Edible Food-Like Substances: Friend, Foe, or Necessary Evil?

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/9/2008 12:27 PM   :  100 comments

I love the term “edible food-like substances,” which comes from Michael Pollan’s latest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. He uses the term to refer to everything from frozen, microwavable meals to protein bars, frozen veggie burgers, and vitamin-enriched cereals.

Just calling these highly processed, manufactured items “edible food-like substances” makes you stop and wonder: Are these things really food? Should I be eating them?

Pollan, as you can probably guess, thinks you shouldn’t. The “food” he wants to defend is natural, minimally processed food that comes to you in its natural state, or as close as possible. But, as with everything, there are pros and cons on both sides of this issue. Read on, and see whether you agree with Pollan, or think he’s being too impractical.


One of Pollan’s reasons for preferring "real" foods is that processed foods often contain chemicals and additives that are great for prolonging the shelf-life or appearance of the item, but may not be so great for your own longevity or health. Likewise, processing often removes things from the food that would be good for you–like fiber and many of the micronutrients (vitamins and the hundreds of other phytochemicals needed for good health). In some cases, even the raw veggies and fruits you buy in your local supermarket may not be "natural" foods, because industrialized production methods involve use of pesticides, genetic modifications, and/or farming methods that result in soil depletion and crops which contain far less of the vitamins and other nutrients found in organically and locally grown foods.

Another major concern that Pollan talks about is the problem of "nutritionism." By this he means looking at food exclusively in terms of its nutritional content. This turns eating simply into a matter of collecting all the specific nutrients you need, regardless of the form they come in, or what effect these forms have on the rest of our lives. As a result, manufacturers can claim that a junk food (like a cereal that’s over 50% sugar) is really a “health food” because they’ve added a few synthetic vitamins to it. And a “meal” can be eaten while driving your car, instead of sitting with family or friends around a dining table, which demolishes the cultural and social roles that food, cooking, and eating have traditionally played in bringing people together.

Another major problem with “nutritionism” and “edible food-like substances,” according to Pollan, is that they defeat our innate ability to know what we need to eat, based on our natural preferences and tastes for “real,” recognizable foods. This can leave us dependent on nutrition experts to tell us how and what to eat. Many people are so confused by all the conflicting and constantly changing claims made by manufactures and nutrition experts that they simply give up trying to sort things out and just go with whatever is most convenient or cheapest—or eat a very limited diet and rely on vitamin supplements to keep them healthy.

The flip side of all this is that eating the way Pollan recommends can take a lot of time, effort, and money that’s hard to come by these days for many people. It would be great to cook all your own meals, using real, organic foods you picked up at the local farmers market. But that protein bar comes in pretty handy when you need to eat something in the 20 minutes it takes you to get from the office to the gym for your workout, and maybe popping a frozen meal in the microwave is a better option than flopping on the couch with a bag of chips because you’re too tired to shop or cook. Modern life, with all it demands and requirements, just doesn't seem designed to let us devote a lot of time and effort to the personal side of life.

So, how do you put all these concerns and priorities together into a diet that works for you? Do you think the concerns that Pollan raises are important enough to warrant spending more time and effort on preparing "real" foods—or is it enough just to know that you’re getting your basic vitamins and minerals? Are these kinds of issues things that people can and should handle on their own, privately, or should they be the focus of public debate and political action as well?


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Comments

  • 100
    I agree with most of what he's saying, but I find the concept of nutritionism a little alarmist; mainly this notion that if people just consume all their nutrients in whatever form is convenient, they'll end up eating like crap. It's sort of true, but in reality, the ONLY way to get in proper doses of all your nutrients while staying in your calorie range IS to eat whole, unprocessed foods. It's something I struggled with for quite awhile, until I started incorporating more fruits and veggies. Suddenly I was routinely hitting all my vitamin and nutrient levels properly, almost without trying. So yes, you probably shouldn't eat that potassium-enriched cereal with tons of sugar instead of, say, a banana. But if you did that routinely, you wouldn't be getting the proper amount of sugar....I'm not sure if this makes sense on paper (screen) as it does in my head, but if you're meeting all your nutrition goals, staying within healthy ranges for all of the most important vitamins, minerals, calories/fat/protein, ect...you ARE eating healthy. - 7/2/2013   2:02:54 PM
  • 99
    People who are good at making excuses are seldom good at making anything else...... a proverb my daughter just read in her schoolbook yesterday, and incredibly true. Keep on coming up with justifications for why you just "can't" cook your own food, and you won't do it. Stop complaining about why you can't do it and just MAKE IT HAPPEN. Yep, life is hard. It's busy. I get it. But you can put the time & effort into your wellness now, or you will put time and effort into your sickness later on. It's just that simple. - 11/29/2012   9:10:17 AM
  • 98
    Health is wealth!

