine type dinners, they do have their place within healthier choices I suppose if you have a salad with it or something, and you're not someone who cooks and is trying to keep the calories down....but I had a friend recently tell me that they were "good for you". This to me means something that people SHOULD be eating in order to stay healthy....and IMO well that's just not the case.

              2. re: im_nomad

                Interesting subject. Except that my "rules" would be so har d to convey in a mere few sentences, and I suspect it's true for many people too.

                I'm pretty much on the same page as with i'm_nomad on moderation, starting with when he wrote "I see nothing wrong with...".

                Trying to dissect this subject from a different angle:

                Foods that I never buy myself, and would only dabble on when served or put in front of me: ANYTHING that contains margarine, hygrogenated oils, chemicals, artificial sugars, artificial anything, MSG, pesticides etc. Anything that is overly sweet/greasy/heavy. In addition, apart from eating only to be socially polite, I would only eat just enough to enjoy. This means I might still eat the cloyingly sweet-but-pretty cake in front of me, but only as a mini-serving, such as two bites.

                One exception of food I'd get myself is if I have a craving for something -- crispy, hot fries, good ice-cream, foie-gras, coffee crisp etc.

                One helpful exercise in moderation is, I try to visualize if I'd enjoy the next bite/serving of the food. If I don't think I would, I'd stop there. I realise we eat (and I used to) gobble things down without even knowing why, and it's not for hunger. I still do, but always trying to make sure I enjoy my food a lot. I have often seen people eat good food and then confess they feel guilty about it. That's a waste of good food!

                I'd say I exercise moderation on white flours too, but it's still hard to say no to good bread or a good Jamaican patty :) To lend perspective, my idea on moderation is perhaps 1/3 of a baguette instead of the whole thing in one sitting. It helps to be snobbish and say no to chemical-laden and sugar-laced commercial bread and the likes :)

                I'd eat three croissants in a row if they're really good, or a whole bag of kettle chips, if I'm sure I enjoy every bite of them ;)

                1. re: tarteaucitron

                  "I'd eat three croissants in a row if they're really good, or a whole bag of kettle chips, if I'm sure I enjoy every bite of them"

                  I totally concur!

              3. This is a philosophic if not gastronomic minefield . Implicit in your question is that "moderation" is a desirable goal. I am not so sure this is true either generally nor diet-wise. In life, moderation in the in the face of a rabid-dog attack is not defensible. With respect to diet it really "depends." Faced with anaphylaxis, even one peanut is not moderate. On the other hand, eating all you can of healthful foods is not moderate although possibly desirable. Looking at the answers, most people seem to define moderation as limiting foods which that particular individual feels is harmful i.e., butter, caffeine, alcohol, etc. The problem is that the answers are really a reflection of that person's food "world view." Anyway, an interesting question which tells more about the respondent, then the subject. If so, I will get off the soapbox. But hey, it is a rainy afternoon and CH is always worth a visit.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Sinicle

                  You're exactly correct about this question being a personal question. That is why I said that this is what I consider moderation is "to me" and asked what is moderation "for you." The parameters I have set are not the parameters that would be appropriate for the person next to me. And the parameters I have set are how I feel about my situation now. I know that if I develop diabetes 10 years from now, there will be a drastic change in my eating habits. Actually, last year, I was craving meat and was eating it at least two times a day (which is totally unlike me). Turns out that I had a certain condition, and I really needed to eat the extra animal protein.

                  And to address the implication that moderation is a desirable goal, I think you may be reading too much into my post. It was just a simple question. Everybody has different health issues. For some people, they need to avoid something 100% because of a certain situation they have -- like with me and skate fish. If I eat a morsel of skate fish, I'd probably die without medication. If you have celiac disease, you can't exercise moderation with gluten.

                  I guess what I'm getting at with all this is that I've been reading everywhere about "moderation" with fats, nuts, chocolate, cookies, butter, sugar, meats -- the list goes on and on. It's such a buzz word these days. You see it in articles, on television, on Chowhound. I'll bet that a lot of doctors probably will tell you to enjoy certain things in moderation. But my point is that everybody seems to have their own definition of what they consider moderate. I find that a lot of people are searching for some sort of guidelines, and the term "moderation" is very confusing.

                  1. re: Sinicle

                    this seems a rather odd issue to get on a soapbox about IMHO. I didn't think miss was talking about people with major health problems attempting to eat something that could potentially kill them.

