Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eating the Good Stuff

My father loves telling the story about a case he won in 1996. He was and still is a partner for an internationally recognized law firm so you would assume that the case had something to do with some major international players. Nope. The case was with my mom over whether or not Fat-Free Mayonnaise and Fat-Free Peanut Butter was healthier for you than the Regular stuff.

Our family lived in Belgium at the time so whenever my father would go to the States on business he would bring back certain food staples that we couldn't find at local stores. Peanut Butter and Mayonnaise where two of the staples he always returned with. Well my mother, always looking to keep the family as healthy as she could, assumed that Fat-Free food products where healthier than regular products.

The problem was that the Fat-Free stuff tasted terrible. No one liked eating the Fat-Free Peanut Butter or Mayonnaise but it was 'healthier'; hard to make a case against that. Then, after a return trip to the states my father, brilliantly I might add, suggested that my mom compare the amount of sugar in the Fat-Free Peanut Butter to the amount of sugar in the Regular Peanut Butter. The fact that he suggested she look at the sugar content was smart because a high sugar content was what kept soda and candy out of the pantry.

To my mom's dismay, the sugar content of the Fat Free stuff was double what the Regular stuff had. Those crafty Scientists and marketing Execs at Jif and Hellmans got everyone looking at the big 0 on the label under Fat while they slipped sugar in the back door.

This all took place in the late nineties, since then companies have become more clever with their marketing and better at manipulating food. A quick check of the sugar and fat content is no longer enough to tell if what your eating is good for you. Now you must expand your scrutiny to include the actual ingredients of the food you eat. Part of the food industries ability to manipulate food comes from chemical manipulation. Chemicals that don't necessarily register as calories, fat, carbs, or sodium are in much of the foods we eat. For example; not many people recognize that beside being less than healthy, McDonald's foods are chock full of chemicals. To see for yourself read this short article.

So what to do. Alena and I are making our way through Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, by Michael Pollan. He is the guy that wrote the pretty well known book,The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Anyway we go through one rule a week and try to shape are eating habits accordingly.

Here are some of his rules that we keep in mind:
1. Eat Food
2. Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
8. Avoid food products that make health claims.
10.Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not.

I know this is a lot of information, but I think its the kind of information that blends well with everyday decision about food. Who knows, maybe you'll get to go back to eating to good stuff!

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