“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.”
(Alfred E. Newman)
This month I’m writing on the subject of cyclical behavior. We have all heard stories of how things like child abuse or spouse abuse are passed down from one generation to the next. Well, it turns out our dietary habits are just as pernicious. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, the decades during which processed food became readily available. These new convenience foods were touted as the modern way of eating. We would go to the grocery store and choose things like “Hamburger Helper” or other fast-prepped foods. Our idea of a homemade pizza was one that came in a box with a can of sauce, along with all the ingredients to make the crust. We would “doctor it up” on our own to make it better, which, being the 70s, usually involved putting olives on it.
It wasn’t until I was deep into my 20s that I realized this wasn’t real food. That was when I became committed to the health food, real food and slow food movement, and because of that my children grew up with real food. However, being a product of the 60s and 70s, I would still get “big mac attacks”. For example, onetime my teenage son and I were driving home from a day of rock climbing and I was getting “hangry”. I started to pull into a fast food restaurant when my son looked at me and said, “Dad, we are not going to eat that crap.” I looked at him, feeling rather startled, and asked myself, wait a minute, who is the parent here? Well it turns out, in that instance anyway, it was him. He was the parent right then. I had taught him to eat properly and he was saving me from myself. I didn’t get that burger, and, on a larger scale, I like to think that I broke the cycle of fast food consumption in our family.
The problem, though, is that these “treats” are so very seductive. We don’t often think of a treat as being a bowl of big juicy blueberries, or a delicious crunchy apple, or a beautiful slice of melon, or a piece of tangy bell pepper. We seem to think of a treat as something very different from that. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the fast food industry has highjacked our senses. Think for a moment about the very things that we crave for survival, whether it is craving fat, or craving sweet, or craving crunchy. Think about the natural versions of those foods. Craving fat: That would generally be a meat, a highly nutrient-dense protein, vitamin and mineral food. Craving sweet: A fruit or vegetable, rich in a diverse range of micronutrients, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, and a source of carbohydrate. What about crunch? That might be vegetable matter or it may be searching for bone marrow, one of the most nutritionally-dense foods available…
But how about the processed alternatives to these things? In our society, these primal urges for fat, sweet and crunch have given rise to the invention of Oreo cookies: The sweet center is sugar and fat, and the outer cookie is crunchy, delivering all of the primal cravings in one cookie. This is a highjacking of our natural instincts and urges, designed only to feed the manufacturer’s profits. So, when you are thinking about sweets, when you are thinking about fats, and when you are thinking about crunch, think about which foods a cave man, or even your great-grandparent, would have chosen to satisfy that particular craving, and act accordingly. Treat yourself to real, healthy food and save your children from the same food highjacking that those of us in the next couple of generations up have experienced.
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