I read a really interesting article the other day. http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/02/23/real.food.challenge/index.html ~ It regards a 'Real Food Only for 28 Days' challenge issued by the blog http://www.nourishedkitchen.com.
Now, I am a VERY big supporter of traditional, slow, and real foods. I know how well the heal the body and soul. How they connect us and bring us alive. But there were a couple things in this article that just got under my skin.
1) After you've signed on for the challenge you are instructed to trash ALL the food in your pantry that is processed in any form. Quoting the article: This meant everything with refined oils, white flour, sugar, low- and skimmed-milk products, margarine, processed cheeses, refined salt and dried pastas had to go.
"It doesn't matter if the foods are organic or not. Toss them anyway," she (blog-owner Jennifer McGruther) said. "You may well have paid good money for the food at one time, but remember, real health comes from real food, and real food never comes from a box."
This is something I REALLY disagree with. Not that real food doesn't come from a box (that I agree with), but the idea that to start this challenge you have to throw out anything that might qualify. Put them in a box for 28 days? That I can see. Throw away things you spent good money on and that are still perfectly edible?? No.
Why do I disagree with throwing it away? Well, look at our economy for one. I don't know about you, but I don't have extra money to be throwing away perfectly edible food. Like I said, I can maybe see putting the stuff in a box for the 28 days and then donating what I've learned to live without - but just tossing it? No. This is the same argument I have with those who try to tell me that I simply must take out any incandescent bulbs we still have in the house, even if they haven't burnt out yet, throw them away, and buy new CFLs instead. No. I'll replace them with CFLs as they burn out, but I won't throw away something that is working just because. Especially something that likely won't be around that long anyway. Like an incandescent light bulb or a box of pasta.
2) When people expressed concern about the higher cost of eating real food, the article quoted Nina Planck, author of 'Real Food; What to Eat & Why' (a fantastic book that really has changed the way I look at food). Quoting the article: Real food costs more, because it's worth more," said Nina Planck, author of "Real Food: What to Eat and Why." It's a common complaint about real foods, and it boils down to priorities, Planck said.
"You need to think about where and how you want to spend your money ... ," she said."I buy fruits and vegetables in season, in bulk at the farmer's market. I don't need another sweater, but I have to feed my kids every day."
Why do I disagree with this?? Because I think she's flat-out wrong. No, it does NOT just boil down to priorities Nina. I can't remember the last time I went out shopping for new clothes for myself, but I can tell you it has been a while and there are still some boxed things I buy - things that I would've been instructed to toss if I took this challenge.
One common argument regarding costs is that you spend more money on food, and since it helps keep you healthier, you spend less money on health care. That is true, to a point. We DO stay healthier now that we're eating more and more real food. So, we DO spend less money on over-the-counter health care. HOWEVER, we still spend the same amount on health care insurance. We don't get to pay less for that because we're suddenly healthier. And, that my friends, is a BIG chunk of change!
It isn't just a matter of priorities, it is also a matter of realities.
I've tried something like this challenge before, after reading 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver (a fantastic read, fyi!!!). Deciding as soon as I had put down the book that "from here on out" all we were going to eat was local and in season. ........ We fell, very frustratingly, flat on our faces.
Why? It wasn't a matter of priorities, it was a matter of realities. The reality was that I didn't know what to cook when certain things weren't in season. That our Farmer's Market isn't open in the winter. That our garden doesn't yet produce enough to sustain us, and that I am still not exactly certain what all I should plant to try and help it start sustaining us. The garden is a learning process, we learn each year as we go.
We have to feed ourselves and our kids daily. Several times a day. And all the support and encouragement you can receive online sadly doesn't actually put food on the table.
Imagine this: Imagine people who are currently smokers want to quit smoking. Or people who are alcoholics want to quit drinking. But 1) they aren't sure what they should be doing instead (eating, drinking, etc - I said imagine so hang with me here!) and 2) to do what they ought to be doing cost them a LOT more than smoking or drinking currently does. Do you REALLY think they would quit?
Well, that's the case with processed foods. We DO become addicted to them. And it IS cheaper to eat them most of the time. And, very sadly, we don't know how to feed ourselves anymore. Not the way we ought to know anyway. And, we have to re-train our tastes buds to appreciate Real Food. Real tastes. Real flavor.
Is Real Food better for you? Absolutely. Do I strive to feed my family as much real food as I can? You bet your ass I do. When I do buy processed foods is it a lack of priorities on my part? Hell no. Sometimes we just do the best we can, and we strive to always do better.