Friday, April 6, 2012

{Food for Thought} the inevitability of processed food

Is consuming processed foods an inevitable plight of modern day living?

Every time Alaska: The Last Frontier comes on tv, Zach turns to me and ask if we're ready to move to Alaska and start a new self-sufficient lifestyle. He wants to be free, live off the land, off the grid, and go back to the basics of hunting and gathering. He seems all gung ho and sincere, which really makes me shudder at the thought. I'm not going to lie -- electricity, running water, and the internet are basic necessities to me. Plus I'm really not interested in having to hunt and skin my own food. I'm not interested in subsistence living. Well, at least not entirely. Let's just see how our tiny patio garden survives the season ...

So what are the alternatives? For one, we can all try to shop smarter to eat better. Instead of just reading the nutritional facts on the side of a pre-packaged food item, we can start paying attention to the ingredients as well.

For example, the list of ingredients on the side of the Wheat Thins (Original) box reads whole grain wheat flour, unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), soybean oil, sugar, cornstarch, malt syrup (from barley and corn), salt, invert sugar, leavening (calcium phosphate and/or baking soda), vegetable color (annatto extract, tumeric oleoresin), with BHT added to packaging material to preserve freshness. BHT? Isn't that the chemical once thought to cause hyperactivity in some children? In comparison, Triscuit (also Original) is made of whole grain soft winter white wheat, soybean oil, and salt -- a whooping 3 ingredients.

And here's another ... Canada Dry's Ginger Ale vs. Bruce Cost Ginger Ale. Canada Dry's version is made with carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative), natural flavors, and caramel color. Bruce Cost Ginger Ale is simply carbonated water, pure cane sugar, 100% fresh ginger, and citric acid.

The point of sharing this mini "A-vs-B" is to show that where processed foods are concerned, both quantity and quality of ingredients matter. You may not be able to avoid processed foods altogether, but you can always pick the lesser of evils.

So my fair readers, are you up for the challenge? What other processed foods from the grocery store can you find that have five or less ingredients? Share your finds and I'll share mine!

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