Sunday, July 26, 2009

Everybody gets a Gold Star today

After more poking, reading, listening and, yes, thinking... it has dawned on me: Our food guidelines are not written to make it easier to decided what to eat, but rather to make sure all the lobbyists continue to give money. Also, they are geared to a culture that doesn't cook with passion.
And by passion I don't mean something sexy, but with conviction and opinions, things we are willing to yell in public about, in front of strangers and bare acquaintances.
Since, (not as individuals, but...) as a society, we don't have strong (unified) opinions about food we are easily led willy-nilly in search of the ANSWER.

Sadly (sorta), since when it comes to food there is no 1 answer, there are almost as many wrong answers as right... and much of food regulation is about cutting off the things that are DANGEROUSLY not food. However that has left plenty of room for things that are only OBNOXIOUSLY not food.

If we have no strongly held positions on what food is, then what it isn't is always up for negotiation. And thus things exist like the concepts of Food Grade Plaster and Food Grade Wood Pulp. One resides in Twinkies and the other in Cheap Ice Cream. Guess which is where.

But that just gets me back to my increasing need to create food, and enjoy and recognize what goes into my food.
And it REALLY reminds me that I used to not much. So I can sympathize with people who don't care... but I also want to reach out to them and awaken their taste buds... they are great tool in the creation of "caring about what you eat."

And yet our government in regulating food is NOT interested in GOOD food, just what will not make you (immediately) sick... that is not poison you. If it will only make you sick in the long run, it is still considered "safe."

In the interest of fairness, language that qualifies one variety of food as better than another IS NOT ALLOWED. Tastiness is NEVER ALLOWED to be a consideration. Strangely, in determining what is and isn't food, scientifically determinable nutritional content is also NOT ALLOWED in the language of food recommendation.

Only a culture where most people don't cook with passion could there be a lobby of, "Frozen Battered Potato Products." (really... look it up. One wonders, do potatoes need batter - and for lots of products?)

Can we get back in to touch with our food? OH Yes!!! This is my favorite part about cooking. You ALWAYS have a chance to redeem yourself the next day.

I think it is OK to say some food is better than others. This is a question of a government honestly rating different methods of providing food. If they want to give a gold start to all comers, as long as they don't kill you within the next week, what is the point of a rating system.

I give up. I'm trusting my tongue.

My tongue tells me local organic milk is better than big business conventional (non-organic) milk.

My tongue also tells me local, but large conglomerate farmer owned conventional milk is AS GOOD AS big business organic milk (gasp... I know!).

My tongue (and tummy) tells me small, locally owned "conventional" milk is BETTER than big business organic milk (WHAT!!!!). Taste it. Less travel, more grass.

And local, organic milk is something special. Here in the greater GREATER Seattle area, I vote for Fresh Breeze Dairy. My digestion works better. My son drinks more, and the half & half and cream cooks like nothing I have ever found elsewhere.

So - Yay for the government role in food safety. I continue to question their role in determining food quality. Every version of food is NOT equal. Some are better than others. But it is up to us to determine the gold stars.

And since who gets the Gold Star can change over time... in the long run, I think it is good it is up to us as the consumer. BUT we must be educated, and we MUST speak up.

FDA Guidelines - or - Why we don't know what to eat.

Who at the FDA thinks making food guidelines MORE complicated is going to help people eat better?

They are updated every 5 years. They come with a multi-page press release. There are 41 key guidelines – only 23 of which most people have to worry about. But if you fall into a “special population” there are 18 more to wade through.

41! Forty-One!? Most people (including me) cannot easily name 41 of anything in a single category.

And the dietary guidelines are notably difficult to find. As I am browsing the website that is purportedly where one goes to learn about the US Government’s nutrition guidelines, I keep clicking on links that say 2005 Nutrition Guidelines. They only get me to pages that tell me things about the 2005 Nutrition Guidelines, but do not provide me access. If I were looking this up out of general curiosity, instead of to prove a point. I would give up by now.

Why am I digging for food guidelines? I think they are needlessly complicated – and I want to see them for sure. And yes they ARE.

The first set of guideline reads:

Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods an beverages within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt and alcohol.

Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the USDA food guide or the DASH Eating Plan.

Which leaves the average reader wondering things like: What is a “nutrient-dense” food? What do they mean by “within and among the basic food groups?” What are the basic food groups? Are there advanced ones?

Ahhh! What are saturated fats? Where are trans fats – why are they so bad? What’s the difference between added sugars and regular ones? Are other sugars OK? Are people adding alcohol to my food?

Recommended intakes? Who’s recommending? Intake? Like eating? An eating pattern? Can I just have lunch? Wait, the Eating Plan… what about an eating pattern? Which one is better?

These guidelines leave one with research to do, but not a clue about what to do at the next meal!

I need a snack to clear my head. I'm not sure if it will be good for me, but at this point, I don't care.