Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Rant on the American Diet vs Real Food and Why This Bugs Me

Whenever I go on Pinterest (which is very awesome if you have a particular project/goal in mind, and otherwise will just suck you into a vortex), I see lots of things about fitness and losing weight and losing fat and so on. (On a side note, LOVE YOUR BODY AS IT IS. It will make you a much happier person in the long run. Not to say you shouldn't try to be healthy, but love your body just the same.) On those same pages, I see recipes full of shit. Cupcakes with Twinkies on top. Things full of sugar and processed ingredients. Do people not see the connection?!

I recently read a book called Fat Chance by Dr. Robert Lustig. The book was amazing for many reasons, but it primarily dealt with why (globally) people are getting fat, and why the abdominal fat we have is so very bad. You can read my review here on Goodreads, but it isn't very long. Essentially, everyone is binging on fructose so they don't raise their blood sugar. Sounds good, right? NO. Because fructose (straight fructose like in fruit juice, HFCS and agave nectar, not when you get it from fruit directly) is metabolized by your liver as fat. Visceral fat. The fat that clings to your organs and sucks away your life. Exercise helps, but diet does too. And trying to get rid of cutaneous fat may be a laudable goal, but if you don't do a damn thing about your diet you aren't making yourself any healthier. So yes, you can be overweight/obese, have low visceral fat, and be healthier than someone with low cutaneous fat who eats crap all day and has hidden visceral fat choking their insides.

We have been trying to eat more "real" food; more fruit and veggies, fewer processed foods (not that we do a whole lot of that anyway). It's going slowly but we are doing pretty well. It helps that it's summer and the farmer's market is open, but even in winter we have so many options for real food, real fruit and vegetables, raw ingredients to make bread and "real" food. Yes, we use butter. Yes, we use lard. Yes, we buy real cream and real sugar. Want to know what we don't buy (or buy it less than twice a year)?

Fruit snacks. Soda. Processed cheese (Velveeta/American). Margarine. Junk cereal (Trix, Cocoa Puffs, etc). White bread. Packaged cookies. Chips. Macaroni and cheese.

This, unfortunately (or not) means that many coupons I could clip and use go unclipped simply because we don't buy or eat the foods they are for. Fine with me, I don't need to spend the money simply to save a few cents on crap.

However... of course there's a however. Things we *do* buy that aren't particularly good for us:

Fruit juice (one container per week or less). Danimals Smoothies (ugh, gross, but the kids LOVE them and only get one per day). Cereal. Goldfish crackers. Frozen pizza (working on eliminating this entirely, but usually this is a once a month to every-other-week thing).

My kids LOVE their veggies. And fruit (just ask Dee about her "sawbees" (strawberries)). J has been known to steal broccoli from other people's plates. Corn on the cob is a huge hit. Obviously that's just a summer thing, but other veggies can be found year-round at your local grocery store. For most of the country, that's an accessible thing! I know there are places where grocery stores don't exist (another rant for another day) but in the vast majority of this country that isn't an issue. The biggest problem comes from when people on a budget (hello, most Americans) are trying to do the grocery shopping for as little as they can. Unfortunately, produce is often overlooked in favor of cheaper fare (especially organic produce). Instead of rice and beans (which is nutritious, filling, and about as cheap as it gets), people frequently go for the junk food that they have coupons for, and grocery stores often put specials on those items as well. Why buy milk at $3 a gallon when you can buy four 2-liter bottles of soda for less than $3 after the sale and coupons? Why buy fresh apples at $1.69 a pound when you can a gallon of apple juice (store brand, on sale) for $2 or less, or BOGO fruit snacks? Just try reading the labels - if you are buying the budget brand (at King Soopers/Kroger it's "Great Value" and is even cheaper than the Kroger brand) because you can't afford not to, you are unfortunately paying for extra fillers and fewer real nutrients.

We are very fortunate to finally be in a place (financially) where we can afford to shop at the farmers' market all summer for our produce. Even when we can't make it there, we go to Sprouts and spend at least half of our grocery budget on produce every week. It's a work in progress, and it's a struggle sometimes to make sure we eat all of our veggies (or fruit) each day, but I try to keep in mind that it's better for me and my family if we can live healthy lives by eating healthy foods. I do supplement a tiny bit of produce from my container garden, but that's miniscule compared to the amount of food a family of 4 needs. (Oh to have a yard and a real garden!)

I don't really have a solid plan for how to fix this broken system. I could really spend hours writing more and more about these issues, but for now I must stop. In the meantime, I will do what I can - educate my children, feed my children and my family the best that we can (and it's true, kids will eat veggies if you serve them and ask for their input on how to cook them!), and, someday, try to help the community I am in to create a more affordable, sustainable, and healthful way to eat and live.

Edited to Add:
I was perusing my Bloglovin list and came across this article from Science 2.0: Taxes On Sugary Beverages To Reduce Obesity Won't Work
It seemed to go with my rant here (sort of).

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