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Archive for the ‘nutrition’ Category

Anastacia Marx de Salcedo has this to say about Annie’s Homegrown Macaroni and Cheese. She also has the best name ever.

In summary: WTF, hipsters? Don’t you read ingredient labels? Are you naive enough to think that “all natural” has any meaning in the food industry? Because, um, it doesn’t. Processed food with happy bunnies on the box is still processed food. Which means it’s probably bad for you. It is not difficult to make killer homemade mac and cheese. I’ve done it drunk at 2 am – that means it must be easy. I don’t care how convenient powdered crap in a box is, it can’t be good for you. I’m fine with ramen noodles – I’ve eaten them many a time. But never have I ever thought that they were in any way wholesome or nutritious.

I think the most insidious thing about nutritionism (again, please go read your Pollan: it’s good for you, and goes down easy) is not that it is reductionist, but that it creates the illusion that the food industry knows more about what’s good for you than you do. Granted, we’re quickly forgetting what to eat, but it’s a circular problem, no? In buying processed, packaged foods, the closest we can come to understanding our diet is reading the fine print on the box, which is not at all the same as making a conscious decision about what ingredients to put into this night’s meal.

Someone on Metafilter left a comment on the Pollan thread talking about their hypothetical one-page diet book called You Fucking Know What You Should Eat. I’m about halfway through Marion Nestle’s What to Eat, and I think she probably could have gotten away with the now-rendered-anonymous-Metafilter-user’s suggestion. Isn’t it all common sense? She starts off with her standard sensible Nestle advice, “Eat less, move more, eat lots of fruit and vegetables…go easy on junk foods,” then spends a mighty heavy 600 pages elaborating on it. I feel like this is unnecessary. I like reading about food and nutrition, so I’m fine with paging through this tome. But it must seem daunting to the average consumer, a book entitles What to Eat that is, literally, two inches thick. Am I being naive in thinking that people really do know that, beyond all of the faddish diets and nutrients, processed food isn’t as good for them as fresh food? Am I?

If that’s true, then the solution to our ills lies not so much in nutrition education as it does in decimating food advertising (particularly to children) and eliminating subsidies on processed foods and thier precursors. Not like that will ever happen. But if people are given the opportunity (both economically and psychologically) to reclaim the wealth of nutritional knowledge that resides in their families and communities, I think the health of the country will improve dramatically.

I’ve been getting so much closer to my food the past few years. I sincerely feel that when people do this, they will recognize the difference between Annie’s “Homegrown” crap-in-a-box and something real, something fresh, something they’ve made themselves.

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I was reading Michael Pollan’s article in the NYT Magazine today on “nutritionism,” the vaguely shady ideology that effectively medicalizes food, isolating individual nutrients from the food system and convincing people that these nutrients, not a complete diet, are the key to good health. This, as the article explain, is a clever way to tell people how to be healthy, without telling them to avoid certain foods (or food-flavored products, as the case may be).

I’m a pretty big Pollan fan, and reading his article made me remember some digging I’d been doing last week into the American Diabetes Association at work. For some rather lengthy and boring reasons, I was looking up information on their nutrition programs for my boss. You’d think those would be pretty abundant and easy to find. You’d also be wrong. Here’s their events and programs page. As you can see, there are about fifty gazillion fundraisers, some “awareness” campaigns, and some vauge programs for various ethnic groups. Where’s the nutrition? Better yet, where’s the prevention? It looks to me like the bulk of their money is going to “finding a cure.”

an aside: I did take a look at the American Diabetes Association’s 2005 Form 990 (pdf link, and boring to boot), which does include a much more detailed statement of programs, and there are a couple mentions of nutrition education. The fact remains that they’re not advertising any of this on their website. Also, they do admit to a link between nutrition and diabetes on their website. But no programs, no outreach, nothing is available online.

It’s dangerous to get me started on “finding a cure.” Generally I’m set going by the sight of pink teddy bears advertising that some mysterious percentage of their purchase price will somehow “find a cure” for breast cancer. More about that from someone more eloquent here. My problem with this, of course, is that no one seems concerned with the reasons breast cancer (and diabetes) have become such enormous problems in this particular part of the world. The reason behind this indifference to a cause and insistence on a cure seems to lie in the major funders of organizations like the Komen Foundation and the American Diabetes Association. I’ll let you dig up the dirt on Komen yourself, but trust me, it’s there.

Using my razor-sharp analytical skills, I took a quick guess at what I’d find on the American Diabetes Association list of corporate sponsors. And I was pretty much dead on. The list is topped by pharmaceutical giants (not surprising, but not particularly incriminating either), but right below them, we find Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages. And then Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup Company, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., J.M. Smuckers Company, Unilever USA, Jones Soda Company, NestlĂ© USA, Inc., Pepsico-Quaker Oats Co… the list goes on.

Kind of funny that all these food companies who push unhealthy corn syrup-laden foods are giving money to the ADA. Even funnier that the ADA is turning a blind eye to the major culprit in the diabetes epidemic – the food industry. The hypocrisy of promoting a Walk for Diabetes sponsored by Equal and Diet Rite is staggering and makes me more than a little bit furious. America is so broken. Now go eat some veggies.

On a totally unrelated note, John, my friend Lauren and I are going in on a big order of Laptop Lunchboxes in the hopes that we will diversify our lunchtime menus and become the envy of all our coworkers. So exciting! Of course, we heard about them here, which means they have to be good.

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