    I take no medicines, because food is my medicine. Like Coach Nicole, I buy organic and eat a rainbow of whole foods, 90% unpackaged, and when packaged organic with simple ingredient read-outs. - 2/4/2011   7:55:09 AM
  • SATYAGRAHA
    97
    I try to eat "real" as much as possible, buying organic when I can, eating a diet mostly consisting on fruits and veggies, and reading ingredient labels to avoid products full of ingredients I can't pronounce or don't recognize. Of course, sometimes time gets the best of us, and I love to have something convenient, yet still healthy. My go-to is Amy's Organics frozen meals for those times I'm in a pinch. Yes, they're frozen in a little plastic tray a la Lean Cuisine, but without all the chemical additives. To me that's the same thing as me cooking my own meals and freezing them. I'd much rather have that on hand than end up ordering a pizza or skipping my lunch because I didn't have time to prepare anything. - 8/4/2010   6:41:30 AM
  • 96
    Sorry to tell you this! But the ONLY way I've EVER been to lose weight is to cook my every meal. Not that I don't eat veggie burgers, instant brown rice or beans from cans, but the brunt of my diet comes from fresh veggies. As for lean cuisines, I just can't see WHY they're supposed to be healthy for you when they're full of sodium and chemicals! And instead of having chips on hand, why not have low sugar trail mix or a natural cereal like Shredded Mini Wheats or Uncle Sam's? Or something that has a significant amount of nutrients and fiber? They're MY in a pinch go-to meals.



    CHANAK: Why don't you make extra batches of stuff during the weekend and freeze it? I've found that pasta, beans and even cooked ground turkey meat is GREAT out of the fridge and into the microwave. and as a single mom, I know exactly what it's like! - 7/29/2010   9:33:20 AM
  • RAWSISTA
    95
    it took a year for me to go completely organic..I saved money by shopping at the farmer's market & bought items in season..My point of view now it's cheaper to spend money @ the farmer's market than @ the doctor's office..Now with the gov't takeover of healthcare.. DON'T GET SICK!!! AND DON'T GO BROKE!!!... - 4/15/2010   6:01:52 PM
  • 94
    I would prefer to eat "real" foods all the time, and there's no question as to whether I'd rather feed them to my daughter. But I'm a single parent, I work full time and have a 1.5 hour commute each day. By the time I get home, we have very little time to get homework done, get dinner made and eaten, get my daughter's bath out of the way, and get her to bed. My weekends are spent working around the house or trying to spend quality time with my little girl.

    Ultimately, while I agree with Pollan in theory, and while I sincerely doubt that he's trying to guilt-trip those of us who sometimes rely on packaged foods, in the real world it often isn't possible to eat any other way. Granted, I haven't read his book - I'm going to request it from the library as soon as I've finished writing this - so I can't be sure of how he approaches the subject. But my bottom line is that most of us do the best that we can - I know I do - and when I'm being told that it still isn't good enough, that's not inspiring. It's frustrating and defeatist. - 4/15/2010   11:10:10 AM
  • SKTHOBURN
    93
    Shopping for fresh produce, spices, and meats, choosing an exciting or comforting recipe, preparing a meal from scratch with love for family and friends and sitting down to savor and share it together...that is what eating is about. A frozen, processed meal may meet your hunger and nutritional needs, but it will never compare to the product of a thoughtfully prepared, home cooked meal from scratch. Cooking is a satisfying, creative experience that nourishes the body and soul of the cook and her (or his) loved ones. Any time I try to include a shortcut, frozen entree, my husband will say, "It's okay, but it's not your cooking." Setting a table with place mats, napkins, and real plates and sitting down to dine and have a conversation about your day is far more satisfying than sitting down to a tiny plastic tray, a box or bag of food. Without a doubt it is well worth the time and effort. - 4/15/2010   9:25:11 AM
  • 92
    Although I haven't read the book, I am really liking the ideas outlined here. Eating 'real' food has always been one of my preferences. Maybe I've been spoiled but I live within minutes of Ontario's finest vegetable growing area & therefore have always been able to obtain fresh veggies. I come from a family that has always 'cooked'. Real meals, home cooked meals, using real foods, fresh foods has always been a part of my life. And yes, both parents worked & had busy social lives. But learning to cook was a part of life. Eating meals together was normal.

