Sunday, February 13, 2011

Living Healthfully: Digesting our Food Choices

It's Sunday morning during our vacation, and G. is lounging around in his underwear while riffling through a basket filled with 100-calorie snack packs.

I ask him what he's doing.

"I'm reading the ingredients to see if this is a healthy snack, mom," he says.

This is the point where I stop and pause before continuing any external dialogue with my kiddo.

My heart could be doing at a happy dance at the moment with my oldest seemingly displaying a desire to carefully choose his food.

Buuuut, if I'm going to be real, I know that's not what he's doing this time.

First of all, he can't read.

Second, we've had this discussion before about NOT eating these little snack packs of cookies and crackers; he's simply trying to talk me into allowing him to indulge in food.

Well, I use the term food loosely, because a lot of those ingredients, they are not actually, you know, food.

That's a hard concept to explain to a 3.5 year old who has actually seen people {including a younger, unaware version of his mother -- me} eat the contents of those packages before.

Because why on Earth would someone eat something that's not food, he asks?

Sigh. I know, right?

Why would someone eat something that's not actually food?

Speaking from experience, I think I know the answer: Because the definition of food has so radically changed during the past few decades.

Whereas food used to be defined as a digestible, nutritious plant or animal based product naturally found in nature, we now abide by a new definition:
whatever is tasty and technically digestible.

Forget that much of what we consume has been concocted in a chemistry lab rather than harvested in a field or grown in a pasture.

Instead of eating products that are the fat of the land we're consuming science projects that are making us the fat of the land.

And perhaps we're just not passionate about our food anymore.

Let's take, for example, the ingredients in one of the 100-calorie snack packs:
enriched flour, sugar, fructose, glycerol, vegetable oil with TBHQ for freshness, dextrose, meltodextrin, non-fat dry milk, apple powder, strawberry puree concentrate, mineral whey, invert sugar, cornstarch, soy lecithin, leavening, salt, datem, cellulose gel, natural and artificial color, citric acid, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, sodium citrate, malic acid, color added, sodium alginate, caramel color, xanthan gum, tricalcium phospate, red #40, vanilla extract, BHT.

I'm not going to go into the fact that two of the three first ingredients in the product are sugar. And I'm not going to spend time discussing how a few ingredients later more sugar is listed. Twice. I'm also not going to get into the whole "enriched" flour thing.

Simply, I'm just going to point out that the items bolded have been chemically created in a science lab. What exactly is red #40 anyway? Or BHT? Or artificial flavors? Or TBHQ?

Really, I won't spend time dissecting what these ingredients do to a body when consumed in larger quantities {which is entirely possible if all you're eating is precessed food} beyond saying that unnatural ingredients seriously compromise the way our bodies were intended to function.

Rather, if we don't know exactly what these ingredients are, why are we consuming them or allowing our children to consume them? Why are we not more passionate about our food and where it comes from and what it actually is?

We wouldn't turn our kids loose in a forest preserve and allow them access to any of the wild berries or plants growing because we know some of them may contain toxins that are poisonous to our bodies.

So why turn them loose in the grocery store aisle where so many of our foods now contain known {and even more worrisome -- unknown} chemical concoctions that react similarly to toxins when built up in the body? {Remember the whole saccharin debacle?}

And why on Earth are we allowing marketers and studies paid for by ginormous processed food companies dictate what we deem safe for our families to consume when those studies' interests are marred by these companies' interests in profit rather than consumer health?

And how is it that we fall for the lie that 100 calorie snack packs are healthy simply because they are 100 calories? So is probably my TSHIRT, and I wouldn't eat that.

And doesn't anybody intensely, passionately care about the food we're eating?! ---

Snap back to reality at the sound of a small voice: "Mommy, what can I have for a snack?"

I collect my thoughts, try to cool my boiling blood and refocus.

"How about some raspberries?" I ask.

"I looooove raspberries!" he exclaims.

As he happily pops the raspberries into his mouth, I realize something -- an epiphany of sorts.

It's NOT that we're void of passion concerning our food; actually, it seems to be quite the opposite -- we ARE emotionally attached to our food otherwise there wouldn't be such a hard and tight cling to these processed foods.

Perhaps, the passion we must learn is one for our bodies, switch our loyalties from what we're feeding ON simply to the very bodies we're feeding.