Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Health" food

I love the voyeuristic pleasure of peeking at other's people's shopping carts in grocery stores: the families stocking up on Coke, potato chips and cold cuts on a big game day, the middle-aged men with frozen dinners and canned beans, the dieters with their Lean Cuisine frozen dinners and Dove bars. Groceries are revealing.

What they often reveal is a depressing lack of understanding of nutrition or of interest in health. Everyone's seen the carts filled to the overflowing with processed meats, soda, sugar cereals and cookies. But this weekend I saw something I found just as sad, but much weirder.

The couple behind me in line were in their late twenties, slim and presumably healthy. They had a very full cart, and as they laid out the items on the conveyor belt, I was amazed to see every single one was something highly processed being marketed as health food.

Low-fat, no-sugar yogurt in cheesecake flavor. Hi-fiber cereals with "crunchy yogurt coating." (How does yogurt get crunchy? Forget it; I don't want to know.) Protein bars. Vitamin water. Low-fat frozen dinners. An entire cart of this stuff, and not a single vegetable or piece of fruit or meat, no grains or dried beans, nothing readily identifiable as food.

I can't believe this crap could possibly be good for people to consume. Sure, it's probably better than Cheez-Wiz and Vienna Fingers, but egads. I wanted to lean over and say, "You know what's low in fat, high in vitamins and fiber, and tastes really good? A carrot. Give it a try."

It depresses me that people who are clearly interested in eating nutritious food are still trapped into eating such highly processed, artificial junk. Is it the inability to cook? I know that many people are highly intimidated by the idea of the most basic kinds of cooking. Or is it just cultural, the tendency to see bright packages and cellophane wrap as symbols of sanitation and prosperity? I don't know. A little of both, probably.

On the positive side, I suppose I should look on these people as a potential market for real, fresh, healthful food. They are concerned about their food. Now we just have to convince them that fresh food, living food, with enzymes and vitamins and anti-oxidants and all intact, tastes better and provides better nutrition than all the crunchy yogurt cereals out there and isn't even that hard or time-consuming to prepare.


mzn said...

I love to look in people's shopping carts too. I know some people think it's rude, blah blah blah. I don't see it as any different from looking at people's shoes or cars or whatever. I also can't stop looking at other people's food in restaurants. Sometimes I make a trip to the men's just to walk across the room and check out the plates.

As for the healthy junk, these people definitely don't eat good home cooking very often. If they did they would know how terrible their processed crap really is.

lindy said...

I think the problem also has to do with having to wash and peel the carrot, and clean up after you do it, instead of throwing the box away. You would not believe what constitutes too much bother for some people.

I have chatted with people who eat like this, and they often believe they are "too busy" to cook. Generally , they are also too busy to read, garden, play a musical instrument, etc. My question is, what are they doing, and why are they so much busier than I am? I mean, hell, I'm fairly busy, what with work, and the aged parent and all. Not as busy as when my daughter was small and I had to study at night too, but not exactly idle.

When I ask them -apart from going to work, they seem to be primarily involved in driving their children to innumerable soccer and baseball games and swim meets.Their children have no time either- to lie around and read, explore outside, make up games, draw, or cook and eat with their parents.

Seems like cooking real food is a little too real for some people, who prefer a kind of theme park life, where everything is premade, preordered, and as unscary as it is boring.

Occasionally, though, they will be interested in, and actually eat, their family's ethnic specialties. That might be a place to start.