No one told me it was going to be hard to do the right thing. Well, that’s technically not true – I have heard about the “hard right” over the “easy wrong” over the years, but we’re talking about dinner here.
Recently, I began reading Michael Pollan’s books –– admittedly probably a mistake –– but I didn’t fully comprehend what a challenge healthful eating would be until I’d done so. Now throw in helpful documentaries like Food, Inc. and it starts to get more challenging to make good choices.
When a new guidance from a trusted government agency was published, I adopted the guidance and added or dropped foods and nutrients accordingly. According to Pollan, all this was going to achieve was weight gain, and membership to the Modern Diseases of the West club.
Advertising contributes to the challenge by promoting foods and drinks that are unhealthy. Encouraging gullible children to consume so much fatty, sugary and salty food seems unethical because of the potential results: obese, unhealthy youngsters, with bad eating habits that will be with them for life. Only last night I sat through a commercial showing a group of moms ganging up on a hero mom because she told her kid that the microwaveable bowl of processed food had vegetables in it… the tag line went on to tell us that “it’s so good, your kids will never know they’re eating vegetables”… why? It’s no wonder when British chef Jamie Oliver launched his kids-healthy eating campaign “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” kids in classrooms couldn’t identify simple vegetables like cucumbers and potatoes. Marketing honchos will tell you those children naturally like foods that are rich in fats, proteins and sugar because it gives them the energy they need to play energetically and grow healthily. And, these young minds believe it.
I started paying attention to what was available at the grocery store and found a nice organic section for vegetables, but nothing with regard to meat. And even though they gave their products names like Shady Brook Farms Free Range (advertising at its best), there was nothing “free range or farm like” about them. Most, if not all, of the meat was in some form corn fed making for thick supersized steaks and oddly-shaped chicken breasts. The fish was a little easier and I found 2 choices of wild fish, cod and salmon. Of course, it was double the price, and a different color than the farm raised. The salmon especially intrigued me and, when I asked the assistant why the farm raised looked so much different than the wild, she looked at me as if I was mad, yet didn’t have an answer. Do they feed the fish corn?
We’re lucky enough to live in a great area for local farming, so a trip to the farmers market on Mondays and Wednesdays allows us to get everything we need week to week. We eat what’s in season as opposed to what’s chemically induced and grown year round. This makes planning it out a bit more challenging and there’s no quick-fix fast-food scenario eating this way. Each evening our meals are prepared fresh, cooked, and little is wasted – kind of like what I remember growing up when there were no frozen meals or processed foods, or very little anyway, and we seemed to eat at the same time every night as a family, and work never got in the way or contributed to us eating at 10pm out of a bag or a box.
Just recently my wife and I started trying to work with the 5 ingredients rule, this is the recommended amount of ingredients that deem food natural or minimally processed. It’s a great game to play at the grocery store. We found ourselves no longer buying skimmed milk, or low fat, and nothing fat-free or low-fat simply because of the amount of chemical or artificial replacements that go into making the product “fat-free.” If a tub of fat-free butter can last several months without mold setting in, that’s a worry for me, but I can totally understand why shoppers would gravitate toward these foods, especially if they’re watching their weight. Why eat fat if you don’t have to? Why not have your fat-free cookies and eat them, too? I think that using reduced fat foods is probably one of the first steps in the right direction of eating healthier. They allow you to substitute fat-free or low-fat versions of your favorite foods without feeling deprived or without overhauling your diet overnight.
But I think that after a while, dieters and healthy eaters alike tend to evolve their eating habits. Fat-free works well in the beginning, and maybe continues to be a staple for a few things you eat, but often, the more you learn about good nutrition the better choices you want to make –– and that usually means getting away from processed foods like these.
For those that know me, you’ll know I’m not a tree hugger. I enjoy fine food, fine wine, which I balance with diet and exercise. There are some great resources out there that let you see exactly what it is you’re eating and break them down into nutritional value. For example, Livestrong.com (there’s an app for that) allows you to check out supermarket-brand foods, home style cooking, restaurant foods, anything basically, by typing in what it is you are eating. This then gives you a breakdown of the contents… scary at first, but obsessive after you start playing with it. Just think, you can control exactly what you put into your body!
So, the next time you head to the grocery store, try the 5-ingredient game; see what you can find and if it tastes any better
As a starter, Häagen-Dazs five™ ice cream is in most grocery stores and contains only these 5 ingredients: SKIM MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, EGG YOLKS, VANILLA.
Please post your comments and results below, and good luck!