    And all this without the mod-cons of today - food processors, dishwashers (my sister was the washer, I was the drier), pre-cleaned, cut foods.

    Yes, it can be done & done easily. If one simply includes preparation of healthy meals into one's life, it becomes normal. There is no simpler meal to make than a roast - chicken, beef, pork (lean of course) with a wide variety of veggies roasted right along with the meat. Prep time is about 1/2 hour, left overs will do for at least one or two more meals during the week. Simple, healthy & real. And lots of time left to do other healthy activities. - 3/18/2010   11:20:31 AM
  • 91
    While I do believe that eating closer to nature's bounty is on the whole better, there are many reasons in today's world that make that difficult. Others have mentioned time constraints due to work and family. I'd like to add disability.

    I have severe enough fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue to be disabling. I am better enough now to work full time but most days it takes everything I have to get through the day. In fact, the reason I gained so much weight was because I didn't even have the energy to go into a sit-down restaurant let alone shop and cook my own meals. So I lived off drive-thru fast food and, between that and being unable to be active, gained 150 pounds. And being two people in one body, makes those activities even harder.

    To get away from the drive-thru fast food, I buy a lot of frozen convenience foods. I read the labels carefully to avoid HFCS and certain other additives and to watch the fat, sodium and calories. I have most of my food delivered but when I'm "at" the online grocery, I still read labels. If the label isn't available to view, I don't buy it.

    I've done a some batch cooking on Sundays (I need Saturdays to recover from the work week) but find it as exhausting as a work day which makes my week even longer.

    My decision to eat mostly from the frozen foods/meals aisle has enabled me to lose 10 pounds, so far, because I know just what I'm getting. My expectation is that as I lose the weight, I'll become less tired and in less pain and so will be able to spend more time preparing my own food. But for now, I won't apologize for not eating organic. - 8/28/2009   1:25:10 PM
  • 90
    I prefer foods as close to their natural state as possible. i have tried some of the convenience foods and just don't find them to be satisfying or all that good tasting. I stick to a standard list of usual products, make certain things single serving size and freeze them. It is so routine to me after so many years that I couldn't imagine doing things any other way. - 7/10/2009   6:56:26 PM
  • 89
    I think the important thing to take from this is that when we make decisions about what we put in our bodies they should be conscious, well thought through decisions, not just a passive reaction to marketing. The easy way out isn't the best. While I agree that power bars and protein powder are not the ideal mechanisms for nutrition, I think they are a useful tool. I'd rather spend my time cooking than shopping at the grocery so I use a lot of frozen vegetables because they keep longer. With work, family, friends and exercise, I just don't have time to go to the grocery every day and the food I bought on Sunday isn't always what I want to eat on Wednesday, if it's even still fresh.

    My current crutches are protein powder and fat free half and half. I don't eat a lot of sugar so it makes more sense to me to eat unhealthy HFCS than unhealthy animal fat, particularly in the small doses I consume it. And I can live without ice cream but occasionally I get a craving for that thick milkshake texture and the healthiest way to do it is to make a smoothy and add proteing powder as a thickener and an extra protein boost. They are tools in my arsenal. But they are tools that are used sparingly and with a conscious attention to the balance with other tools used throughout the week.