                    "everything in moderation" is something everyone hears all the time. Health issues and personal/religious choices aside, it means to most, eating a bit of everything. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be healthy to eat nothing but 20 pounds of oranges every day either.

                    1. re: im_nomad

                      For me, the only moderation I have to impose on myself is related to sugar and desserts, I want it after every meal, I don't even have to be hungry to eat it.
                      It's an addiction I constantly struggle to curtail.

                      1. re: superbossmom

                        especially with sugar, giving into the cravings just feeds it to come back tenfold! i'm a monster around those super crunchy sweet cereals.

                        when i quit sugar (stevia/naturally-occurring not included) for 2 weeks, i had no desire for sweets after that. it was really amazing!

                        except now i have a clove cigarette after a meal to replace the sweets. not the best substitute...

                        1. re: dumpycactus

                          It definitely is true if you cut it out sugars (in all its forms including fruit but allowed things like carrots) 100% that your cravings will diminish or even be non-existent. I tried that for about a month. I actually felt really good and had no cravings for sugar at all. But it's a very difficult thing for me to sustain as I eat a lot of Asian food.

                  2. My reaction was very similar to sinicle's. I kept hearing Mae West saying "why resist temptation? There's always more!" Doubt she was refering to food though.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: givemecarbs

                      Well, I think there could be a strong link to food and sex. My mom was really worried about me as a teenager because she said that I was really curious to indulge in all sorts of different foods. She said, "Well, you know that if you're so curious about food, you'll be really curious about sex and will not be able to say no like you should."

                    2. Hm. Well, I am Moderate during the week but I really have trouble with the weekends. Too much freedom to roam to the fridge, the cafes, bars, etc. I also have trouble drinking my water on the weekends.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: stellamystar

                        This is a great question: I use to eat out at almost every meal. Now, I love to cook and make dinners at home for my husband. This drastically changed out diets for the better.

                        Any red meat: 1-2 times a week
                        Except for Pork products such as bacon and proscuitto: 2-3 times a week
                        Fish, such as salmon, halibut, tilapia: Every day
                        Coffee: Never
                        Green Tea: Every day
                        Fruit and Granola: Every day
                        Tomatoes: Everyday
                        Butter: Never
                        Olive Oil: Everyday
                        Spinach: Every day
                        Eggs: once a week
                        Sugar: Never added.
                        White Bread: Never
                        Whole Grains and Brown Rice: Everyday
                        Then the weekend comes and our diet during the week is beyond healthy, then we add a bunch of empty calories due to alcohol:
                        Beer: 12 a week average
                        Wine: 2 Bottles
                        Nachos: Every Friday after the bars
                        Hot Wings: Every weekend at some point.

                        Then we drink a ton of water and Pellegrino on Sundays along with green tea to try and reverse the Friday and Saturday booze train.

                        1. re: chinkymonkey

                          I also have to admit that my standards get lax during the weekend. Last night, I had beef tongue with duck-fat roasted potatoes, chicken liver toast, fried sweetbreads (well, one small piece), 1/2 a slice of flourless chocolate cake, and ricotta gnudi with butter and sage. Today, it's back to normal for me -- vegetable dumpling soup and kimchi for breakfast.

                        2. re: stellamystar

                          To drink more water I started to squeeze lemons or limes into the glass. I was buying the Real Lemon packets but stopped, and started to buy the crystal lite packets and do them at half strength, but then stopped and just did water with crushed ice. I have found the crushed ice is key to my water intake. Also, for every mug of coffee I drink I make myself follow it with a big glass of ice cold water.

                        3. I don't know from moderation, Miss Needle. I drink vodka martinis almost every day and eat red meat and cheese like it's going out of style. Coffee and Red Bulls every morning. Usually switch back and forth between red meat and chicken for dinner. Peanut butter every day at breakfast and sometimes midmorning. Butter most days. Don't care what kind of bread I get as long as it's cheap, so have been known to rock the store brand white on occasion. Shrimp probably once a week, but made in the most unhealthy manner--scampi style, also with additonal feta thrown in for good measure. I love, love tomatoes so I eat them most every day, but have sometimes gone days without so much as a serving of veggies >cringe<. The one thing I have going for me is that I am not a dessert person. Not much interest in sweets. Otherwise, I am a testament to American excess. This is my confession, and since I'm Catholic, I now consider myself forgiven for my horrible diet as long as I say 10 Hail Mary's. ;)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: diablo

                            You're a happy evil sinner, diablo! ; ) But at least you and Candy don't say that you do moderation or follow any sort of health regime. I knew somebody who said he was moderate with ice cream because he ate a pint a day instead of a half-gallon! It seems that everybody has their own definition and standards.

