Thursday, June 3, 2010

In Defense of Food {1}

(For more about our clean food journey, click here.)

I haven’t written in a few days because I have so many thoughts swirling in my head about clean/whole foods that I had no idea where to start with it.  I figured it was kinda like a band-aid and I’d better just sit down and get it over with. :)

You may remember my granola bar recipe I shared via Musings of a Housewife.  Through her site I first heard of the book In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

I was able to check it out from the local library, and it was incredibly, incredibly eye-opening.  It’s not exactly a light read, but it is SO chock-full of information about how exactly we got to the point in America where our food is so contaminated with chemicals, colorings, additives, antibiotics, and preservatives.  Although I clearly don’t agree with his view about evolution, I actually took notes on the book, that’s how much I loved it.  Yup, I’m a loser.  But you can thank me later for doing the hard work for you.  :)

Anyway, there are about 1,347,845 things I have to say about this book and the topics it brings up, but I’m going to start out with just one small point.  On page 32, he quotes Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis, a professor from Australia, who has been quoted as saying,

“ ‘[If] foods are understood only in terms of the various quantities of nutrients they contain, [then] even processed foods may be considered to be ‘healthier” for you than whole foods if they contain the appropriate quantities of some nutrients.’ ”

Think about it.  This is how American food “works” now, isn’t it?  At my SIL’s house the other day, I noticed a bag of chips that boasted “Whole Grains and Omega-3s!” Not to mention trans fats, msg, and ridiculous levels of salt.  But whatever!

The whole reason behind today’s post is because of an ad that I have seen twice now in my parenting magazines.  The thing makes me so angry every time I look at it that I just had to share it with you guys:


memorial day 2010 063

It compares plain cow’s milk to Enfagrow’s new chocolate formula for toddlers.  The ad tries to convince you that milk is clearly inferior to the artificially-and-naturally-flavored formula, since it has no DHA, no Prebiotics, no iron, no Vitamin C, and very little Vitamin E. 

The paragraph below the chart states, “Enfagrow PREMIUM has DHA and prebiotics that milk lacks and also iron, Vitamin C & E.  So mom, help give your toddler a foundation he can build on.  make the moooove [sic] to Enfagrow.” 

In teeeeeeeny tiny font at the very bottom, it reads, “Enfagrow PREMIUM is intended as part of a balanced diet.  All kids should eat and rink the right foods and get plenty of exercise.”  Does that make them somehow feel better to put that in there? 

Because what they’re really trying to say is, “Instead of teaching your children that chocolate and treats are sweets to be enjoyed only occasionally, and instead of letting them experience a natural food product, and instead of providing them with fish and yogurt and healthy meats and oranges and green leafy vegetables, you can give them our factory-made chemical concoction and call it even!”

(Hear me out: Luke has been on formula since he was 10 days old.  It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that breastfeeding did not work for me.  Sometimes that happens, and thankfully my son has been extremely healthy and he meets or exceeds his milestones.  But this a product specifically marketed to toddlers, who can – and should - be eating and experimenting with a wide range of healthy foods.)

I guess the thing that bothers me the most about this ad is that a parent who is uneducated about the inherent value in whole foods might see this and actually feel guilty for giving her child plain-old, regular-old milk, since it is “clearly” inferior to the factory product. 

It really depresses me that this is how low we’ve come as a country. 

And according to the research from In Defense of Food, a great deal of that has to do with government lobbying by food manufacturers.

I have a lot more to say about this book, but I decided to give your eyes a break. :)

Anyone else read it or others like it?  Thoughts?  


  1. Goodness... You make me want to read more. I know that we try to eat as much all natural and non processed food as possible, but sometimes it seems really expensive? What have been your findings on that? :)

  2. Sarah, it is absolutely more expensive. There's no way I can get around it. I don't know if you read sites like Money Saving Mom, but saving so much money on our personal care items by shopping at CVS and Rite Aid frees up a lot more money in our weekly budget for quality food. I hate the fact that healthy food is so much more expensive! I'm really happy that summer is here and produce will be cheaper for a little while. :)

  3. thank you for sharing this! I agree that it's crazy the way they market things!

    I too find it a lot more expensive to eat healthy and would LOVE it if you would share in some future posts how you get good whole foods for cheap. Thanks!

  4. this sounds like an eye-opening book. i want to read it! our food budget is so small and we can't really increase it (hello! we're aboout to have 2 babies in diapers! ha!) but i'm trying to at least buy the organic fruits and veggies that should be bought only organic (they are from "that" list - i can't think of the name of it!).

  5. That's very interesting. I may just check that book out from my library. I hear ya on the misleading advertising, it drives me crazy at times too. I look forward to hearing more about what you got out of this book! :=)

  6. I'd really like to read it, I've been meaning to pick it up at the library. I'm going to try to get it soon.

  7. very interesting! what is sad to me is that the government and these food companies are really out just to make a buck, they could care less if we are all slowly poisoned in the process. lookin forward to reading what else you have learned!

  8. I am a holistic nutrition counselor and I recommend Pollan's books to all of my clients. This one does an amazing job at describing the politics behind our food system--quite frightening, isn't it?!!!

    For those who can't delve into a heavy read like this, I recommend Pollan's Food Rules. Very succinct but with a nice introduction that explains why you really should follow his advice. I have a review of the book on my blog: Together, I think we can defeat all of the monopolies that govern our food choices!

  9. I read this book a few weeks ago after having similar feelings about the foods we were eating. My husband and I are still working on getting "completely clean" about our eating, but I think it's a detox work in progress due to all the things we've eaten over the years that are such a habit now.

    Just found your blog this morning and am already loving reading through.


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