Friday, January 22, 2010

I've Noticed Something Rant-Worthy About Food

Have I run this topic into the ground yet?  Yes, I'm about to talk about the diet again... Sorry.  I still have kids, but we're all sick (head cold) and whiny and not at all interesting today (although Mary Grace was reading books to Claire for a while earlier, which was super cute, and BJ made the astute observation that Mary Grace is the only person that Claire will sit still and listen to books with - she has no patience whatsoever for Mom and Dad's reading...)

Anyway, I have recently noticed something about food.  If there are two types of a thing...  Let's say, potatoes - you've got regular potatoes and sweet potatoes, right?  If there are two types of a thing, the LEAST nutritious one is almost always the most popular one, or at least the most readily available one, in the U.S.

When was the last time you saw sweet potato fries at a fast food restaurant?

Or whole wheat buns?

Or honey sweetened soda instead of sugar sweetened soda?

Or sugar sweetened soda instead of high fructose corn syrup sweetened soda?

It's almost like we're trying to kill ourselves.

Think about all the different natural, caloric sweeteners there are.  Sugar, brown (raw) sugar, molasses, honey, agave nectar, (brown) rice syrup, maple syrup, date sugar... Almost every last one of the natural, caloric sweeteners has SOME kind of nutritional or health benefit to offer .....  except for the one that is readily available - plain, white sugar.  (Don't even get me started on artificial sweeteners right now).

Honey will soothe a sore throat, raw sugar contains trace amounts of minerals, rice syrups can be easier on your blood sugar levels than white sugar, maple syrup (the real stuff, not the fake stuff you generally find - and the fact that the real stuff is hard to find and expensive just proves my point again!) contains zinc and manganese....  Are you with me here?  We have so many different kinds of sweeteners available, and yet the one that is omnipresent is the one that's the worst for us.

It's the same with flour.  I dare you to find a loaf of bread that doesn't contain "enriched wheat flour" (or high fructose corn syrup for that matter).  It's nearly impossible! 

We eat the whitest, blandest, most refined, least nutritious versions of almost everything. 

Even apples.  Go to the store.  Those Red Delicious things are lovely, but they have no flavor.  But they're everywhere!  You can find them, year round, at any grocery store in the country.  (My sister didn't even realize that she liked apples until I introduced her to Honeycrisps.)  Why do we continue to buy shitty apples??  Real apples taste good.  Mass produced apples that are so bad that they have to assert their own deliciousness and that are trucked from a zillion miles away taste like cardboard, and they're less nutritious!

Does anyone else think it's ironic that we have to add chemicals (like MSG) to food to make it taste better, because it's made with white flour and white potatoes and white sugar and high fructose corn syrup and crappy produce like Red "Delicious" apples (assuming there is any actual produce in it at all!), when we could save ourselves the trouble of adding the chemicals AND the expense to our health if we just ate real, better quality food?

I love convenience as much as anyone - and I will admit that it has been years since I baked my own bread (and when I did, it was made with white flour and white sugar, anyway), and that tonight I cracked open a can of chicken noodle soup (with white flour noodles and assorted chemicals) for dinner...  I will admit that I would rather BUY cheese than MAKE cheese, and that lately I've even been eating Fat Free Kraft Singles, and who knows what futuristic space mutant chemicals I'm eating when I eat those!

But for God's sake, doesn't it seem ridiculous, in a country where everyone seems to be struggling with weight, that we're eating nothing but garbage, that we're consistently eating the least nutritious of our choices across the board?  We have built an entire culture on the over-abundance of low quality food.

It has to stop.  We have to start demanding better.  We need to move to a culture of high quality food.  If we do, even if it's just in our own families, I'll bet we'll find ourselves satisfied with less food (because it's of higher quality).  I'll even bet we could cure a lot of the health problems that face us in the U.S. (obesity, heart disease, depression, maybe even infertility and stuff that isn't as obviously linked to food...  cancer?) if we stop eating tons and tons of junk, and start eating reasonable portions of healthy, nutritious food.  Real food - not this chemical crap that we've been fooling ourselves into calling food for years.

Where did it start?  With the TV dinner?  The vitamin pill?  When women left the home and entered the workforce?  No, I refuse to blame this on working mothers.  I think it's just been a perfect storm of societal influences - mass media bringing us commercials for chain restaurants - which increases the demand for chain restaurants, women going to work, factory farming, the supply chain for food getting longer and longer, attention spans getting shorter and shorter, TV dinners, cake mixes....  All of it has conspired to make us feel 1) inept in and intimidated by the kitchen, 2) that our time is too "valuable" to waste in the kitchen, 3) that we "deserve" to go out for dinner (where we eat gargantuan portions, because this chain restaurant has to entice you more than that chain restaurant, so they'll feed you as much as possible for the lowest possible price), 4) that convenience food is as healthy if not healthier than anything we could cook from scratch (it's Enriched!  and Fortified!!)...

We have got to be smarter than that if we want to live.

Oh dear.  I just re-read this and I'm totally ranting.  You can tell when I use lots of italics and exclamation points, not to mention the poor abused parentheses.  We'll blame the fever, ok?  I'm really very sick, here, and not at all in my right mind. 

But seriously, we can do better.  We can do better for our kids.  But I have to get better, first.  Right now we're living on canned soup and tea.  It's bleak, folks.  It's bleak.

