Our fattening food world, future of food and our favorite supermarket.
I must confess, I’m biased, I am a nutrition coach. My job is to help people align their goals with their plates.
I spent quite a few summers at my grandma in a traditional village growing up. (Sorry, no photos of me and my grandma in a pre-Instagram world)
Nobody ever. EVER! Asked me what I wanted for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There was food in the fridge. There was a fruit-and-vegetable garden where I could snack freely, getting all the produce myself of course (My grandma would often tell me not to eat all the ripe strawberries, before anyone would wake up and not to eat green tomatoes because they would make me sick). When my uncle would kill some animal — we would have it, all parts of it, whether I liked skin, fat and organs or not in my bowl — I would have to eat it or stay hungry. On Sunday my grandma would make lots of sourdough bread and “bulochki” (kind of like a sweet doughnut without a whole but still from sourdough) for the whole week. There was fish sometimes. There was a lot of milk (full fat). Sometimes when we, kids, felt like some “exotic” wild treats we would “forage” gardens of our neighbors late at night, me and my cousins.
Sweets? Yes, there was a store where you could find simple sugar cookies. There was only one kind. The store wasn’t open late, early or on the weekends. And we had money to buy some of those only on special occasions. There were some sugar beverages, that turned our tongues into all rainbow colors. But they were kind of awful, and when we didn’t have much money to spend anyway — we saved it on something like toys, or a ride in an amusement park, that we visited once in a month.
Let’s look back 50 years ago, maybe even a bit further.
Nobody needed any nutrition education to make, sell and eat food. No food store of food company needed a nutritionist. You and me, we didn’t need to know much about food. Food was simple. How wrong could we do when all we had was whole food? We had a problem of supplying all the food that was available to people who needed it. We needed to transport and store food to make it last longer, to waste less.
Some of my clients tell me, “Jeez, Angela, when did it get so complicated? Do we really need to know all this nutrition stuff? How did our parents and grandparents, knowing none of that, manage to have just a fraction of degenerative diseases, lifestyle related diseases that we have today? How come they were fine?”
They weren’t that fine — they had more infectious diseases, children died at birth more often, they had hunger, they had nutrient deficiencies — life wasn’t a paradise. But for sure they had times less obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, cancers of all kinds, auto-immune conditions — all the stuff that comes with eating too much, too often, eating the wrong things, living in a convenient, sterile and comfortable environment, when the problem for many of us is to find motivation to get off the couch.
How come our grandmas knew what to eat better? All these veggies, and pickles, and bones, and skin, and organ meats, variety of different foods? How come they knew before we did?
There was no choice.
There was no 24/7 supermarkets, having everything our mind can crave at a tip of our finger, pressing a CHECK-OUT button. Our grandparents had to use everything that was available, whatever was available. They had to be scrappy and eat the bones, the hearts, the livers, pickled veggies because fresh were seasonal and unavailable. Big animals were hard to feed and grow so we didn’t eat them all that often. The only bread we had was sourdough. Sugar was unnecessary and still expensive. And our grandparents had to work their asses off just to have enough food on the table. There was no questions of, “How can I make myself move more? Should I go low carb or high carb and how much protein do I need?” They had to physically work their asses off and that was their workouts. They did everything to “save” strength to have enough to provide food. They had to eat. Period. Low or high carb, protein or not. They had to eat what they had, doing their best to like it at the same time.
We weren’t smart. Our grandparent weren’t smart about food. They didn’t have a choice but to be savvy, and scrappy, and eat variety of what was available and seasonal, and wasting money on sweets wasn’t an option. (And the sweets didn’t melt in your mouth. More like in your hand, or were so hard that you had to sink your cookie in your tea or water before eating it, if you didn’t want to break your teeth)
Food studies? Who needed them? If your grandma told you to stop eating green tomatoes unless you wanted to spend the day in a wooden cabin with a whole and spiders above your head, cabin that smelled like sh*t, human and cows (also known as toilet) — you wouldn’t eat them, not after a couple of times testing the truthfulness of grandma’s “food wisdom”. You either ate food and you were OK. Or you weren’t. In which case you’d stop eating that food, if you wanted to stay alive and off the toilet.