    Of course, that's when I'm being good, like now. When I'm being bad I love nothing more than a pack of pizza rolls from the grocers freezer and potato chips and processed dip. Yum! Takes me 3 days to flush the carbs and salt from my system though so I'll stick with the salmon and roasted asparagus I ate last night for dinner. - 3/12/2009   12:01:33 PM
  • 88
    TO CHICORY.. who says coffee is bad for you? I have read many health articles about the benefits of coffee just lately!!

    Yes u guessed it I love my coffee..enjoy your tea! - 3/10/2009   11:46:35 PM
  • 87
    I believe that eating overprocessed foods can impair weightloss. A month ago on the advice of my doctor. I started assembling my own version of those meals and ended up with an average of 3 times as much food for less calories (between 130 and 175), less sodium, less fat and less sugars. I also lost 5 lbs more this month than last. - 3/10/2009   9:09:27 PM
  • 86
    When I was married and had kids at home, I stayed home and gardened, picked in nearby strawberry fields and cherry orchards, and blueberry [farms] - whatever they're called. I canned and froze, even made my own sauerkraut (sp?). Now that it's just me and the cats, I choose to be lazy. My mother's degree was in home economics, and for health reasons I've had to deal with low sodium and low fat for decades, so I'm fairly cognizant of nutritional needs. My degree is in biology, and I've studied anatomy and physiology and organic chemistry. I conceed that there may be some chemical interactions that could be there in "gathered" or "natural" foods that might not happen with more-processed foods, but I have my doubts. I love my microwave and convenience meals that are portion-controlled and rich with nutrients added. I study the labels before I buy. I think I have other things to do that matter more to me at my stage in life than spending time laboring over a stove. I do think, though, that there are far too many foods in the supermarket - and in the schools, too - that are complete junk and are marketed to kids and the poor! The convenience mart in my neighborhood sells WAY too many individual bags of chips! If you get other things like family togetherness and nutrition education from gardening and cooking together, that's one thing. But I believe if you pay attention, it's just as healthy for you to drink a supplement meal and eat a high protein bar. The transportation and plastic packaging are a different matter for the health of the earth, though. But cows and beef cattle aren't good for the earth, either! And coffee just really isn't good for us, and I don't see any action to cut it out.... (I drink tea.) - 2/15/2009   11:12:04 PM
  • 85
    I have not read his book, although it does interest me now! I will be looking for it soon. I think moderation is key. It is very difficult to follow a strict fresh, clean only diet in our society. But being aware of what we are eating and making the best choices possible most of the time is a really great start. - 2/3/2009   7:35:38 PM
  • 84
    This generation has the longest life expectancy of any before us.
    Much of that comes from the fact that foods that were not available in previous generation year round now can always be on our table.

    I think we need wisdom and information, but not panic..

    Milk is safe to drink today, it stays longer in your refrigerator.
    If you can not afford organic, processed is better than doing without.

    I believe that the FDA needs to look at all the processed foods., especially the ones imported from the likes of China to look for carcinogens but lets relax and enjoy our meals.. stress kills more people than a non organic apple ot a processed hamburger..

    In all things moderation

    - 1/11/2009   2:17:34 PM
  • 83
    First I'm going out immediately and buying this book! Second, I do indeed agree that it's worth the effort and money to eat as cleanly (close to fresh) as possible. Saying that "our busy life" doesn't allow us to eat properly is just another excuse and lie we give ourselves. Want quick protein on the run without all those chemicals and additives you can't pronounce? How about hard boiled eggs, or a handful of almonds/walnuts? That pretty easy. And why not spend some time and make bigger batches of healthy meals to freeze for those nights you know you'll be exhausted and want something quick? There are many ways around eating "fast" that don't require us to eat pre-packaged frozen foods. It's all a matter of choosing to do it and making that choice a priority. - 1/10/2009   3:02:49 PM
  • 82
    I agree with MEAFTERBOYS - life is about balance.

    I also agree with SARAHABROAD - I grew up cooking and eating dinner with my family, and it's a tradition my husband and I are working on so we can pass it along to our son and any other future children.

