What are we supposed to eat, then?
My kids now say, “Ewwww!” whenever we drive past a McDonald’s. Those pictures of warm, tasty nuggets on billboards don’t deceive them now that they’ve seen how they’re really made. Apparently that pink goo in the photo circulating around the web isn’t strawberry milkshake, but the beginning of “chicken nuggets.”
We are barraged with confusing information about how to choose what to eat. For instance, we are told to stay in the outside aisles of the grocery store, away from the packaged, processed foods in the center. The periphery is where the meat and produce are — the simple foods without additives even our forefathers ate long ago. But be careful to choose animal products that haven’t been injected with hormones! Hotdogs and lunch meats? Run, don’t walk, from those nitrate laden cancer causers! No wonder meat consumption is down 12 percent since 2007. Yet people younger than 30 and those older than 65 are the ones cutting back. The other bunch of us in the middle are still cooking dinner every night and searching for practical meal options for our families, scratching our heads over what we’re supposed to serve.
We are also told to shop organic then not to be fooled by the “organic” labels; they are just a way to ratchet up prices. And remember, produce equals pesticides so it’s best to skip the store altogether and just plant your own garden.
When we want to forget it all, maybe take our kids to a restaurant, we’re confronted with those staggering caloric index reminders, or back to the images of pink slime we still can’t get out of our heads.
It’s become clear to the average citizen that with the abundance of food today, the quality of it has fallen. Cheaper fillers are added to make more products for less money. “60 Minutes” recently aired an episode on the pervasiveness of sugar in the American diet, even calling it a “toxin” and blaming it for much of the illnesses that plague our society today. The problem — it’s hard to find anything on grocery store shelves that doesn’t contain sugar. For the past few years high fructose corn syrup, an artificial, cheaper alternative to sugar, has been called out as the true villain, experts telling us to eat table sugar in its place. The message got across loudly from consumers; they didn’t want it in their food anymore. If you read labels carefully, much of the HFCS has been replaced with sugar once again. Many moms like me even gravitated towards healthier sounding sugars like “organic cane juice” when label shopping but we find sugar is sugar, despite its different names.
We need to get back to basics. In the 2008 bestselling book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” author Michael Pollan proposed we should only eat meat we hunt ourselves. Really? This is his solution for taking matters into our own hands as to what quality of food we consume? Last I heard, only people like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have the time, resources and stomach to follow Pollan’s advice; I know I don’t.
Our lives will not get any less busy, and for many parents it just makes sense to buy the frozen bag of meatballs rather than hand roll each meatball from scratch. But wouldn’t it be great if we could get a bag of frozen meatballs made with truly quality ingredients?
There is only one simple tactic that has always worked when enough people care: let not just our voices, but our wallets, do the talking. Within days of the McDonald’s “pink slime” story going viral, McDonald’s issued a statement that they “will no longer use the ammonium hydroxide process.” The people were definitely heard. Let’s keep it up and demand better food for our families.
Julie Samrick is the mother of four young children and a resident of El Dorado Hills. She is also the founder of kidfocused.com, a site for current children’s issues.