Once upon a time, I ate fake food, known as “fauxd” around these parts. I drank several Diet Cokes a day, bought sugar-free pudding, and tried every new 100-calorie pack that came on the market. Individually and wastefully packaged, low-calorie, fat-free – I tried it all without thinking twice in the name of saving a few calories. Yes, I lived in Southern California, why do you ask?
Those days are, obviously, long gone. And while I really strive not to be judgmental of others’ eating habits, instead hoping to encourage by promoting delicious, affordable and fun eco-friendly food and lifestyle choices, sometimes I still have to shake my head at what people choose to put into their bodies and into landfills. This article in the New York Times is a perfect example.
Hungry Girl. Have you heard of her? Here, let her tell you in her own words:
“Hungry Girl is like the Forever 21 of food,” she said, referring to the discount clothing chain where the stock is inexpensive, constantly changing and produced under conditions that a conscientious consumer might rather not think about.
That is wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start. Not thinking about where your clothing (food) comes from or who had to suffer to get it to you, caring only about the cost (calories) instead of the quality or environmental impact. Is that really a positive comparison she wants to draw?
Back in my low-cal food days, I frequently read Hungry Girl’s site, but even then I often wondered, “she thinks THIS tastes good? When was the last time she tasted REAL food?”
Another choice tidbit from the article:
“She knows exactly what her audience likes,” said Yoko Difrancia, marketing manager for House Foods America Corporation, a maker of Japanese yam-flour-and-tofu noodles called shirataki that Hungry Girl has catapulted to fame, calling them “life changing” and “amazing” because “You can eat the ENTIRE PACKAGE!”
In the last four years, United States sales have more than doubled, Ms. Difrancia said.
Shirataki, also called “broom of the stomach” in Japanese, pass through the system virtually undigested, making them filling and nearly calorie free. The major drawbacks are the noodles’ gelatinous texture and what the package refers to as their “authentic” aroma, a frankly fishy stink that fills the kitchen when the package is opened (it subsides after cooking, according to Ms. Lillien).
Gelatinous texture! Fishy stink! But you can eat the ENTIRE PACKAGE! Delicious. That sounds so much better than some actual, real whole grains, with, you know, nutrients and taste. No! Those have calories! And carbs! Heaven forbid.
Is it really, really worth eating this stuff in order to be “healthy” and save a few calories? You know what else is low-calorie, satisfying, and way tastier and better for you than gelatinous, fishy noodles or a tiny portion of Oreo-like “cookies”? Vegetables. Air popped popcorn. An apple. Kale chips. Strawberries. With only a small amount of effort, you have so many options, and the rewards are so great. The way to be healthy – and even to reduce your calories – isn’t in the center aisles of your local megamarket. It’s at the Farmers Market and fresh food sections and in your kitchen, where food comes from the ground, instead of from packages. I’m not saying I don’t buy packaged foods – I most certainly, carefully do. I’m definitely not opposed to treats. But if you’re going to buy packaged food (which we almost all do), look at the ingredients. Think about the material the item is packaged in and what will happen to it once you’re through. Make sure you know what’s in there and not just what’s not. TASTE your food. Buy the real thing. When you want a treat, go all the way, and you’ll be much, much more satisfied. If you think lowfat, sugar-free ice cream tastes good, I have a little ice cream place I want to take you to. Single scoop. On me.
Real food from the Bermondsey Farmers Market in London. Photo courtesy of my friend Barney