Karen Schuppert

Karen Schuppert

Editor’s note: This is the first column from a new contributor to the Register food section, although Karen Schuppert is well known to many Napans for her work as a nutritionist and chef, and a key figure in the Napa Farmers Market. The Choicetarian will run every other week.

Meat, dairy, sugar, fat, coffee, gluten, alcohol: If you’re attempting to eliminate any or all of these through various forms of dieting, you’re one of more than 40 million Americans; and about 92 percent will give up within the first 45 days.

This isn’t an article about deprivation or judgment. As author Anne Lamott says, “The world is too hard as it is without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing.” Instead, this is an article — and a regular feature — on the bounty of choices we have, whether they be for health, ethics or just plain taste.

The word diet comes from Old French meaning “a daily food allowance.” The Latin word diaeta and Greek word diaita mean “a way of life, a regimen.” But over the years, we have become accustomed to referring to “diet” as that for weight loss.

And as we know from countless studies (and terminated resolutions), “diets” don’t work. Diet plans are different from diets; they are about lifestyle. So rather than the continual slide from happiness when we consume a piece of pizza, let’s create a healthy relationship with food through thoughtful choices.

As a nutritionist and holistic chef, I have experimented with a multitude of diet plans. After all, it’s part of good research. Here is an overview of those most common:

— Vegetarian: A person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products. There are varieties of the diet as well: An ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. A pescetarian diet has been described as “fish but no other meat.”

— Vegan: Dietary vegans refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy and other animal-derived substances. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy, beeswax and honey.

— Gluten-Free: A gluten-free diet excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye (and you’d be amazed what foods contain it). A gluten-free diet is primarily used to treat celiac disease. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease.

— Paleo: A diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.

— Raw: The dietary practice of eating only uncooked, unprocessed foods. Depending on the exact philosophy or type of lifestyle and results desired, raw food diets may include a selection of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, meat and dairy products.

Based on feedback, I am happy to review each diet in greater detail and will always offer suggestions for substitutions in my recipes. My focus will be on seasonal, sustainable foods and local whenever possible. (Do you support the farmers market?) For me, I eat a primarily plant-based diet but when I want a good, juicy (grass-fed beef) burger, I’ll digest every last morsel.

Carrot Top Pesto

Makes about 1½ cups

I love pestos, and the combinations are endless. Basil is out of season now, but carrots are plentiful. I used to save the tops for the rabbits next door. But when my neighbor moved, I was left to make use of them and was surprised how delicious they could be.

1 cup lightly packed carrot tops (stems removed)

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6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove

1/4 tsp. sea salt – or 1/2 tsp. miso*

3 Tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds (or any nut, seed) **

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 freshly grated Parmesan (omit if vegan)

Place first 4 ingredients into food processor and mix until finely minced. Add the pumpkin seeds and pulse until finely blended. Now add lemon juice and cheese and mix again. Adjust seasonings to taste. Use with dips for crudites, in salad dressing, or on top of grilled chicken. Keep any remaining pesto in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*Miso is a fermented soybean paste, but you can also find garbanzo miso which is soy-free. Available at Whole Foods.

** Toasting pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and pumpkin seeds brings out their flavor. Spread the nuts or seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, place in a preheated 350-degree oven, and toast until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the nut or seed.

Karen cooks up more than just beef. She’d love to hear your queries, comments and cravings at karen@karenschuppert.com.

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