Friday, October 23, 2009

What are You REALLY Snacking On?

Snacking has become an American pastime. 
Rarely do we go to the grocery store and exclusively stock up on breakfast, lunch and dinner foods.  There are most often those “treats” thrown into the mix as necessities.  The “snack” has become our 4th, 5th, and 6th meals of the day.
One toddler I knew would, when watching TV, get up and wander through the kitchen, opening and closing the bread drawer, the cereal cabinet and the freezer, saying, “I want sumpfin…I want sumpfin…”  It is something that becomes ingrained in us.
There is some debate about whether it is “healthier” to eat 3 large meals each day, or 6 smaller ones.  This is not what is being looked at here.  What I hope to do is to encourage you to look atwhat you’re eating when you do snack.
As I have said in past postings:  we are inundated with processed foods.  Processed foods contain lots of stuff that we can neither pronounce nor define.  Giving up chips might be asking a lot.  What about simply giving up the chips that contain MSG in their ingredient list? Doritos, that All-American snack staple contains MSG (monosodium glutamate) as well as Yellow #5 & #6 AND Red #40 (throw in a diet soda and you have just increased your odds of hindering a kid’s neurological development 7 times greater than if you just gave them these additives separately).  Instead, opt for a flavored corn chip with a shorter (and more benign) ingredient list like Garden of Eatin’s Red Hot Blues.  Is ice cream your indulgence?  Skip the ice creams that contain the mono & diglycerides, sodium phosphate and polysorbate 80 (in trying to figure out just what the ingredients are, I found that polysorbate 80 – which is also used in other dairy products, lotions, creams, vaccines and anti-cancer medications is believed to damage fertility and cause anaphylactic shock!) and go for the ones that contain milk, cream, sugar and vanilla.
Sure, you may find the healthier versions taste “different” and have a different texture.  Your taste buds were not trained overnight.  It takes time to retrain them.  Babies gag at their first introduction to new tastes and textures.  Does the gagging mean that they are being given “bad” foods?  No, just “new” ones. 
One client of mine LOVES peanut butter.  During our first session she said that she’d actually eaten quite a bit of peanut butter the morning of our first session because she knew that I would tell her she had to give it up.  I told her that if she wanted peanut butter, she should eat peanut butter.  I was just going to help her make sure she was eating the best peanut butter she possibly could.  She looked dubious when I recommended an all-natural peanut butter that contains organic peanuts and salt – and nothing else.  Her peanut butter of choice contained peanuts and salt, as well as 14 other things (what in the heck is pyridoxine hydrochloride and why would I want that in my peanut butter, anyway?), and it is a peanut butter that many of us feel is the best peanut butter to serve if we are “good” mothers, according to advertisers… So, she got this recommended peanut butter.  At our next session, she said, “I don’t know about that new peanut butter.  I mean, I tried it, but… well, it just is not like my old one.”  I told her to keep trying it, and stay open minded to change.  I told her that my experience had been that once I retrained my taste buds to know what REAL food tasted like, some of the old imitation stuff tasted horrible.
A few sessions later, my client excitedly told me that she’d tried her old peanut butter out of curiosity, the day before, and found that it really did not even taste like it even had any peanuts in it.  She said that the texture was slimy and greasy, and that it tasted like she was eating Crisco.  She could not believe that she had actually thought that it tasted “good” – ever.
I believe that often our snack choices resemble those fictitious Stepford wives:  things we think we want because it is presented in such great packaging, yet beneath the surface, contain a bunch of fake nothingness. 
Think before you buy.  Read labels and compare.  Choose the items with the shortest ingredient lists.  You don’t have to give up your chips, ice cream and peanut butter, just aim to buy the best quality ones you can find.

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