My New Food Philosophy

I am an evolving dieter. Even before I ever really “dieted” I was replacing high fat and high sugar items with modified lower fat and lower sugar versions. I can’t remember ever drinking regular cola. I’ve been a Diet Coke girl since childhood. I bought into the Snackwell’s buzz, the reduced fat peanut butter and all that other let’s-save-calories-but-still-eat-crap baloney.

When I did WW, I was primed for success on the program. I loved Splenda. I ate Lean Cuisines. I lost 30lbs, and then my weight loss slowed. To a screeching halt.

I went to a nutritionist. She advised against foods that replaced normal fat and sugars. Sugar (and some fat replacements) are chemicals. No one really knows how the body processes them. Just because they’re calorie free, doesn’t mean they can aid in losing weight. In fact, some studies have shown that these things can actually increase cravings for sugar and fat. Fat is sometimes replaced by sugar. (Look at the nutritional label on Snackwells or compare reduced fat and regular peanut butter.) I started eating more lean proteins, fewer carbs, fewer preservatives, more veggies, Greek yogurt, beans and quinoa.

And then I saw Food, Inc. I was horrified. In our current food system, nothing is treated with respect, except for perhaps the CEOs making a bundle on our nation’s evolving love of food that is fast, cheap, plentiful and loaded with fat, salt and sugar. Cows and chickens are so overfed, their legs can’t support their weight. The chickens give a new meaning to hooters with breasts that challenge that of their human counterparts. (The last time I got boneless skinless chicken breasts, each breast weighed 10 ounces–that’s more than two servings!)

I can’t, in good faith, continue to use my supermarket dollars to an industry that so blatantly disrespects consumers, employees and their product. This is more than some flouffy liberal “save the animals” soapbox. Did you know:

  • Farmers take out loans averaging $500,000 a year to construct the facilities that house the cows and chickens we eat. They build these facilities based on what companies like Tyson and Purdue require of them (and these are not humane conditions or healthy for either the animals or people who need to work in them). Tyson and Purdue do NOT compensate the farmers for this construction. In fact, the farmers make, on average $18,000 a year.
  • Corn is in most of the foods we eat, including soda, ketchup, margarine, cereal and bread.
  • Cows are raised on corn and soy based diets, even though their body is meant to eat grass not grains. This diet, combined with the way the animals are processed (there could be dozens, if not hundreds of cows in the 1lb package of ground beef you purchase at the supermarket), it increases the likelihood that the meat will be contaminated with E Coli and other types of bacteria.
  • Food companies treat the meat with chemicals (ammonia for one!) to kill the bacteria. This is not foolproof, as evidenced by the increase in food-borne illnesses over the past decade.
  • Remember when Oprah was sued for saying she would think twice before eating another burger after the mad cow outbreak in the 90s? She was sued because there are laws called veggie libel laws that prevent people from saying things that could have a negative economic impact on the food industry.
  • The soy industry is monopolized by one company that controls 98% of the soy industy with one genetically modified soybean. They prey on farmers who make up the remaining 2%, attempting to sue them for “stealing” the GMO. This typically puts those farmers out of business.
  • Oh yeah… and even though Dr. Oz and Oprah’s trainer Bob Greene practically baptized soy as the new wonderfood several years ago, more recently, studies have shown that soy has estrogenic properties which can result in increased cases of cancer (specifically breast cancer).
  • What’s wrong with genetically modified food? Read this article.
  • The food industry very much supports the oil industry and is disasterous for the environment. Because we have two main crops (corn and soy), it sucks out the nutrients in the earth. Generally speaking, rotating crops are best for soil quality and overall farming success. Our food is trucked from states away–even other countries–just because we want to eat strawberries in December. Not only is this bad for the environment, but it doesn’t support the local economy and all that trucking equals more reliance on the oil industry (for gas).
  • These big companies that control our meat industry are the same companies hiring loads of migrant workers. The government goes after the farmworkers (some who have been working in this country, raising and sustaining their own families on a very small paycheck) instead of the companies that are knowingly employing them.

So I could run around squacking “the sky is falling!” but I’m not. I’m going to do something about it. Here’s my plan:

  • spend the next month consuming the food that remains in my house and gradually replace it with healthier “clean” foods. That includes: whole grains, products without HFCS, food that has natural fats and sugars, food that is minimally processed (if processed at all).
  • I will take the advice of the movie and use my grocery budget to vote. Two weeks ago, I started purchasing most of my produce and dairy locally. I will continue to do this as much as possible (recognizing that winter might be challenging since there’s less available).
  • I will eat seasonally appropriate produce. That means no more strawberries in January (unless, perhaps, they’re frozen).
  • I will consume less meat and most of what I do consume will be purchased locally from farms that have free range chickens and grass fed beef. I will signficantly reduce (if not cut out altogether) meat that has been treated with hormones or antibiotics.
  • I will be an advocate for better food quality and better farming practices. I will do this through my blog, my actions and other opportunities that I find as I continue to learn more.
  • I will limit eating out.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? How are you being a more socially (and healthy) consumer?

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3 responses to “My New Food Philosophy

  1. I love it!

    We have been enjoying our first season as members of a CSA. I love eating locally and supporting neighboring farms!

    I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 15 years, and I love love love Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” It is PACKED full of recipes and is an excellent resource for just about any non-meat food you can think of (I’ve used it several times recently for preparing new-to-me veggies we’ve received in our CSA share). Also, for every recipe, Bittman provides a handful of variations, so it is very easy to modify everything to your tastes.

    Rock on with your new food philosophy!

  2. You forgot one thing that I found most important about the beef.. grass fed beef ends up being cheaper for many reasons:
    transportation of animals to slaughter house
    transportation of grain to the animals
    chemicals to clean the areas where the animals live since they stand in a foot of feces.

    In grass fed farms it’s not only better beef but it’s better for the enivornment.
    You eat the grass
    You fertilize the grass
    There’s no need to clean the area with chemicals or ship food and slaughtering is generally done on site.

    The reason why it costs us slightly more is because of economies of scale and if more people went for grass fed then the companies would follow suit driving down the price and east of finding grass fed beef. At our shaws and local farm it’s not that much more per pound.

    And what I’m doing to be more socially and healthy is purchasing locally (locavore in the house), not eating chemically treated food, and finding restuarants that have the same social concerns that I have. I’m blessed that Somerville and Cambridge have a lot of options at varying price points that follow my social and environment concerns and source local food.

  3. I have that Bittman book–just got it for my birthday. I love it, but I’m a little overwhelmed by all the choices. Whoever would have guessed how much you could make with a simple zucchini?

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