    For anyone out there who is just starting to cook or just starting to get other family members involved - learning to cook together in the kitchen is like learning to dance. You'll step on a few toes and end up tangled in knots a couple of times, but if you keep at it, the rhythms of your shared kitchen will become smooth. My sister and I have been cooking together all our lives, and even after months apart, we can still whip up a tasty dinner in record time without a lot of verbal discussion of who is going to do what. My husband and I are still working out the kinks (we've been married for about 18 months) - he's not used to anyone else being in the kitchen with him and he's used to a large kitchen with lots of counterspace - we have a small kitchen and you have to get creative with what constitutes a "counter". - 12/8/2008   11:52:29 AM
  • 81
    I fall pretty firmly on the "natural state" foods and cooking for myself where possible. My fiance and I really enjoy cooking together--the act of chopping the vegetables and fruit and spending time together in the kitchen. AND since I've sworn off edible food-like substances (for the most part--there are always exceptions), my general health and well being has been better and the weight loss has been going much more smoothly. I attribute this to both the lower number of additives in my food these days but also because I am closer to what eventually makes it into my mouth at the dinner table. - 11/25/2008   11:38:13 AM
  • WISEWIFE
    80
    Cooking your own meals & buying fresh real food isn't so hard or expensive, you just need to plan. I avoid most food like products, opting for real foods instead. - 11/24/2008   4:07:45 PM
  • BLUESKIESAHEAD
    79
    His book is awesome.

    Everybody should be making their own meals. We all have time, its just a matter of caring enough to turn off the tv and turn on the stove.

    I wish I could eat all local, organic stuff, but it doesn't exist. I'm in Canada and we've only got local produce a couple months of the year. *tears* IF the stores even decide to stock it. - 11/20/2008   4:14:00 PM
  • 78
    I am just glad that there are so many healthy convenience foods now, all I remember as a kid is ring dings and individual bags of chips. I can grab a protein bar (one kind I get is just a bunch of crushed almonds smushed together in a bar) or soy crisps or whatever. I can see where making all of your meals from these things is bad, but I would rather eat these healthy things, that a 4 piece chicken nugget out of hunger and desperation. - 10/19/2008   11:51:24 AM
  • 77
    I totally agree with pollan when i was a child i remember spending hours in the kitchen with my family just cooking & sharing what was happening in our lives, it is a shame that the world that wants us healthy only provides stress & unhealthy short cuts to get us where it wants us not where we should be - 10/12/2008   10:16:23 PM
  • 76
    For me, a college student, so having something handy when life just not permit me the time to cook like I want to is more common. Since changing my habits, I have started to buy more fruits and vegetable and less junk food but to try to make everything that goes in mouth unprocessed is not an option for me right now but I do eat the Kashi snack foods and Fiber one and less or none of the little debbie's. I make the best possible decisions for the health of my body. - 10/12/2008   6:51:01 PM
  • 75
    I agree about 90%. The biggest issue I have with processed foods is that they foster nutritional ignorance. When non-native nutrients are artificially added to processed foods (e.g adding fiber to yogurt and calcium to orange juice), it tends to cause a lot of people to rely on these foods for nutrients that don't exist naturally in these foods. Having said that though, one a person has a fairly well grounded knowledge of the nutritional make up of natural foods and the nutritional content of their typical diet, using fortified foods such as cereals and dairy or soy products can be very beneficial to making up the difference for any naturally occuring nutritional deficiencies in one's typical diet. - 10/11/2008   11:17:27 AM
  • 74
    Pollan's book was wonderful and made alot of sense. I read it after I made the choice to switch over to non-processed foods as much as possible. I try to shop the perimeter of the store as much as possible, venturing into the aisles for pasta's and beans and shopping at the farmer's market. It is hard in our busy lives not to rely on some types of quick foods, but we just have to become label readers to make the best choices we can. - 10/10/2008   11:26:15 PM
  • 73
    I agree that we need to limit convenience foods, but we live in a world were it is impossible to avoid all convience foods. I grew up on a lot of natural and home made stuff. We lived off the land. Now I can appreciate it but no way do I want to go back to it. I like convenience and try to stay with the most healthiest. - 10/10/2008   9:59:06 PM
  • IMAGIN8
    72
    I absolutely agree with him. I don't understand this idea that "fast" food and convenience foods are cheaper to buy than healthy foods. It's not! Eating good quality food - mainly fruits and vegetables - in the proper portion sizes is cheap. It's not a lot of work either. I think that we just get into the habit of not planning ahead, and then grabbing whatever is easiest to stick in our mouths at the moment, whether it's bad restaurant food or bad junk/convenience food. - 10/10/2008   5:49:19 PM
  • 71
    I've found that I eat the healthiest when I find ways to make "real" food not just healthy but convenient too.
    For example, I will cook a big pot of vegetable soup each week and buy a pre-chopped bag of stirfry vegetables. Then, throughout the week, I can add beans and rice to my soup for a complete meal or take literally 5 minutes to fix a healthy, tasty stirfry.
    Finally, something healthy that works with my schedule! - 10/10/2008   4:42:19 PM
  • 70
    Being a stay-at-home wife/mother is definitely an advantage in this regard - for both myself and my family. I have time to shop carefully, prepare healthy home-cooked meals from scratch, and pack healthy lunches for my husband to take to work. I also have time to exercise without sacrificing my lunch time. This also saves a lot money over eating out or buying prepackaged meals. Women who are making a choice between staying home with their children or going back to work ought to take this into consideration.

