Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stuff Week: Food Choices and a Rant!

From Medical News Today:
A voluntary recall of 5,379 cases of bagged salad products has been announced by both Ready Pac Foods Inc. and the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) - the recall refers specifically to products that contain Romaine lettuce with a November 18th, 2011 use-by-date. The company says these products could be tainted with E. coli O157:H7, a bacterium that can cause diarrhea and bloody stools.
Monday, on my commute in to work, I heard the aforementioned salad recall on the radio. Upon hearing this news, I was immediately inflamed over yet another food recall. In the past few years, I've made it my business to read up and watch just about everything I could get my hands on about the American food industry. Right off the top of my head, the most influential of those books and documentaries are: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (always, LOVE), Why Animals Matter: The Case For Animal Protection by Erin Williams and Margo Demello, and the very popular documentary, Food, Inc. There are certainly others worth mentioning, but these pieces planted the seeds and got me reading more up-to-date news articles and following food issues more closely.


In light of what I've learned over the past few years, I've even "themed" some of my writing and research courses on food. My Comp II class is research-focused, and they are required to complete a lengthy proposal including an annotated bibliography and a 10-page research paper. A number of them look at me like I was a NUT CASE when I announced that our class would be all about food. However, I'm proud to say that by the end of the class they were as interested in issues of food as I am. We learned a lot together reading over their unique topics.

My main frustration with the food industry is its carelessness and a general disregard for the people eating the food. It's a business. Just a business. You can read all about it yourself -- you certainly don't need me to try to summarize the issues with factory farming (of meat and veggies) or the pervasiveness of preservatives and artificial sweeteners, dyes, etc. IT'S JUST BAD. It makes me sick to my stomach to know that it's all fixable but will likely never be fixed. Small changes and differences occur -- more organically grown produce and free range meat moves into chain supermarkets -- because people want them. At the same time, those buzz words become marketing tools. Savvy consumers have to read, research, and know more to stay ahead of companies and their advertising to know what's legit and what's advertising lingo.

I think it's a shame that I have to monitor any fast-food hamburgers my son eats because they might kill him if they're undercooked. That I can't, in good faith, give him a bagged salad for the same reasons. Compounding the problem are the high prices of the good food. Organics, free range, and other, healthier foods are hard for me to afford sometimes. It's easier to be unhealthy in America than it is to be healthy.

The key word there is easier. It's not impossible to healthy options, but it does require a due diligence from consumers and a lot of digging for information -- and a community of people who are bound and determined to make it happen. 


In the last few weeks I've been hooked on 100 Days of Real Food, a blog written by Lisa Leake and focused on how her family cut processed food out of their diets. Lemme tell you, my  first reaction: WHOA! Lisa's blog is endlessly helpful and insightful offering everything from "real food" recipes, to kids' school lunch menus, and advice for shopping at big box and chain grocery stores for "real food." I've found a lot of great tips and recipes at this site and get excited every time Lisa posts something new.

If you have the time, take a few minutes to read Lisa's "About" page, as it's a lot of good background. Her "Recipes & Resources" page is also excellent.

This is such a huge deal to me for so many reasons. Ever since Greyson has been in daycare I've been grappling with the fact that they feed him junk. French toast sticks for breakfast, heat and serve quesadillas for lunch, boxed crackers for a snack in the afternoon. It varies day by day, but you get the gist. Those things are easy to fall back on at home when I don't have time to cook or he's having an especially picky toddler appetite day. But does that make me OK with it? No. And I'm trying not to settle.

When I was pregnant and came into the office for a checkup one day, I had remarkably high blood pressure. I'd also just had a fight with a family member that sent it through the roof. I knew that,  but my doctor freaked out and made me go no-sodium/low-sodium for three days. I ate home-cooked food, no salt added canned veggies and frozen choices, and I drank water.

And I lost 9 pounds in three days. 


