When I was a kid, I liked some of our family traditions around food. One of those was a weekly meal, sometimes with popcorn or pickled herring or oyster stew, which we shared before watching all the exciting new TV shows on Saturday or Sunday night. I liked the idea of that tradition, so years ago I started a couple myself. Saturday mornings became my “egg day,” when I allowed myself a few eggs. (I started this around the time eggs were considered bad because of cholesterol.) Over the years I’ve added more and more vegetables to my scrambled eggs or omelettes, to the point where I now call the scrambled version scrambled vegetables instead of scrambled eggs. The eggs provide a nice binder to hold it all together, but what I really like are the veggies.

The past few years, as I’ve gardened more and more, the tradition has evolved so that now I usually have veggies growing in the garden I can use. In the summertime, I always have tomatoes, sometimes with squash or corn. I’m transitioning from my winter to my summer crops, so I’m a tad short on veggies, but this morning I found a few remaining buds of brocolli, some chard and a leek, and tossed in some of last summer’s winter squash from the freezer. All in all, it made a nice breakfast.

My diet has also evolved. The past few years, and especially the past few months, I’ve been reviewing dietary information and have found that my low-fat, high-carb diet may be one of the reasons I’ve put on a few pounds over the past 10 or 15 years. I’m making a few minor tweeks to my diet, which is generally pretty healthy. Mostly, I’m just reducing my carbohydrate intake, especially refined sugars and flours. I’m also eating more eggs now, once or twice a week having boiled eggs midweek for a quick breakfast, instead of cold cereal. Instead of cooking oatmeal from rolled oats for Sunday breakfast (another tradition) I’m having oatmeal cooked from steel-cut oats. (The steel-cut oats have a lower glycemic index, i.e., they metabolize more slowly.) I don’t expect to see any quick changes to my waistline, but if I lose an inch or two over the next couple of years that would be great.

I really use these traditions as habits to try to maintain a healthy diet. Habits can play a great role in managing diet. Once we’ve selected the diet we want and start preparing and eating food that way, we can stop thinking about it. But, it helps to review our habits occasionally, both to update our knowledge about diet and to be sure we haven’t picked up some bad habits along the way without consciously thinking about it. Traditions are also a great way to share social activities and to build relationships with family and friends. All cultures, ancient and modern, integrate eating and social activities. Used this way, food traditions can become a way of multiplying the pleasures of food.

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