Irony of the Day: Obesity is an EPIDEMIC in the United States and the U.N. has to make deals with the Taliban to reach the famine sufferers in Somalia.
We as a nation are blessed that we have not suffered some of the food related issues that are prevalent in the rest of the world. On the other hand, people are becoming sick and dying from over-consumption issues. With that comes an entirely new market preying on consumer's desire to be healthy.
I'm a label reader. I'm actually one of those weird people that enjoys food shopping and wandering down aisles picking up items and pouring over the nutrition labels as well as the ingredient lists. In fact, I enjoy doing this so much that I prefer to shop by myself and take my sweet time, which usually results in me forgetting the one item that I actually came to the store for.
Aside from that annoying fact, I've actually become aware of a disturbing new trend that preys on our trust of the food industry. (P.S. In case you were wondering, I haven't trusted our food industry or our health care industry for quite some time. But that's for another blog.)
Thankfully, our awareness of how unhealthy our lives have become promoted a request for healthier products. Unfortunately, most of us now live in a state that I like to call "Fake Healthy".
What is "Fake Healthy"? Fake Healthy is when one believes the new products they've incorporated into their diets are more nutritious and beneficial to their health. In reality what they are eating is laced with chemicals, processed ingredients, and fillers, but carry the label "Multigrain!", "Whole Wheat!", "Fat Free!".
An example of "Fake Healthy" is as follows. Making wraps one night I had stopped at an Indian store to pick up Chapattis (or Roti), a flat-bread that resembles a small wrap. Upon returning home my boyfriend proudly displayed the whole wheat wraps he picked up, knowing that I preferred the unprocessed stuff. After thanking him for his thoughtfulness I declined his wraps choosing the Chapatti, which prompted questions of why. They were both whole wheat after all. Handing over the package of Chapati I asked him to read the nutrition label, and then had him read the nutrition label of the American whole wheat wraps. Nutritionally they were virtually the same, with the Chapati being a hair higher in fiber and protein. Ok, no biggie. I then asked him to do a side by side comparison of the ingredients. That's where it got scary.
Chapati had, count it, FOUR ingredients. Whole wheat flour, water, salt, oil. All things we are quite familiar with. The American whole wheat wrap? TWENTY plus!!! Four ingredients in, the names started to sound like a chemistry lab. I watched my other half's eye grow wide and then try to make reason of it. "Well the American wraps last longer right?" Nope, expiration dates were virtually the same. "Well it's less calories, right?" Wrong again. Calories were nearly identical per gram. "Well then why do we need all of this STUFF in it?" THAT, sadly, I do not have the answer for.
What I do know though is this isn't anything new. As a label reading junkie I've noticed that things marketed as being "healthier" usually really are worse for you. As people demand better food, companies try to cater to what they think we really want, less calories for the same sized portions. What in turn seems to be happening is more processed items and chemicals are making way into our food.
You can eat a Light and Fit yogurt for 80 calories but can you tell me what the ingredients are past the third? You can eat reduced fat peanut-butter, but did you realize the sugar is higher as well as the carbohydrates? Oh yeah, and somehow the protein has also dropped and the calories have gone up.
Big food companies are sacrificing nutrition to dupe the average consumer into believing their product is better for them. Yet they somehow manage to drop any nutritional value as well as still pump us full of addictive ingredients such as sugar and corn. They've tricked a nation into becoming "Fake Healthy", and bravo to them being so crafty in doing so.
So here we are thinking that we are improving our diet when in fact we are doing more bodily harm! It's a horrible, yet cunning tactic that I've watched spread like wildfire. So much so that I've been compelled to at least bring awareness so we can be more mindful of what we eat.
In the following weeks I will take items that are commonly consumed with the intention of eating better and show you what to really look for. I really welcome suggestions and questions, and look forward to helping shed some light on misleading labels. But for now, whole foods equal healthy foods. The less ingredients and the more recognizable those ingredients are, the better.
If this all freaked you out and you are currently running to the fridge to dump all of your "lite" food, inhale, exhale, and pause. All hope is not lost and we'll journey together clearing out the junk and making room for the good.
Bon appetit, Itadakimasu, and enjoy your food! :)