8 seconds. That’s how long I searched Facebook to find a blog/link/post about some kind of food being ‘bad’ for me. Then, when I Googled the phrase ‘bad food’, I got 2.1 billion search results. Billion! That’s more than Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber combined!
Food-bashing is nothing new.
In the 70’s they told us fat was bad for our arteries, so my mom switched us to margarine instead of butter- my dad had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a family history of heart attacks. His doctor told him to cut down on salt, so the only time we enjoyed that spice was on taco night – and boy, did we load it on! And forget about eggs. No way. Big killer.
In the 80’s we counted calories, because we were already starting to put on weight from the so-called food that replaced the evil fats we cut out the decade before.
In the 90’s, convenience was king, and we threw out all the rules and enjoyed our fast food lunches crammed into our 10 hour workdays. Why? Because it was all about success and big houses and keeping up with the Joneses.
Honestly, I don’t remember all the food fads over the past 40 years (and excuse me if I mixed up my decades), but some pretty lousy advice has been handed down under the guise of ‘research’ from food manufacturers, healthcare providers and mass media.
I feel so guilty eating practically everything these days, because somewhere, at some time, every food on the shelves, in the CSA box or from the garden has been so demonized that I’ve had the fear of God scared into me over ever bite I take.
Even something as purely healthy as an egg gets analyzed, researched and questioned until someone comes up with a ludicrous list of qualifications a simple egg should meet to enter our mouths:
- Omega-3 enhanced (what in the world did those poor chickens have to go through to qualify?)
- Gluten-free (seriously?)
- Farm-raised – what farm these days is good enough to meet this standard?
- Local (that’s always nice, I guess)
- Fresh (doesn’t that go without saying?)
Remember when eggs came in 4 sizes and that’s all we cared about?
For that matter, remember when the only bread choice we ever considered was homemade or store-bought? Now we worry about gluten, whole-grain, transfats vs polyunsaturated ones, and food coloring – since when does bread need to be colored?
For once, I just want to eat without running through the pedigree of my meal. I know I should be buying my food from local, organic farmers with free-range animal products and environmentally sustainable practices. I fully support these practices, in theory, but when it comes right down to it, I’ve realized that this takes an enormous amount of time and effort and planning.
And I’m working on it, little by little. I started by shopping the organic section of my grocery stores, reading food and farming blogs, and I’m finally going to join a CSA this Spring and see what THAT’S all about.
But for now, I’d like to pour a bowl of oatmeal without worrying about whether it’s organic or gluten-free, and top it with walnuts without wondering if they’re covered in pesticides, and mix it up with some organic milk that might not be from a farm nearby, and top it off with dried cranberries that probably have some sugar added because I couldn’t find the unsweetened ones I’m supposed to buy.
It would be a little slice of heaven to enjoy a warm spoonful of breakfast and not once, not even for a split second, wonder if the grain in there is genetically modified.
I love to eat, but we’ve taken all the fun out of eating in our culture. Food is a minefield of potential cancer-causing, inflammation-inducing terror. No wonder everyone is so confused and stressed about what to feed their families.
Today, for just one meal, eat without guilt, or fear, or disappointment. Before you start your new eating habits – low fat, high fat, low sugar, no sugar, vegetarian, paleo, vegan, grass-fed – enjoy that juicy steak and baked potato smothered in gravy with a side of delicious, and sugary, fatty, gluten-laden pie for dessert with a big smile on your face.
Life is stressful enough. Enjoy your food, even if it’s not the most healthy thing you’ve had this week. Then tomorrow, pick just one thing to do differently. Eat a little less, skip dessert, add a vegetable to your plate without worrying about who grew it. You’ll get there. It’s a process. One step at a time.
If you’re serious about eating more local or considering joining a CSA, check out my Resources page for links to trustworthy products and businesses in our community.