Monday, March 23, 2009

Missing the point

On Sunday, after a 5-mile walk/run, we stopped by our local natural foods coop (PCC, for the benefit of local readers) for a few odds and ends. On our way out, we were behind a family of four—two parents and two children under 5. Each parent was pushing a loaded shopping cart. Almost every shopping bag in the carts was one of the PCC’s bright purple purchaseable, reuseable bags, so I assume they are regular customers.

Now, I’m trying to state the facts as I saw them, without passing (too much) judgment. Both parents were significantly overweight. One of the children, a boy of about age 3, was sitting in his mother’s cart, voraciously snacking on grated cheese out of a plastic deli container.

Now, in moderation, cheese can certainly be part of a healthy, nutritious diet. But it does have a lot of fat and calories. As J put it: “Why isn’t that kid snacking on apple slices.”

The incident brought home the fact that many people simply have no idea what a healthy diet is.

You’ve got people who don’t care what they put in their mouths, as long as it’s cheap, fast and it tastes good (I’m talking about you, McDonald’s value menu).

Then you’ve got people who know they should eat better, but feel like they can’t, because they “can’t afford organic food.”

They you’ve got your people who can afford organic food, who can afford to shop at Whole Foods or PCC instead of Safeway, but who make the error of thinking that if it’s organic and from a “health food” store, it’s healthy. This assumption is false for at least two reasons:

I’m sorry, people, but there is a lot of junk food to be had at Whole Foods and its peers. An organic potato chip is still a potato chip, albeit with fewer chemicals. And don’t even get me started on the concept of organic Coke.

Too many calories are too many calories, regardless of whether the food is organic or non-organic, processed or whole. If I stuff my face with organic cheese, then plop my butt on the couch with a bag of organic root-vegetable chips, I am NOT being healthy!

After spending quite some time ruminating on this subject yesterday, imagine my delight when I discovered this morning that the New York Times’ Mark Bittman apparently read my mind.

I wanted to pump my fist in the air and scream “Yes!” (I didn’t, since I was working from the office today) when I read this: “The truth is that most Americans eat so badly — we get 7 percent of our calories from soft drinks, more than we do from vegetables; the top food group by caloric intake is “sweets”; and one-third of nation’s adults are now obese — that the organic question is a secondary one.”

In an ideal world, we would all sit down with family and friends three times a day to meals lovingly prepared from organic, locally-grown, in-season whole foods. But is anyone ready to argue that we’re living in an ideal world? The reality is that we have to make choices, all of the time. Hopefully we make the better choice most of the time. Better to bring a simple sandwich from home than to stop for a Big Mac. Better to eat a non-organic apple than organic cheese puffs. Better to drink water than soda pop. Better to eat frozen vegetables than to not eat vegetables at all.

Sunday, March 22
Breakfast 1:
12 oz. fruit smoothie; espresso with 1% milk; 16 oz. water

Morning workout: 2.5-mile brisk walk + 2.5-mile run walk.
Breakfast 2: 2 whole eggs (fried in small amount of olive oil); toasted baguette with light cream cheese & marmalade; fresh mango and pineapple; cafe Americano; 16 oz. water.
Lunch: Leftover lamb & couscous; 16 oz. water.
Cocktail hour: Martini w/green olive; 1/4 c. peanuts.
Dinner: Grilled burger w/sauteed (in olive oil) mushrooms; mixed green salad with olive oil & vinegar; 1 c. baked beans; 4 oz. red wine; 16 oz water; cafe Americano.

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