At least it's green tea (healthy) and not black (abundant), with honey (marginally healthy) and not white sugar (not even a little bit healthy).  Baby steps.


Trish said...

Wow, it's amazing you wrote about this now - I've been getting up on my soapbox for a little while about this. My whole thing is eating local, fresh fruits and veggies. Why buy apples shipped in from Washington State when I can buy local apples picked a tree 5 miles from where I live? And you're right - the good stuff actually tastes BETTER than the fake, chemically-enhanced, nutrition-free crap they sell in most supermarkets.

We should SO talk more about this!

The Moniak Family said...

I am with you 100% on this issue and yet I, too, am guilty of falling into the "convenience trap" all too often. This might sound off topic, but it's not: about two years ago, we switched our dog from a mass-produced, commercially available dog food to a harder-to-find, (more expensive), natural, holistic food. Guess what? Within weeks, his joint pain seemed to have disappeared, he was more energetic, more playful, and his coat looked so much better. He is THRIVING on this healthy diet. So why has it taken so long for me to see that PEOPLE thrive on a natural and whole diet, too, when the evidence was right in front of me??

Nihilodei said...

its easy... get up off yer fat arses and out of the supermarket... make yer own food and stop bitching about things you only have a point of view on.

If making yer own food is too difficult, get a man to do it! it will be done on time and perfect.

Why do you spend so much time writing a blog post when you could be having a hellava time in the kitchen or looking at real food...

Cate said...

First, Nihilodei, you could be less rude, because what you say about getting out of the supermarket is true, but no one will listen to you when you say it nastily. And the other stuff you say is crap.

And Amy, it's awesome that you're blogging about this. People think I'm nuts for being picky about food, but when you really think about it, like you have, the state of food is ridiculous.

It's not like I'm a big conspiracy theorist, but I think there are real reasons behind some of our main food ingredients in this country, reasons like government subsidies for certain food stuffs and the farmers that grow them, and then certain ingredients have longer shelf life than others, which means it costs less to produce/ship/stock/whatever. I only did a little bit of peeking into this issue a few years ago and found a LOT of information that made me feel like this whole thing is NOT accidental -- these kinds of ingredients make people a LOT more money than producing real food would.

And then don't get me started on the craziness of using food crops to grow drugs like insulin ... and what happens, then, when they use the by-products from those crops for the food supply? Like using beets to grow drugs, and then they still extract the beet sugar to sell as a food product? I don't even really understand the mechanics of doing that, but I know when I read about it as one of Monsanto's practices, I thought it was another reason to wean myself from sugar -- and only use cane sugar when I did.

It sounds like you're on the way to agreeing with the whole food movement.

Amy said...

Nihilodei - I'd like to thank you for a well thought out and reasonable, and most of all kind and compassionate response to my post.

I'd like to, but your response was none of the above.

PS - your doctor called, it's time to go back on your meds.

PPS - counseling would probably really help with your mommy issues.

Amy said...

(And thanks, everyone else, for the positive comments.

Everytime I see that the Moniak Family has commented, I hear "She's a moniak, moniak on the floor, and she's dancing like she's never danced before..." in my head. :D )

DORI said...

Watch the documentry FOOD INC and you'll have your questions answered

Anonymous said...

Didn't I suggest this some weeks ago? {g} Educate yourself about what you're eating, and then it will be easier to make healthier food choices. Keep up the good work, Amy.

angel0199 said...

I blame schools for some this. I am not a "health food nut", but I quit letting my kids buy school lunches. I went to eat lunch with my daughter one day and she picked a baked potato which came with cheese (or processed something or other)and meat to put on it but she couldn't open the packaging so she didn't use them. Then she wanted to choose tator tots as her side. Seriously? We are teaching are kids that a baked potato with a side of fried potato is a balanced meal? Plus how well is a child learning in the afternoon if their lunch consists of carbs and no protein.

So I pack their lunches were I know that they get protein and fresh produce. Plus we use reusable containers unlike the school which uses disposable everything including plates and silverware, but that is another rant. Let's face it, many parents don't have a chance to eat lunch with their kids at school. We are led to believe that schools serve balanced lunches. Sure the school taught my kids the food pyramid, but they didn't really set a good example.

I'm just hoping corn based fuel alternatives take off and raise the price of corn syrup so much that they quit putting it in everything.

Anonymous said...

Do what I did...move back to parents' country site house. Mom makes OWN cheese (unfortunately without salt...), getting whole milk from neighbor (not pasteurized - don't need to when not processed at all = no health hazard despite all warnings, because I've seen how the one cow and her calf live, and YES, my kid also gets that milk). Veggies and potatoes from the garden (or from a farmer's truck passing by now and then), eggs from the free hens and fish (burbot) from the lake, meat from neighbor's animals.

I LOVE having moved out in the real countryside. But since everything tastes so good I eat too much = overweight anyway!

The Moniak Family said...

Haha... glad I can bring music into your head, Amy ;)

DORI said...

To anonymous who wrote about drinking not pasteurized milk...

As long as the cows are healthy you have nothing to worry about and don't feel guilty about giving it to your child. It's probably a 100 times better than any store brand anyway.

I remember when I was small and we still lived in Europe our grandma would give us Milk straight from the cow, just strained, it was still warm. I just didn't like the taste of it that's all.