Friday, November 20, 2009

Inviting the Food Snob to Dinner

A lot of people are intimidated to have me over for dinner. It's true, I do photograph 3/4 of all the food that I eat and I may just snap a pic of the hamburger helper in your pantry; should you have any you forgot to hide. Let's not forget that I will also read labels and then bitch and moan about the amount of pure crap that is in packaged foods.

I am a regular pain in the ass to have as a guest. But really, it is only in the spirit of goodness (of which I believe we are all deserving) that I am such a judgmental, label-dissecting crank. Why the heck are there corn syrup solids in my peanut butter? Do the high fructose corn syrup people actually think any of us believe them for even a minute when they give us their anything in moderation spiel? OK, don't run and hide, I won't gripe about partially hydrogenated oils. I understand. It just isn't interesting to most people. That still doesn't mean they buy into whatever the manufacturers are trying to sell us. Well we do, but I meant the message--not the product.

I think I need to set the record strait. My personal record, that is. I sometimes feed my children Kid's Cuisine. I also allow them to dine under the golden arches from time to time. As the holiday season approaches, I will again be doing one of my favorite holiday activities: candy making. You can't make candy without corn syrup. Not much of it anyway. Though I have made my English Toffee with a splash of maple syrup in a pinch. Not bad, but for another post, perhaps.

The difference, at least in my mind, is that I eat these foods knowing full and well that they are junk foods. I accept that I am eating garbage and I enjoy it as nothing more. But there are just far too many foods out there pretending to be good for us that really are not.

You may already know that Kellogg's Raisin Bran has not been included in the list of cereals approved by the WIC Supplemental Nutrition Program for purchase with their vouchers. Raisin bran, to me, is one of those foods that epitomizes the notion of bad health in a sneaky package of wholesomeness. Really, steamed wheat berries that have been rolled flat, toasted and then tossed with raisins: it sounds exactly like all of the grains I am always pushing on people. Try it, it will make you feel better. Why the heck do they need all the corn syrup in them? (Raisin Bran Ingredients) I saw a box of BooBerry Crunch this week in the cereal aisle. I didn't even know they still made that stuff. Do you remember it? The box of blue sugar, yes, that's the one. Sugar-laden it may be, but not a drop on HFCS in the entire box. How is that even possible? It's perplexing.

In doing my research for this little soap box of mine, I discovered that the Corn Refiners Association is located in Washington D.C. A little lobbying--in moderation--probably goes a long way, too (wink).

While I am on this kick, I thought I'd throw out a few holiday indulgence suggestions. I really believe a little of a very good, very real thing (whipping cream) is a lot more satisfying than a lot of a very fake, very not good thing (non-dairy, whipped topping).

DO NOT use Thanksgiving as the starting point to eat whatever you want for the next thirty-six days and nights.

DO allow yourself to enjoy portion-controlled amounts of your favorite holiday treats.

DO NOT be fooled by the words healthy, lite, or even low fat when it comes to holiday recipes. It's one thing to take out an egg yolk and add an extra white. It's entirely another to use 'fat free' products that use chemical fillers and who knows what else.

DO read the labels of foods such as cream cheese, peanut butter, non-dairy toppings and artificial sweeteners. Give it a farm vs. factory test. Lowered fat items such as those listed above often have very long ingredient lists that include items such as corn syrup solids as fillers. Eat the real peanut butter for goodness sake. Just eat less of it.

DO NOT eat without keeping track of what you are eating. Holiday parties, open-houses, candy, cookies, hot cocoa with Santa; it all adds up. Eggnog has 180 calories per half cup: WITHOUT RUM! Throughout the course of a party, I think I could drink about three cups of it. Add 4-6 shots of liquor and we are talking about adding 1500 quick calories to that office party!

DO find a way to keep track of what you consume. I use NutriMirror to track what I eat. This is not a paid endorsement and the site is completely free. It is a great tool that allows me to find nutritional balance through self-monitoring.

DO NOT wait until January 2 to incorporate some exercise. It is impossible to avoid the constant array of offerrings just about everywhere you turn; consider balancing that with increased activity.

DO go for a walk, take the stairs, or do some other sort of active movement that you might not usually do. Park the car as far from the entrance as possible for holiday shopping. You'll have more fresh air for fighting those holiday mobs and you'll spend less money knowing how far you have to go to find your way back to your car.

DO NOT stress about inviting me to dinner. I am all-about peasant cooking and the more homey, the better. I am really not a food snob so much as a quality snob. If it's made with love: I'm down.

DO ask me to bring something yummy. I dislike showing up anywhere empty-handed. Oh, and when you hold out that tray of cookies, smile for the camera~