I heard some food news on National Public Radio that had me grinding my teeth:
The food industry is introducing new front-of-the packaging nutritional labeling: little boxes that show calories, salt, fat, sugar, sodium and fiber per serving. The more detailed food labeling box remains on the side or back of the jar or package. Industry spokesmen have said that consumers are moving too quickly when shopping to absorb that much information. Opponents are skeptical; they say the food industry is trying to forestall more stringent labeling regulations from the Food and Drug Administration.
I think the shorthand boxes are fine; anything that gives people more information is a good thing.
The boxes aren’t what made me grind my teeth. That came when the NPR correspondent, in introducing the story, referred to “good” and “bad” food, saying fat, sugar and salt are “bad” for you.
I object to characterizing food in this way. The body needs all manner of nutrients, including fat. What’s “good” or “bad” for you depends on the amount and frequency with which you consume it, and your own metabolism, your lifestyle and your health.
We have a strange relationship with the terms “good” and “bad” in reference to food. Most of us love “bad” things and aren’t too fond of “good” things. They’re not fun. They’re not sexy. They’re not sweet enough or salty enough or creamy enough.
What needs to change is our thinking and our palates. Stop thinking good and bad. Start retraining your palate and your appetite. Gradually replace full-fat foods with lower fat ones; refined flours with high-fiber whole grains, nuts and seeds; refined white sugar with lower sugar ingredients and substitutes. I recall how, after a few weeks on Weight Watchers many moons ago, even a Red Delicious apple began to seem too sweet. And my appetite had been reduced to the point where I couldn’t eat a whole apple. It didn’t take long at all.
I live by the better, still better, best rule. Try something that’s better than what you’re craving, graduate to something better still and eventually go for what’s best.
For example, if you want rich, full-fat ice cream, have a smaller than usual serving and savor it. Next time, ask yourself if ice milk or gelato will do. Would a dish of yogurt be alright? Could it be a low-sugar, lower fat yogurt? Be honest with yourself. If you go directly to a thin, no added sugar yogurt, you may be dissatisfied and find that you’re still craving ice cream.
The second story that got on my nerves was one in which a high-ticket law firm is suing Taco Bell for describing the filling they use in their tacos as “seasoned ground beef” when it contains only 36 percent beef.
Thirty-six percent beef? What’s the other 64 percent? Fillers such as grains (oats, wheat), soy protein, corn starch, yeast, various sugars and water, according to both parties.
Attorneys from the Montgomery, Ala., Beasley Allen law firm, point out that the USDA standard for use of the term “meat” is a product that contains 40 percent actual meat (“flesh of animals”) and if you call it beef, it should be at least 70 percent beef. A former Taco Bell employee says that, in house, the taco stuffing is referred to as “taco meat filling.”
My . . . er . . . beef here is not that Taco Bell gives the impression in its advertising that its tacos are full of beef when they’re not. It’s that such a thing should be surprising — much less fodder for a lawsuit — to anyone who has ever eaten at Taco Bell. You can tell by the texture that the filling isn’t solid ground beef, just as you always knew when Mom got too heavy handed with the oatmeal when she made meatloaf. And, anyway what do you expect when you’re paying just a few cents? Do the math. Could you make an all-beef taco for that price?
It bugs me that people in America are so two-faced about their diets. They come all unglued when they find out what’s really in the commercial and processed foods they’re eating. But they refuse, until it’s a front page story, to find out anything about their food supply. They want food at rock-bottom prices prepared at light speed and then are surprised at the shortcuts that are being taken and the quality of the ingredients that are being used.
C’mon folks. Let’s all grow up and be responsible for what we put in our mouths, stop being ashamed of what we eat and make food a friend, not an enemy.
Peace. Adams out.