I've spent an incredible amount of time trying to figure out what constitutes an "ideal" diet. I grew up on the Standard American Diet and studied nutrition professionally. I was vegetarian for ten years. For four of those years I was vegan. I have dabbled in raw food, immersed in traditional food philosophy, tried out the Paleo diet for months at a time, and have no hope of erasing the USDA "standards" from my brain. That's a lot of conflicting information to wade through.
What I have decided, so far, is that the quality of our food is most significant in relation to its pervasive impact.
Admittedly, this explanation is more than a bit simplistic -- all of these issues are multifaceted and unimaginably complicated. But I see a direct correlation between low-quality, mass-produced food and poor health, worker exploitation, poverty, animal abuse, and environmental degradation. That's why my emphasis is on real food rather than "local" or "fairly traded" or "raw" or "humane" or other simplistic labels. It's my hope that by ultra-localizing our food economies, educating ourselves about food manufacturing practices, observing the production of food in our communities, and involving ourselves via a DIY approach, we can better ensure health, fairness, and security for everyone concerned (which is to say, everyone).
That being said, I don't believe in "food rules." I love those York peppermint patties, and I still get the occasional craving for ramen noodles or Pop-Tarts or even Taco Bell. But most of the time, I like to choose:
...to support local economies and small farmers by selecting local foods wherever they are available,
...whole foods that haven't been subjected to much commercial processing,
...foods in season or preserved by traditional methods,
...old-fashioned fats, including olive oil, coconut oil, pastured butter, lard, tallow, and schmaltz,
...occasional beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains,
...lots of fresh, local, seasonal vegetables and whole fruits,
...unrefined sea salt,
...a minimal intake of unrefined sweeteners,
...cultured foods and drinks,
...full-fat, locally-produced dairy products from pastured animals,
...whole eggs from pastured hens,
...sustainably-raised or wild-caught domestic fish from stable stocks with a low level of contamination,
...meat from animals raised locally, in their natural outdoor environment, on the feed they evolved to eat, handled with kindness and respect by farmers I know (often that's me),
...fairly-traded imported foods (chocolate, coffee, bananas, vanilla, and tea),
...to approach everything I eat with an attitude of reverence and gratitude for the farmers, the animals, and the earth, with an eye toward disease prevention, healing, ethics, and pleasure.