    That said, do I do as good of a job as I ought to with selecting and cooking healthy foods? Definitely not! But I'm working on it. - 10/10/2008   3:38:33 PM
  • 69
    It's clearly important to eat food in as natural of a state as we can with minimal processing but as with all other aspects of the Spark People lifestyle, it's all about moderation. Obviously, it's not good for you to eat a frozen Lean Cuisine meal every day for lunch but having one once in awhile isn't unreasonable. Our lifestyles aren't the same now as they were 100 or even 50 years ago and we sometimes do need to take advantage of convenience foods but there should also be an effort to include as much unprocessed food as possible into our diets. - 10/10/2008   2:32:57 PM
  • 68
    There are a few things that my family is in the process of trying to change.

    1. Is buying a freezer to be able to buy meats and some fresh vegatables in bulk cook part and freeze the rest.

    2. Is to shop for most things every 2-3 days to keep in season food fresh.

    3. Take leftovers for lunch to ave money across the board. There's no wasting money buying food and no wasting food in general because no one is eating it.

    4. Buying healthier options in general, learning to like things, and acquiring tastes for others.

    It's all a slow process, but a slow process is better then no process. * - 10/10/2008   2:31:23 PM
  • 67
    i agree with him.. and if you dedicate some time to putting up fresh foods when they are in season it won't be so expensive to eat "clean"