                            Even in this thread, you've got all sorts of definitions here. As I said before, that leads me to the issue when doctors or health articles tell you to enjoy something in moderation, it doesn't really mean much. Most of these "moderation" claims aren't backed up by an estimate of what they think is appropriate. It's just an open-ended comment where the reader or patient can take full liberty with.

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              LOL. I know, I know. I did quit smoking, though, so I have that going for me!

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                You are absolutely correct with respect to medical advice. Usually the physician or health advisor does not know. So one should say "be specific." The answer you get will tell a lot about the value of the advice.

                            2. i know it seems a it snarky, but I don't follow a diet. I just eat what appeals to me at the moment. My job is physically taxing, how about unloading 51 boxes of Le Creuset and then climbing a ladder to stow the stock. I don't eat as much as I used to. 1/2 sandwich with a few Tyrell's chips for lunch and probably a diet coke. Liberte yogurt for breakfast. Coffee when I am in the mood. I seem to be in that mood frequently right now and am waiting for mine to brew right now. Animal protein every night, whether it is meat or something like a cheese souffle. I might forgo coffee for Shokinag Double Dark hot chocolate in a month or two. Lots of water and when I am really thirsty La Croix lemon is my beverage of choice. A scotch or 3 a night, sometimes wine with dinner or beer depending on menu. A few squares of dark chocolate almost every day. I don't eat a lot of carbs and when I do indulge in something with sugar I want real cane sugar. I keep Fever Tree ginger ale on hand as well as their tonic. DH and I trade cooking several nights a week. .....I think that coffee is about ready so I will top it with cream and read for a bit before getting ready for work.

                              1. I'm not very good at moderation... I eat what I want, when I want, and I am all over the board in terms of what I will eat. It can range from very healthy to extremely unhealthy. I love variety, it's my only real need.

                                I would say that I buy more than I eat, I like to share food with people. This is particularly true when I buy candy. I love collecting candy, but I actually eat very little of what i buy, and that is a good thing. I have many things that I am only allowed to buy if I know I will be sharing it with a lot of people. So potato chips are shared at sports tournaments, candy given out as gifts for teammates and opponents, cakes in the locker room, etc. This way I get to have a little bit, but I know that I can't overindulge.

                                I really love fruits and vegetables, so i have no rules about these things. But I feel I have been over eating meat and carbs lately, so I am trying to make food that is less meat or carb heavy. More vegetable stews and the like. I find that if I eat too much meat, carb, fat, alcohol, etc. I naturally start to seek out healthier items, as I overload on the decadent stuff. As much as I like fries for example, I will not eat them more than 4-5 times a month, because I start to feel unwell if I overdo it. But bacon.... that is harder to resist. If I let myself, I could eat bacon every day...I am also trying to reduce the amount of sausage and charcuterie I eat.

                                I am also trying to control portion size, which is my real demon. I am trying to eat a varied diet, not worry about type of food as long as I don't overdo it (Like fried food everyday, for example), and trying to eat food in amounts that satisfy but do not overstuff. If I eat a croissant for breakfast one day, I try to balance it with whole wheat toast and fresh fruit the next day.

                                But sometimes all the rules go out the window! I always return from New Orleans and have to purge with water and salad for a whole week...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: moh

                                  Well, sharing food is a wonderful thing. In addition to keeping yourself in check, I'm sure you're making a lot of other people pretty happy.

                                  I actually came back from a weekend trip to New Orleans a little over a week ago. Believe it or not, by Saturday evening, I think we had it up to here with deep-fried foods. My threshold has definitely decreased as I got older. The fried foods were indeed delicious. But my body was craving fresher things. So instead of getting a po-boys for Sunday lunch, we opted for eggs instead. That evening, we did a multi-course tasting meal. My favorite course was the salad, and I'm not a salad person to begin with. It was a wonderfully prepared salad to begin with -- full of really delicious greens, tomatoes, potatoes, and beets in a light vinaigrette. But I also think that my cravings for fresh vegetables had a lot to do with it. When we got back, we both ate pretty lightly for the week. Then I asked DH what he wanted to eat over the weekend, to which he replied, "Spotted Pig," a gastropub in my hometown that serves very rich heavy foods. I said, "I thought you wanted to eat lighter." He replied, "But it's been a week already."