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You’re giving a Cinco de Mayo party and among your guests you have a vegetarian, a person on a paleo diet, one who avoids gluten, a raw foodist, and one on a cleanse. What do you serve?

For those of you not from California, Cinco di Mayo is sort-of a faux Mexican holiday, really an excuse to eat tacos and drink Mexican beer. The hypothetical party scenario above sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it could happen to me. I have friends in all the above camps—each has their own compelling reason for their diet and is passionate about the importance of their choice for their health.

Recently I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about an emerging eating disorder called orthorexia. This form of obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by fixation on a “clean diet.” Whereas people with anorexia and bulimia typically are concerned with appearance, those suffering from orthorexia are obsessed eating only particular health foods thereby creating isolation and interference with a normal life. People with orthorexia can also be at risk for actual malnutrition and brittle bones.

Based on my informal poll of my Italian friends, there isn’t much worry about eating pasta, bread and organic foods. The food in Europe, in general, is not as massed produced. In Italy they don’t consume as much processed food, fast food, or genetically modified foods as we do in the U.S.A, Maybe our obsession with “clean foods” is a huge backlash from years of eating MacDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Kellogg’s cereals?

Just as I teach Pilates to each student based on their unique need, I advise each person individually regarding nutrition. There is no “one size fits all” diet. Sadly, vanishing from some of our lives is the emotionally sustaining act of sharing a meal with friends and family. Meals should be enriching experiences, both physically and emotionally, not to be broken into scary molecules, calories, and calculations. Eating should also be more pleasing than a burger behind a steering wheel.

Might we aim for the middle ground? Where food is important enough to be enjoyed and shared and not so important as to consume our lives? Let’s make time in our busy schedules to prepare a variety of healthy foods and spend money on high quality foods. Does everything have to be organic, of course not. Eat something “bad” once in a while as long as it is not the majority of your meals. And don’t sweat it if you aren’t perfect all the time.

Because, again, Pilates and nutrition mirror each other. Your short spine or side bend doesn’t have to be perfect to feel delicious.

Cinco de Mayo Turkey Tacosparty

feeds 6 meat-eating friends and vegetarians

  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1/2 red onion chopped
  • 2 tsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • lots of toppings- black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, lime wedges, cabbage, green onions, avocado slices or guacamole, salsa, grilled corn, julienned carrots, jalapeno peppers, and anything else you like….
  • lettuce leaves (butter lettuce and romaine work well)
  • corn tortillas

Melt coconut oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and cook until soft. Add cumin seeds and toast for a few seconds before you add the turkey. As you brown the turkey, break up the meat into small pieces and add the chili powder and salt. You will know the meat is cooked when you can no longer see pink. Warm the tortillas on a dry skillet or pan one by one.

Everyone can choose their own toppings, mounding them on a warm tortilla or lettuce leaf. Sure to please everyone!

Melanie Petri began searching for a practical application for her life-long love of science as a biology major at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. She began studying to become a Registered Dietitian upon learning that dietetics was a perfect marriage of science and cooking arts and studied exercise physiology as a secondary interest. Continuing her studies, she received a Master’s Degree in nutrition.

Melanie Petri

Melanie Petri

Later in life she found her second love, Pilates, and was certified at the Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado. She has taught in Hermosa Beach for over ten years and continues training at Vintage Pilates in Los Angeles.


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