Real Food … the Easy Way to Health

This is one of my favorite bits of real food inspiration … because it has the potential to stop us in our well-worn tracks of thinking of food – particuarly healthy food – as time-consuming and complicated.

Real Food

REAL FOOD

– Real food is a beautiful apple, sliced with love, and eaten one gorgeous slice at a time.

– Real food is a couple of farmer’s market carrots sliced into dimes and sizzled in a bit of olive oil until they caramelize.

– Real food is broccoli roasted until it’s crisp and brown, with simple sprinkle of salt.

– Real food is a half of an avocado, maybe with a squeeze of lime and a twist of black pepper … or not.

– Real food is parsley and mint, tossed with quinoa.

– Real food is a tomato, freshly picked from the vine and eaten while still warm with the summer sun.

– Real food is a mash of warm white beans, with a bit of roasted garlic.

Real food is simple, beautiful, and soul-warming. It can be mixed with other foods, but it is also complete unto itself. It demands to be eaten artfully and with attention, and returns this favor with flavor and health. Big thanks to the great Jamie Oliver for the reminder!

Strawberry Lies: What’s NOT in your food may surprise you!

quakerYour strawberry-loving kids had Quaker Strawberries and Cream oatmeal for breakfast, with Hershey’s Strawberry milk. Strawberry Fruit Gushers for dessert for lunch, and Straw-Banana-Rama Double Crush Cup Yogurt for an after-school snack. At practice, they drank Kiwi-Strawberry Vitaminwater, and then had Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups after dinner.

So how many strawberries did they eat, for goodness sake? EXACTLY NONE.

Confused?  Read on, and follow the links to credible sources for ingredients, if you want to check for yourself (and you should)!

I’m picking on strawberries, but this is by no means limited to them.

Crystal Light’s “Natural Lemonade” mix doesn’t even contain a single drop of lemon or lemonade (though it does include under 2% of “lemon juice solids, meaning solids extracted from lemons and then turned into a powder)!  Please tell me what’s “Natural” about that?

kraftguacamoleKraft sells a “guacamole dip” that contains less than 2% avocados.

Knorr “Pasta Sides” Chicken Broccoli Fettuccini has more corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, and salt than there is Chicken or Broccoli.

WHAAAAAAATTTTT?

These food marketers are counting on your being too busy (and trusting) to worry with reading the label.  They think that because they add fruit flavors or colors, you’ll be duped into buying their products and feeding them to your families.  And unfortunately, for many of us, they’re right.

If a blouse were marked as “silk” but then you found out later that it was imitation silk, you’d return it.  If you stopped for your morning “coffee” but then later learned it was made of a colored water that was flavored to taste like coffee (but didn’t have any of coffee’s physical or nutritional characteristics), you’d be up in arms.  So why are we giving food marketers so much leeway with chemical colors and flavors that help THEM save money, but dupe us every day?

How to Fight Back

1.  Read labels.  Don’t assume that because you see it on the label, it’s in the box.  Or that if it’s not on the label, it’s not in the box.  

2. Avoid buying packaged foods.  I know, it sounds extreme, but it’s actually easier than you think.  Stay away from the middle of the store – shop the periphery, where most non-processed food lives.  Buy strawberries rather than strawberry-flavored gook.  Make a game of it for a week, just to see how you do – you may be surprised at how simple and tasty your meals become!

3.  If you’re going to choose a packaged food, choose the simplest one the brand offers.  As an example, next time you’re in the grocery store, compare the ingredients in Triscuits (whole wheat, oil, and salt) to the ingredients in any other Triscuit flavor (too long to list here, and includes MSG, ugh).  Or compare regular Quaker Oatmeal to the “strawberries and cream” abomination mentioned above.

Here’s one more for the road:  Snyder’s of Hanover Eat Smart Veggie Crisps claim to be “A bountiful blend of potato, spinach, and tomato chips.”  However, they boast more potassium chloride than spinach.   Doesn’t sound very bountiful to me.

The Dirty Art of “Leanwashing”

Sugar Smacks ad from 1977 (Leanwashing has been around for a while!)

Sugar Smacks ad from 1977 (Leanwashing has been around for a while!)

Have you seen the Leanwashing site?  This website, from Enviromedia Social Marketing, founded by Valerie Davis and Kevin Tuerff, lets consumers report brands that use vague of misleading claims about health benefits that make a food seem like a smart choice when it is not.  Examples are 100-calorie snack packs of highly-processed gunk, or sugar-drenched cereals that scream “WHOLE GRAIN!” on the package.   I’m a huge fan of this site!

From one of their Advisory Panel members, former Big Food exec and healthy eating advocate Bruce Bradley, “Over the past decade or so, Big Food increasingly acts more and more like a snake oil salesman, shilling sugary, salt-laden, fatty processed foods and calling them ‘healthy.'”  Exactly – and the result is a generation of mothers – and their kids – who have come to believe that fruit actually comes “by the foot.”

Enviromedia’s guidelines for identifying Leanwashed products:

  • Does the product mislead with words?  (common Leanwashing words include “natural”, “whole-grain”, and “wholesome”)
  • Does the product mislead with visuals, sponsorship or imagery? (athletes on candy packages, for example)
  • Does the product make vague health claims?
  • Does the product exaggerate how healthy it is?
  • Does the product appear to mask information, making a product seem healthier than it really is?

Check out the site and share it with others … and be on the lookout for Leanwashing in the grocery stores and restaurants you visit.  When you see it for what it is, it loses its hold on you!