Fed Up with Diet By Advertising

Sugar – looks pretty innocent, doesn’t it?

In honor of the release of Fed Up, a documentary about the power of sugar in our food supply, I’ve decided to take another look at my own (and my children’s sugar intake), and to remind myself WHY I would still be concerned about it.

This documentary, and most of what I’ve read about sugar and processed food in the last 10 year,s leads me to the conclusion that I cannot trust food manufacturers with my health. (See Salt, Sugar, Fat for more about that.) And it seems to me that there is often an inverse relationship between the amount of packaging and readiness and the healthfulness of the actual item. There are, of course, exceptions in the “natural foods” category. I can purchase prepared foods with less sugar, fewer chemicals, but these items ARE exceptions.

I don’t particularly want to build a life of eating exceptions. Processed food that doesn’t contain excessive salt, sugar, and fat is usually very expensive, and frankly, it’s just unnecessary. Somewhere along the way some very smart guys (think Mad Men with fewer cocktails and hopefully a little less infidelity) did a real good job of convincing Americans that we don’t have time to actually prepare (rather than warm) our food and that we’ll be fine just purchasing and warming the stuff their corporate sponsors produce.

The notion that we should be eating processed food, that it’s yummy, that it’s nutritious, that it’s convenient, that it’s inexpensive is an ad campaign. That’s it. And ad campaign. It’s not science. It’s not sound personal finance or family friendly economics. It’s not what your doctor recommended or what your grandma told you to do. It’s an ad campaign. I don’t want to build a life on an ad campaign. I don’t want my children’s health to be the result of an ad campaign.

Here at the pantry Big Sis and I have consistently embraced the fundamental importance of real food – food that you cook for yourself – as the cornerstone of a healthy diet. There are lots of models of “healthy” eating out there and they differ in some pretty important ways, but almost all of the ones that involve a lifestyle change, rather than a temporary restriction or substitution of their processed food for your preferred processed food, will lead you to Michael Pollan’s very sound, and very simple advice about food. 1) Eat food (by this he means food, not packages or chemicals), 2) Mostly vegetables, 3) Not too much.

Notice that nowhere in this simple advice does Mr. Pollan suggest that you consume a whole lot of sugar. If you are convinced that you don’t have time to eat better, or that there’s no way that changing your eating habits can really work or be affordable or fit into your schedule, I implore you to see Fed Up, or read Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Don’t have time for all that? Check out our posts on sugar, on Salt, Sugar, Fat. Make sure you know the true cost of that easy food. If you’re convinced, but not sure where to turn, we can help. Check out our Sugar Busting and Baby Steps to Better Health series. Or take 5 minutes and read about cutting sugar at breakfast time. You can do this; you really can. We’ll help.

While you get started, I’ll be doubling back, checking for slippage, doing some quick calculations of my and my kids’ regular sugar intake. When it comes right down to it, we just don’t need that much, and the less we eat, the less we need to enjoy a little sweet satisfaction in our long, healthy lives.

Blogiversary Cookies.. and a Giveaway

It has been a whole year. I absolutely cannot believe it. Bigg Sis and I had been talking about doing some writing together and it dawned on us that there was a way to get started, like right away. And so we dove in, and wrote post after post, but I don’t think that we had any idea that, unlike putting a book or a series of articles out there, the space of the blog was going to be one that was going to give so much to us. That we would develop relationships with other bloggers, that our own dietary choices would continue to evolve because of the amazing real food community we’ve stumbled into. I’m a little overwhelmed. I’m not kidding.

I have been deeply gratified by the comments we’ve gotten that essentially tell us that we’ve made a difference for someone. It’s like karmic payday. I have been delighted and surprised by the support I’ve received and the way I’ve been stretched as a cook, as a writer, and as a Mom. I feel lucky, and together Bigg Sis and I wanted to be sure that you know how much we appreciate you. Those who show up every time; those who pop in and comment, and all of you lurkers. We appreciate you and hope that we give you some small piece of what you all give to us.

In the vein of giving back, we’d like to offer everyone a blogiversary cookie, and for one lucky reader, a blogiversary book. But which to do first? Me, I’d go for the cookie, but I’ve seen what happens on these here internets, and I’m betting you’d like to know about the giveaway…. Continue reading

Salt, Sugar, Fat – It’s Not You, It’s Them

The release of Michael Moss’ book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us has prompted a flood of news stories. Moss is a New York Times reporter and a Pulitzer Prize winner. The guy has street cred as an investigator. I’ve not yet read the book; however, I’ve read the excerpt provided by Moss to the NYT Magazine. I also heard Moss interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday. Moss’ revelation confirms the worst of my concerns about the producers of processed and convenience foods. The long and short of it is that when you feel like you can’t stop eating Oreo’s, that’s because you very nearly can’t. It’s not you, it’s them.

Moss reveals that in 1999 the Vice President of Kraft addressed CEOs of the other leading food producers and laid out his concerns about the growing obesity crisis and the increasingly clear links between highly processed foods and some of America’s biggest health threats. This individual worried about his industry’s culpability both from a moral and a financial perspective – we could get sued people. The response of his peers? We are responsible to our shareholders. We’ve spent a long time figuring out exactly how much salt, sugar and fat to use to ensure that consumers will buy our products and we cannot risk the loss of marketshare that would surely result from a change in practices.  Let me say that part again: we are beholden to our shareholders.  Guess who’s not in that sentence?  You (unless of course you are a majority shareholder in General Mills or something).

Let me be clear, I am aware that companies who make food are for-profit companies.  I realize that this is the arena in which they are making their living.  Somehow, however, the brazenness of the shareholder beholden-ness shocked me.  The implications of the food industry’s refusal to consider health crises in food formulation are vast.  For me, the takeaway from Moss’ revelations is two-fold: 1) processed and packaged has been scientifically researched and developed to maximize taste, addiction, and profit, and 2) the onus of providing your body with nutritious food falls entirely on you. Continue reading