    my freezer is full and i am ready for the winter months.. i would never waste my money on a protein bar.. - 10/10/2008   1:38:54 PM
  • 66
    I'm picking me up a copy of the book. I can't wait to read it! - 10/10/2008   1:03:01 PM
  • 65
    I try to follow a 90/10 policy. Most of the time I choose and prepare healthy, whole, unprocessed foods. Then if for convenience I need to fall back on protein bars or packaged food the rest of the time, I don't beat myself up about it. - 10/10/2008   12:55:03 PM
  • 64
    Yes! I love Michael Pollan and I love this book. Read it if you haven't already!
    That said, I think a lot of this comes down to choice and priority. I choose to buy 100% organic foods all the time in lieu of spending money on other areas of life (like clothes, a new car, etc). b/c to me, food is the foundation of your health and your life. Similarly, I choose to cook meals and foods from scratch (I even make my own granola bars), but that means that I often spend less time doing other things like relaxing or watching TV. Granted, not everyone can afford to buy organic food or the highest quality ingredients all the time, but buying unprocessed ingredients and making your own food is often cheaper than packaged stuff. There are tons of ways you can save money on healthier foods. (I spend $300/month on whole, organic foods for 3 meals and 1-2 snacks daily for 2 adults.) I think of it as investing in my health now so that I don't have to spend on healthcare (as a result of poor nutrition and lack of exercise) later. - 10/10/2008   12:39:28 PM
  • 63
    Many of us grew up before the days of all these modern foods. I even remember when home freezers first came out ofter WWII and frozen foods were not even on the market. We froze the things we grew in the garden. Thus, I raised my three children on wholesome natural foods and I was a working mother and busy wife, but found time to pack 5 lunches daily, can and freeze lots of fruits and vegetables for the winter and even can meat to take camping or have ready to fix a quick evening meal. It can be done. Must admit I didn't watch TV or even have time to read books as my teaching job required lots of late hours checking papers and preparing for the next day's lessons. We find time to do what we want. - 10/10/2008   12:22:18 PM
  • 62
    I focus on whole and natural when feasible - steel cut oats, veggies, fruit, wild/brown rice, and unprocessed meats. Fresh-frozen/microwave and using a rice-cooker helps me keep costs down. I avoid too much sugar, HFCS, trans fats, too much sodium, and stay away from all sodas nowadays. However, rather than skip meals, I also make use of convenience foods: Kashi products (mainly whole grains), skim cheese mozz sticks, buy subway lower-cal meals, and so on. I am seeking a healthy, convenient, and economically reasonable solution - and it actually isn't that expensive relative to the way I used to eat, and if you figure in the likelihood that I'm saving myself from higher medical bills, it's downright cheap! - 10/10/2008   11:14:35 AM
  • NORAHD
    61
    Great topic. I think it's definitely worth talking about publicly. Everyone has different circumstances, but knowledge is always helpful. For us it's definitely a matter of balancing priorities. Is it worth taking an hour to make mayonaise from scratch and 2hrs. baking my own bread for sandwiches? Probably not. Is it worth taking 2 minutes to read labels and chose the bread w/o additives? Yes. Should I spend an hour cooking from scratch, or extra money buying an "organic" frozen dinner? Should I spend extra $$ on fair trade chocolate, or go for the "cheap" stuff? It's all a matter of where my priorities lie, and that can change from day to day.
    Another point Pollan made (I believe) is that the whole food in nature is typically a balanced food - enough of one nutrient to aid in the absorbtion of another nutrient, etc. Eating 10g of vitamin A in say, a carrot, may be absorbed & used more efficiently by your body than 10g of vit A in a pill. The INTERACTION of nutrients in a food is lost when they are just added into processed foods based on whatever happends to be testing well in focus groups this year. - 10/10/2008   11:07:10 AM
  • 60
    I try to make everything fresh. I rarely buy anything that's packaged because I prefer to not have all the additives. As a result, I rarely use coupons and my grocery bill is a bit higher than if I chose packaged foods. I try to purchase all meats when they are on sale and package into serving sizes and freeze what I don't need right away. There are already too many chemicals in our "fresh" food; why compound the problem! I believe our health is worth it in the long run. - 10/10/2008   11:01:20 AM
  • AGOODREID
    59
    I think it is important to eat well and eat the best that you can afford. I work 2 jobs, volunteer and have a family and home. I think it is important enough that usually on Sunday's I prepare baking and meals for the coming week. If I know that there will be a busy night then I freeze a homemade dinner meal and we have it later. We eat very little processed food and we don't need it or miss it. It amazes me how many people don't cook a meal everynight for their families. We seem to live in a society where we want everything to be easy or just right. We want our kids to be well rounded in school, sports and other activities so we enroll then in things, drive them around and have no time to cook. We want everything nice so we work more to have a nicer house, car, clothes and furniture. Again less time for ourselves and taking care of our families and bodies. It's like a crazy treadmill...... - 10/10/2008   10:38:38 AM
  • 58
    We all make choices all day long. In today's society, it's hard to make good choices when there's an easier, faster, or more tempting choice. I think we need to take what this author has written in account with all the other "authors" who have posted their suggestions and opinions here, and then make the choices that are best for each of us.

    Just trying to eat all whole foods and nothing else won't do you much good if you're not excercising and emotionally healthy too. Same if you're very fit, but eat all packaged and processed protien bars, shakes, and supplements. Life is about balance and choices. What we choose to eat is just as tough as choosing to alter your schedule to get in a workout, or choosing to get off the computer to spend some quality time with your family or friends.

