My oldest nephew grew up on a typical American diet --- homecooked meals, but also a lot of processed foods, fast foods, and junk foods --- just like I did. (He and his siblings, however, have somehow avoided getting fat). But a couple of years ago, he spent a summer in Italy, and everything changed.
He came home for Christmas and said, "Aunt Cindy, will you teach me how to cook?" Exposure to all those fresh, delicious foods in Italy had changed his perception of food forever. Oh, he still eats Hot Pockets, but he also cooks real food from scratch. (I stand corrected. My nephew informed me that he has not had a Hot Pocket in over a year. Then he quoted Michael Pollan at me. I'm so proud). One of our favorite activities at holidays is shopping together and cooking a big meal for the whole family.
Heh heh heh. One nephew down, five to go.
Trav is such a convert to healthy eating that he frequently posts recipes and links to food news on FaceBook, so I am indebted to him for this link. Now, the article is on a humor site, and it is wildly sensational, but the basic premises are true. I decided to look into the claims a little further, and was appalled to find out that some products I thought were "all natural" (there's a pesky marketing term that, it turns out, doesn't mean much) contain some real crap.
Let's start with cellulose. Cellulose is plant fiber --- meaning wood pulp and other plant bits --- that is processed to a fine powder and used as a filler and additive. Makers of what Michael Pollan likes to call "edible foodlike substances" use it as stablizers, thickeners, replacements for flour and oil, and to add fiber. It's cheaper than the real stuff, surprise surprise. That lower-fat ice cream you love probably has it --- it makes lowfat products feel creamier. That shredded cheese you (and I!) buy has it --- it keeps the cheese from clumping. And it's in everything. Bread, salad dressing, jam, meats.The Street published an article listing 15 companies that use cellulose in their products, including Pepsi (Aunt Jemima products), Kellogg (some Morningstar Farm, Eggo, and Cinnabon products), Weight Watchers (various ice cream products), General Mills (Fiber One, Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker products), and many more.
Nutritionists say that, like sugar, cellulose is cellulose --- it's not only harmless, but it provides extra fiber. That, they say, can be a good thing for people who aren't getting enough from whole grains, fruits, and veggies. And maybe it is --- but I'd rather get my fiber from natural sources like apples and whole grains, rather than fillers made from wood pulp and marketed as health foods. I tell you one thing, I'm certainly going to be reading labels even more carefully from now on.
The Cracked.com article goes on to detail the horrors of "fresh" orange juice that has actually been stored in airtight containers for up to a year and then injected with a "flavor pack" of chemicals to make it taste good; fake blueberries in products like muffin mixes and cereals;and perhaps the nastiest of all, hamburger product made by a company called Beef Products, which basically grinds up all the fat and other parts you wouldn't ordinarily want to eat, gasses them with ammonia to kill E.coli and other pathogens, mushes it all up into a substance the industry refers to as "pink slime", and markets it to places like McDonald's, Burger King, and school cafeterias. Surprise, surprise, it's a lot cheaper than the real thing.
None of this is breaking news, although it's the first time I've seen it. It just reinforces my desire to eat mostly food that has nothing added to it but other items that are recognizable as food. It also reinforces my desire to ignore marketing as much as possible. People who want to sell you this stuff may not want to hurt you, but they do NOT have your best interests at heart. Ever wondered why the Strawberry Growers of America (assuming there is such an organization) don't have big ads running during the Superbowl about the health benefits of yummy, yummy fresh strawberries? Because strawberries, compared to Strawberry Pop Tarts*, are not big business.
Ingredients: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, DEXTROSE, SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL (WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS), SUGAR, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF CRACKER MEAL, WHEAT STARCH, SALT, DRIED STRAWBERRIES, DRIED PEARS, DRIED APPLES, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), CITRIC ACID, CORN CEREAL, GELATIN, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL†, CARAMEL COLOR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, SOY LECITHIN, XANTHAN GUM, MODIFIED WHEAT STARCH, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, COLOR ADDED, TURMERIC COLOR, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, RED #40, NIACINAMIDE, REDUCED IRON, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), YELLOW #6, RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), FOLIC ACID, BLUE #1.†LESS THAN 0.5g TRANS FAT PER SERVING.