Friday, March 19, 2010

Food for Thought (or Thoughts About Food)

Something to ponder.... Which of the following is a "more healthful" choice?

Country Kitchen Light Wheat Bread
Ingredients: Wheat Flour (Enriched with Barley Malt, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Soy Fiber, Wheat Bran, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Whole Wheat, Corn Starch, Guar Gum, Caramel Color. Contains 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Salt, Dough Conditioners (Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate), Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Propionate, Calcium Peroxide.

Serving Size: 2 slices
70 calories
0.5 grams of fat
190 mg sodium
4 grams fiber

Basic Homemade White Bread (See Recipe)
Ingredients: Flour,
Water, Butter, Sugar, Nonfat Milk, Potato Flakes, Yeast, Salt

Serving Size: 1 slice
140 calories
4.5 grams fat
190 mg sodium
1 gram fiber

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the relative benefits and trade-offs of both options. At first, the light bread looks most appealing because it allows you two slices (i.e. a whole sandwich) for less than the fat and calorie intake of one slice of the homemade bread. However, if you look at the ingredients list, the light bread is a scary laundry list of things many of us can't even pronounce, let alone something that we'd expect to find in our food and outside of a lab.

I'm posing this question because it often comes up in our household. My wife, a very proud Weight Watcher's graduate, will often look at a meal or a snack that I prepare and remark, "Oh...THAT's not healthy," or, "That's fattening." Often, the meal is made with a healthy balance of vegetables, starch, and protein or the snack may have whole grain flour and free-range eggs in it. So why do we as Americans automatically jump to the conclusion that these homemade items are "less healthy" than store-bought?

The simple answer is public perception and marketing. The food industry spends billions of dollars a year trying to convince us that a) Their foods are healthier than the competitor and; b) Limiting fat and calorie intake is the most effective way to maintain a healthy weight and nutrition. In reality, if you eat all low-fat, low-calorie foods all the time and rarely consume healthful fats, fruits (high in calories due to sugar), and vitamin-rich vegetables, you're probably not eating a well-balanced diet and you're putting all the chemical and additive crap into your body that the manufacturers replaced the fat and calories with in their products. Instead of exercise, moderation, and portion control, we rely on food manufacturers to engineer foods around our expectations for the nutrition label instead of around the food pyramid.

Personally, I'll take the homemade bread (or a store-bought artisan bread with a similar ingredients list). I think it's much more important to know what all the ingredients are that go into my food than to eat an engineered product that's designed to help me get around good nutrition. If you're really serious about healthy eating habits, then maybe one slice of bread instead of two is a small price to pay. After all, you can always make a half sandwich. :-)

1 comment:

  1. Everything in moderation! Also, I *heart* - it helps you track what you eat in a realistic and non-scary obsessive way and has tons of recipes for ways to make things healthier on your own. :)


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