Life is too short to eat bad food, and it astounds me to see some of the bad food decisions people make when there are so many good options readily available. In this essay I will attempt to lead you out of the darkness of food awfulness and into the light of food awesomeness. The journey is surprisingly easy, and you will be glad that you made the trip.
Let me state very plainly, from the beginning, that I am still a work in progress. I still struggle with many of my own suggestions, but I am getting much better. Also, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or scientist. I am not an expert. I should not be trusted without verification. These are suggestions and conclusions based upon my experience and research, and, in the immortal words of Tim James, are mostly things that “just make sense to me.” So, double-check me. Do some reading on your own. Challenge me. If I’m wrong and you can prove it, then I’ll update my essay and give you full credit.
FAST FOOD IS KILLING US ALL
I’ve heard people say “don’t sin” because sinning is really not that much fun anyway. Are they serious? When I hear this argument I wonder how it can be said with a straight face. There is no question that the consequences of sin are bad, and we don’t need to have any part in it. Flee! But let’s get real, folks: sin can be fun. How could it be a temptation otherwise? It does us no good to pretend.
Along those same lines, let’s not pretend that fast food is not really good. We must accept this fact in order to move on. Truly, is there anything better than a steaming hot carton of McDonald’s fries? Who doesn’t salivate at the thought of a McGriddle? How do the wizards at KFC pack so much crispy, crunchy flavor into those fried chicken breasts? All hail the deliciousness of the Cheesy Gordita! Excuse me while I make a run for the border; I’m making myself hungry.
Of course, I kid, but should I? Don’t be fooled: all of this scrumdiddlyumptious (thanks, Willy Wonka) fast food is killing us – slowly but very surely. At what point in time did we buy into the lie that fast food is a good thing, harmless as a kitten? There is quite a bit of reputable research out there linking fast food to the obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and increased risk of stroke. Ouch. Google it – it’s all true. This is the ‘real’ inconvenient truth. Poison in a paper bag. What compels us, then, to keep lining up at the drive-thru?
I will admit, I still partake from the fast food banquet table, but not nearly as much as in years past. It’s now the exception instead of the rule, and I think that’s probably the best approach. Moderation. It’s too tasty and convenient for most of us to cut out completely, but we shouldn’t make it a daily ritual. On most Wednesday nights I get a Wendy burger, and occasionally on Friday I’ll order a pizza. In my “professional” opinion, that’s probably enough.
I recently read a New York Times article which concluded that “fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive,” and that there are “no obvious health advantages to organic meats.” This article caused quite a stir in the food world. Who knew the organics could be so feisty! Those who travel on the organic bandwagon cried foul, and essentially said that while the data on nutrition may admittedly be inconclusive, the absence of pesticides makes organic food healthier and safer.
I don’t know who or what to believe, because as you probably well know the parties on both sides of the issue have vested interests. I encourage you to research the issue on your own and come to a conclusion. Personally, I don’t believe the research is conclusive enough to justify the added expense of buying organic fruits and vegetables. I don’t believe “organic” to be just a marketing gimmick, as some have claimed, but I see no evidence that non-organic foods are not perfectly safe to eat. So there you go.
EAT LIKE YOUR GRANDMOTHER ATE (MOSTLY)
For thousands of years before the ubiquitous McDonald’s and her fast food sisters and brothers sprung up all across our land, people actually ate real food. Food that actually came out of the ground. Food that was living and mooing out in the back pasture the week before. Hard to believe, right? It shouldn’t be, because this agricultural-centered world existed not all that long ago, but the change to flashing neon lights and Happy Meals was so sudden and swift in the last century that the human race has just about forgotten its roots.
Here’s a wild idea: a diet centered on fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats is just about the healthiest way to eat. What intellect and insight! Who would have thought? Well, our ancestors had it figured out, mostly, and in my opinion it’s high time we remember. Throw in some wild salmon a couple of times per week and you’ve upped the ante. Start making your food selections from the so-called “super-foods” list, and you’ve made it to the pros.
The Tuscaloosa Farmer’s Market has been a great resource this summer for delicious, locally-grown vegetables. I am thankful for it. Seek out the fresh stuff – it does a body good. I don’t have any scientific data to give you to back this up (although there is a lot of it out there), but it just makes sense that eating the least-processed versions of foods possible is the healthiest way to go. I am making strides in that direction, and I encourage you to do the same. It truly takes very little time and effort. Go for it. You’ll be happy that you did, and much healthier.
Chances are I have not told you anything you don’t already know, or couldn’t deduce for yourself. This stuff is not rocket science, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Just like our beloved football, we cherish our food in the South – and we don’t like our football or food habits to be challenged. Maybe we just need to get over it, though. From a physical standpoint, better eating habits will almost certainly cause us to lead longer and more active lives. From a spiritual standpoint (and I believe this wholeheartedly), we are the caretakers of our bodies, and if the foods we put in our bodies do us harm, then we have a much deeper problem than the associated health risks. I hope this essay will cause us all to stop and think, and maybe even to swing the pendulum in the other direction, even if ever so slightly.