I remember as a kid playing mums and dads with my friends, we would pretend to sit down at an imaginary dinner table with our pretty pink tea cups and picnic knives, forks and plates. We would mimic our parents own words of “what’s for dinner tonight love?”, “Oh, tonight is pizza, here you go!” in our best mummy impression. However there in front of us was a less than deliciously “cooked” plastic pizza, but to us it did’t matter, we would imagine the taste of cheesy goodness or how the bread made a soft crunch sound as we bite into it. Although now as an adult, I somehow see the irony those play moments were.
What we eat today; is it really food? or is it well marketed products that taste like food? When I walk along the aisles of my local supermarket I often see brightly coloured packaging pleading to be bought. I understand the marketing industry and guiltily, I used to work as graphic designer and know the tricks they use to get people to unconsiously put those extra packet of Doritos in their basket.
As a nutritionist of today I often wonder what food was really like. I’m talking real food before celebrity chefs, before condiments were added to please, before the social etiquette of eating. Instead I wonder about the Paleolithic area when we were hunters and gathers. Did we eat for pleasure then?
For me real food comes from the earth and should never come face to face with a machine; but I’m an idealist at times. Knowing the history of my food is important to me and I believe it’s also important for the future of our environment. Don’t get me wrong I don’t expect people to grow their own produce in the back garden (I understand the nuclear family is dying out and modern life has bigger pressures) but making a choice of where your produce is grown and picked is meaningful.
I am also skeptical about pre packaged health foods, are they really healthy? Buzzwords such as ‘Energy’, ‘Cereal’, ‘Fiber Rich’ ‘Added Omega 3’ etc. does not translate to ‘healthy’ most of them are packed with sugar, fortified vitamins a minerals, and chemical binders. For example I had a client proudly tell me that she had switched from crisps to banana chips, unfortunately I had to point out to her that even though there were some aspects of them being healthier, they still contained the same amount of calories and would not help her to lose weight. For example X-Brand Banana chips are labelled as ‘Sugar coated & cooked in Coconut oil”, the coconut oil is healthier that hydrogenated fat but it’s the sugar that your body will store as excess fat (read my post on Sugar Vs Fats). The calories equated to about the same for 25g of banana chips is was 129kcal and the ready salted crisps (cooked in hydrogenated fat) were 133kcal.
So if we don’t want to eat ‘fake food’ should we really have to pay for the privilege of eating free grown organic produce? The truth behind it is farmers work hard, there’s no doubt about that, and if they want to keep their produce at a competitive price the most cost effective way they can do this is by reusing the soil which leads to loss of vitamins in the vegetables, so they will add fortified vitamins and minerals, unfortunately this method is unsustainable for our environment. All of this is much cheaper that resoiling land and using natural pesticides. The Soil Association UK defines organic farming quite well “Taking its name from the organic matter that farmers use as an alternative to synthetic fertilisers, organic farmers take a holistic, principled approach that respects and harnesses the power of natural processes to build positive health across the ecology of the farm.” and here is a very “British” video outlining the debate of organ farming!
In conclusion pre packed food is not real food in turn not healthy for you and not healthy for the environment. Making a choice, like I said, is meaningful and the more we work together with the environment the faster we cut disease and global warming.