That alone was a huge wake up call for me and something that lit a fire under me to start making healthier choices. While I wasn't eating what I considered overtly "bad" food while pregnant, I obviously was not eating anything good either. Or too little of it, anyway.  It has not been an easy road, and I can't say I make good food choices all, or even most, of the time. But I am determined to make more good choices and to make more of a difference in the way my child experiences food. Hopefully it will impact his long-term health and wellness, and that's the best reason of all to keep chugging along on this path.

16 comments:

  1. Ok, now I know we're secretly related...I'm bookmarking the blog you talked about. Kingsolver's book was the first real wake-up call for me that reinforced what I already suspected. And, my daughters are the driving force for me as well...I firmly believe that the overabundance of kids on medication for attention deficit and anxiety related issues is caused at least partly by all the poisons that are added to processed food.

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  2. Great post! Not only are all those processed foods bad for you, they're addictive.

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  3. Amen Andi! I couldn't have said it better! I actually put Ethan in a daycare that I knew served healthier foods. Now I'm not saying he doesn't get the occasional box cracker/cereal snack, but it's not everyday. It's amazing the difference in what he eats. It's helped me to strive for better choices at home.

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  4. I have been doing the real food eating for a whlie now. It drives the people that I work with crazy. When they bring in somthing they bought like cookies I can taste the chemicals in them and won't have any.

    It changes your taste buds in a good way.

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  5. I was doing really good with healthy eating and avoiding packaged stuff and sugar. We'd still go out to eat occasionally, but overall, I was pretty happy with our diet. And then HB had his accident and it all went downhill. Stress does awful things to my diet, and HB has discovered that ice cream and eating out more often can bring a bit of pleasure to an otherwise crappy day. We haven't totally regressed, but I keep telling myself I need to start making some better choices!

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  6. Concumers have to be vigilant. As soon as manufacturers catch on to what consumers really want (real food that is safe to eat and won't make you fat) they find a way to deceive consumers into *thinking* they are getting what they want. And the manuafacturers delibarately make their products both unhealthy and addictive. Grrr. Thanks for the post, I'm checking out that block right now!

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  7. Oops! *blog*! Another good book about what we eat is Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer....

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  8. Patti, we are toootally secretly related. :D

    You will FREAKIN' LOVE 100 Days of Real Food. Seriously. Love love love it. I think you have a point about ADD and whatnot. Not to mention all the hormones that send kids into puberty earlier now. YAY! Let's eat more of that crap.

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  9. Kathy, YES they are. Which is an even sicker twist to all these food issues.

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  10. Kristina, I'm envious that you found a daycare serving good stuff. I have a whopping TWO daycares to choose from in my hometown. Both are equally as ridiculous when it comes to lunches.

    Greyson still gets those boxed cracker snacks at home some, too, but it really depends on what we have available (and how badly I need to make a trip to the market). I'm trying to diversify the types of homemade snacks I make for him, and I'm happy to report, the kid is ALWAYS up for a piece of fruit or some celery and hummus.

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  11. Nulanne, I know exactly what you mean. I don't have time to make homemade bread (nor the talents), but I do buy a specific brand of healthier bread and now I can't eat the normal supermarket stuff. It tastes like formaldehyde.

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  12. And I misspelled! Sorry, Nulaanne!

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  13. I know how that goes, Jill. Personally, I am a stress eater. I tooootally fell off the wagon yesterday, but today it's back up on the horse. Except that HUGE margarita I'll have later with some packaged strawberry syrup in it. Or whatever they use.

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  14. Bibliophiliac, isn't that the truth! It sucks that health has become a marketing ploy. And that companies will outright LIE.

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  15. Oooo have I got the book for you! It will completely piss you off more than you already are when it comes to food and the choices the "establishment" makes for our children. It's called LUNCH WARS, you may remember I reviewed it. Want my copy? It lit a fire under me to make sure I pack E's lunch every day instead of letting her eat the nastiness they serve at school every day.

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  16. I love your rant and couldn't agree more with your points made here. I appreciate the link to the blog and will definitely check it out. Sometimes I think people in this country are in food comas from eating all the crap. It is unfortunate that we all can't afford the organic stuff but I just buy as much as I can and try to make better choices.

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