There was no food technologists, making indigestible stuff into fancy products with delayed health “benefits” of getting diabetes.
Let’s fast-forward the tape of human food evolution to nowadays.
Anything that can be sold as delicious food products, that flies off the shelves into our mouth, is sold and marketed to us, making sure we never go hungry, persuaded that going hungry IS what makes us fat. No, we need to snack every time our mind thinks about food or our metabolism will turn us into insatiable pigs later! And food marketers make sure than our brain has no lack of food thoughts, images and reasons to eat all day long.
Now we have countless products, we have countless ingredient combinations, we have unlimited and cheap food supply. They say, “Human are omnivores. We can eat anything.” Just because we can, just because we learned how to make uneatable food eatable — doesn’t mean we should, doesn’t mean it won’t make us die of obesity or diabetes in 10-20 years from now. But they say, “We just provide choices. People can decide whether to eat it or not.” Completely forgetting to mention, that they study human brain and behavior to make products irresistible so we never stop eating, no matter how much we “logically” want to eat less.
What’s good for me? What’s a balanced diet? What’s a healthy diet? How much fat is good? How many carbs? What fat? What carbs? How much protein? But I heard too much protein is not good for longevity and the planet? Can I drink a kale juice, or it’s best to steam it and eat it whole? Which protein powder is best? What sweetener can I use instead of sugar? But I hear this one makes your gut health worse? Should I go keto? Is dairy fattening? Is dairy why I have pimples on my face? But I heard this new dairy grown in a lab is ok? Is brown sugar better? Is potato fattening? What about sweet potato? Are all carbs fattening? If I’m keto do I need to count calories? What’s maltodextrin? I heard fruit is toxic? What about antibiotics in our meat? But tuna is full of toxic mercury!…
You see where I’m going?
Our grandma would never be in a situation where all these questions existed!
Do they matter?
Of course they do!
Milk from my grandma gives me no trouble but supermarket one makes me bloat like a balloon at a Thanksgiving parade. Go figure.
So many food products. So many choices. So little wisdom. So little good food science about long-term human health.
Humans are omnivores. But it doesn’t mean we should eat everything. It doesn’t mean we will be ok eating everything. It doesn’t mean we should eat non-stop just because we can.
Would you trust a person (like myself) who doesn’t own or drive a car to give you advice about the best parts for your Tesla, Toyota or BMW? Would you trust an automobile store a person like me would open? With your safety? Your car? Your life?
But we are doing it with our food!
The present is like this.
People who make and sell our food know nothing about long-term health effects of products they sell, they couldn’t care less if you and I stuff ourselves to death with vegan Oreos (in fact their business would take off if all of us did that). Food makers are obliged to make food safe but not healthy. Food makers care about profits — they are not in the business of taking care of our health. Does a store owner, a food maker know what food combinations cause blood sugar spikes or indigestion and bloating? Retailers save us money by selling in bulk junk that shouldn’t be eaten even in one-serving portions! They jump on a trend to save the planet, selling us veggie burgers with a bunch of junk untested ingredients, along with sugar water that keeps us diabetic. Where’s the logic? Where’s the common sense? Where’s the wisdom?
How can we trust a mechanic, that never saw a car in his life?
How can we trust a food maker/seller, who doesn’t know how to keep a human being healthy now and 20 years from now?
Nutrition science is not perfect but it’s better than nothing in a world with unlimited “food” choices most of which are objectively making us sicker, fatter, less alive every day.
Every store must have a nutritionist to help guide better-for-us food choices and eating behavior.
Every food maker must use the best health practices, creating products that not just appeal to our stomachs but also keep us well.
Everyone involved in shaping our food system must care about our well-being first before profits. Food supply must be a public service not a profit machine, growing and selling for the sake of more.
And what about us on an individual level? What about us, eaters?
Until food system is better, let’s make sure we all have some basic nutrition knowledge, unbiased by products ratings and fancy words on front labels. Knowledge is out there. People like myself are out there. Reach out. Eat better. Thrive!