    Let's try to focus on the big picture here. Of course eating whole foods as often as you can is the best for your body. If we make the choice to try to make that a priority, then other things that take up our time and money may have to be sacrificed. I think if we all would be completely honest with ourselves, we would find several things in a day that take up our time and money that we could give up if we so chose. Lets stop making excuses that we don't have time to make a healthy meal for our families - the other activities we choose to do instead are more important than that??? However, should you freak out if you can't once in a while? Of course not. Let's make the best choices we possibly can and then go enjoy life! - 10/10/2008   9:51:54 AM
  • STEPFANIER
    57
    "We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons."
    Alfred E. Neuman
    - 10/10/2008   9:36:05 AM
  • 56
    What amuses me is that people put more thought into the kind of fuel they put into their car than the kind of 'fuel' they put into their bodies.

    :o) - 10/10/2008   9:27:02 AM
  • 55
    I think he's mostly right about highly-processed foods not being best for us. On the other hand, however, I find it very difficult to take the time to make foods that are wholesome and natural. I work full-time (more if you count my OT and helping out at the business my husband and I own) and have a 1 yr old daughter. I simply find it challenging to fit this all in to my day/week.

    I try to balance things out by picking foods that are organic when possible (and affordable) and cooking less out of a box. I have also joined a CSA this season and get locally grown organic produce on a weekly basis. It's yummy!

    The key is being sensible. Would I like to make my own bread from all organic materials and make my baby's food from scratch? Sure... but is it okay if I just read the labels and substitute when I need to? I think so, too. Our fast-paced, modern society has pushed doing as many things in a day to the ultimate limit--- in the 1950's it took women 3 hours to prepare dinner and today most women work so 30 minutes is the max and often that pizza from the local shop comes in handy when you get home at 7pm. - 10/10/2008   8:57:16 AM
  • 54
    Very interesting and a little scary to realize that all my life I have been inadvertly causing my own health issues and that some of those issues may not be repairable. wow - 10/10/2008   8:54:12 AM
  • 53
    I have read this book and found it an interesting read. He makes a lot of good points, but overall I think it's unrealistic to completely cut out convenience foods and eat like we did in the hunting & gathering days. There are convenience foods that are healthy, but just more convenient (such as veggie burgers, frozen vegetables) and then there is complete junk food. Lumping them all together isn't a fair comparison. I try to stay away from the total junk but I will make my life easier and buy a packet of hummus instead of making my own, for example. I will buy store-bought stocks and canned tomatoes and things like that and read the labels for sodium. Sometimes I will break down and buy a treat that I know is probably not the best for me. But if eat well 90 percent of the time, I think I will be OK. It's all about balance. - 10/10/2008   8:33:11 AM
  • 52
    I absolutely agree with Pollan 100%. We are double-income w/ 2 kids, yet we make 6 of 7 dinners from scratch at home, eat "real" food for b'fast at home 7 days a week, and take our own from-scratch lunches to work/school. Don't get me wrong - we buy bread (but real bread - no additives, etc.), cereals (ditto), and a few snack foods (concentrating on the non-highly processed, minimally packaged varieties. Our children have time for after-school activities (but we limit them to 1/week) and plenty of playdates and playtime (when they are expected to be on the move). DH and I both make time for daily workouts, and we drive only when absolutely necessary. What's missing from this picture? Television/video games, and time when we just sit around and do nothing and then start eating junk mindlessly!

    Yes, America, you CAN cook - there are tons of from-scratch recipes that take less than 30 m to put together, and guess what? They're made of whole, natural, close-to-the-source foods. Turn off your TV, stop listening to the companies who are trying to sell you fake food, and vote with your fork and your pocketbook! - 10/10/2008   8:27:41 AM
  • 51
    I personally try to balance. I know that organic and whole foods are better for you, but when you are a single parent with 3 children and work a full time job you do what you can. I shop the farmers market in season when I can and usually prepare meals over the weekend. But sometimes, somedays, a microwave meal will just have to do. One that's lower in sodium and fat or course. But to the ones that do have the time to prepare such foods and eat natural foods, Go for it! - 10/10/2008   8:26:04 AM

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