Which is, if you eat in most of America’s mainstream restaurants or eat any quantity of packaged food at home, most of the time.
Just finished reading a very enlightening book, The End of Overeating. The book is targeted towards people who have real problems controlling their eating, to the point where all they really do all day is think about food.
Now any of you who follow this blog at all know that I’d like to weigh a little less, and that I really like food. Especially good food. I’ve got a chicken roasting in the oven right now, stuffed with lemons and rosemary, and a bowl of tabbouleh chillin’ in the fridge; I’m really looking forward to tonight’s meal with a nice glass of Beaujolais.
I’m not obsessed with food; I eat 3 pretty healthful meals a day, and sometimes a snack late afternoon — usually an apple, a bowl of almonds, a chunk of cheese, something like that. I struggle with cravings for potato chips, pretzels and blue cheese dressing, cheetohs, but can usually resist, especially if I don’t have any in the house. I try to limit snacking in the evenings — have discovered homemade applesauce and plain yogurt, or a frozen Yoplait, can substitute for ice cream or sorbet, which my husband enjoys.
I digress, again.
The book revealed a few things to me which I did not know before, and which may not be common knowledge.
1. Eating food that you enjoy triggers dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel happy.
2. Eating food as a comfort, especially if it accompanies another sort of comfort — a plate of warm cookies from mom when you get home from a hard day of school, a rich dinner prepared by your spouse at the end of a long day — triggers a memory/conditioning response so that our desire for that food is triggered by a need for a similar comfort.
3. The food industry has very carefully deduced the prime combination of sugar, fat, and salt that triggers the production of dopamine, and therefore the desire for MORE, and just as carefully manipulates these combinations in the foods it produces.
White flour has most of the germ, bran, and fiber removed.
Chicken is processed, shredded, and then reassembled with binders, “supplemented” with saline, and then fried before being flash-frozen so that it is cheap, tender, juicy, dissolves in our mouths quickly (more calories, less work), and is easily digested (more calories, less work). Healthful-sounding meals like quesadillas include chicken that has not only been fried at the stage of production, but again at the restaurant, and accompanied by vegetables that have been fried in oil, 4 servings’ worth of cheese, layered into two white-flour tortilla shells which are again fried on the grill, and then served with guacamole (with massive amounts of added salt and fat in the form of mayonnaise or sour cream), sour cream, (sweetened) salsa, and tortilla “crisps” — more tortilla shells which have been shredded and fried.
The author of this book calls it fat on sugar on fat on salt on fat on fat.
Sugar is omnipresent — not just in cereals and jams but in peanut butter, bread, jarred spaghetti sauce. Even cereals that seem to contain a reasonable amount of sugar per serving are, in fact, ~ 1/3 sweetener of one sort or another. All they’ve done is constructed it out of 5 or 6 different versions — sugar, dextrose, corn syrup, etc. so they can move each of them a little further down the label. Apparently there’s almost as much sugar in a McDonald’s hamburger bun as there is in a home-made cookie.
Don’t even get me started on the sugar on fat on sugar involved in a Krispy Kreme doughnut. (They do look yummy, don’t they?)
And have any of you looked at the percentage of RDA of sodium in anything packaged lately? Chicken broth — no msg, no added sugar, reduced sodium, still contains 25% of the RDA per serving. The compensation for poor ingredients is salt; at least then it tastes like something.
Even reading the label on the tray of sushi I bought today gave me pause — does there really need to be that many ingredients in it? When I make it, it’s a sheet of nori, some rice that’s been seasoned with some rice vinegar, fresh tuna, and some cucumber. Granted, mine doesn’t stay in those neat tight little rolls when I’m done, but at least I know what’s in it.
Coincidentally, a facebook friend posted this picture of the meat that has been scraped from bones to be reassembled into chicken nuggets.
If you read the article you’ll find out that the scraping of the bones is just the beginning: the meat is now awash with bacteria, so it’s treated with ammonia. Now it tastes terrible (as one could imagine), so artificial flavorings are added to mask the flavor. Because no one wants to eat chicken that’s the color of Play-Doh, it’s bleached/colored to look like chicken. Gives new meaning to the expression “tastes like chicken.”
The other thing to be suspicious of is restaurants who are packaging an “experience.” Watch out for the flashy menus with glossy pictures and publicized “ambiance” or “fun-loving atmosphere.” It’s not about the food anymore, but about the escape from your tedious, mundane existence.
The gist of it is, I’m now mostly eating at home, food that’s been purchased from the periphery of the grocery store. I’ll have to find my escape elsewhere — Scrabble anyone?
My husband is reading the ingredients list on a box of animal crackers as a) we give my son a hard time for living on them and b) I hold out my hand asking for some.
I am initially encouraged by the fact that the first ingredient listed is enriched wheat flour. This victory of sorts is short-lived, though, as I read on and discover that the 2nd “ingredient” is actually a list of oils that “may” be included, notably “interestified soybean oil.” I’m afraid I can’t divulge what is done to soybean oil to make it more interesting; this information is not included on the package. I guess I might feel better if it was “increasinglyhealthfulfied soybean oil” but maybe the technology for that doesn’t exist yet.
Meanwhile, we continue to be astounded at how cheap it is to buy food that’s bad for you (i.e. McDonald’s hamburgers at $1.00 a piece) and how expensive it is to eat healthfully (i.e. I paid $5.32 for 2 leeks and $3.99/lb for green peppers today). I worry about this as my oldest son moves out of his dorm in a week and starts buying his own food. They teach a lot of things at that college of his, but how to buy groceries is probably not one of them. At the same time the food-packaging middlemen continue to shrink package sizes and sneak sugar/sucrose/corn syrup, msg, and things-that-don’t-exist-in-nature into our food. It may be “interestified,” but it would be even better if it was honest, healthful, and tasty.