Food – it’s important. It’s relatively straightforward, typically, the way we discuss food and nutrition, but it’s even more interesting to see the underlying systems that dictate what is labeled as ‘nutritional’, and what certain agendas of food manufacturers have. For background on my particular diet and I know, for me, I try to make guided choices on what I eat – for environmental sustainability, primarily. For example, I avoid dairy if I can and don’t eat pork or beef. I practice weekly ‘vegan days’ (referred to as a meatless Monday by many, but the day floats in my case) where I make a conscious effort to stick plant-based for the day. Though, for most of my days, I stick to chicken or turkey and eggs as the animal products I consume – I don’t practice an incredibly healthful diet, either, but I do think it’s better than the typical ‘American diet’. I limit myself to one non-water beverage on most days, I snack on vegetables or fruit if given the chance, and if I do have dessert, I don’t make it a regular thing. I have a package of birthday cake oreos, and if I’m really craving something, one of those does the trick.
So, when looking at the resources, there’s a lot of emphasis being put on the addictive qualities that additional sugar can create – sugar is something our bodies naturally crave, so by artificially adding sugar to things that may not need it, it’s creating a dependency on that, or risk a crash or dissatisfaction with the next meal. Seeing as the average US citizen eats 66 pounds of additional, refined sugar is kind of terrifying – in no world is it acceptable to sit down and just eat tablespoons of sugar, but according to the foods we eat, it seems to be a relatively accepted practice that people have become complacent in. Simply, people are not informed about food choices and don’t have the knowledge that this is happening – I have family members, for example, who seem to think that there’s nutritional value in consuming, ice cream, because it constitutes “calcium” – but seem to overlook the added sugar and general unhealthiness of what they’re consuming. Rose tinted glasses or just making excuses for eating habits? We won’t know. (Disclaimer: I love ice cream as a treat. I’m not putting it down, I promise, just know it’s not nutritionally good for you in the slightest.)
Many of the articles really reflect one thing about the current state of the food industry – it is truly about making money. Whether it refers to the whiskey boom (thankful I’m not a whiskey drinker – wouldn’t want to feel ripped off by these companies – and my distaste for fireball is making a lot of sense now, it DID always give off a ‘this should not be anywhere near me’ vibe) and how they’re not as artesian as they may claim to be, or to the ability to make everything snack-able (I know for sure that when I’m snacking through the day, I eat far more than any other situation.) This, effectively, makes money for these companies – you need to eat, of course, but food companies have a vested interest in making sure that you eat more than you may need.
And while food blogs such as Vani Hari’s Food Babe may seem to help remedy the solution, she has some idea of how things work and she generally encourages food producers to be more transparent about their tactics, she’s also not a trained doctor or dietician. This worries me, as people may start to adopt tactics that mirror hers and may be unhealthy for them in the end – those with certain dietary restrictions or lifestyles may not be able to do the things she does. While I may agree about certain aspects of things with her (for example, labeling GMO’s – I consume products that are genetically modified and don’t have a problem with it, especially in the context of ensuring people in developing countries can eat, but consumers should at least know what they’re consuming, due to pesticides such as round up being used on crops that are typically genetically modified – from an ecological and somewhat (ish) health perspective), I think her rhetoric may stick to people and eventually drive into unhealthy relationships with food, especially for those who are prone to eating disorders.
Overall, I think food is multifaceted and there’s no one right answer – it takes a village to recognize that there’s profit incentive behind everything an that not everything is black and white. There’s many shades of grey.