Making every bite count

13 January 2008

What I'm reading: "What to Eat" by Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle has a way of cutting through the fat of nutrition and food science claims. She directly and neutrally explains and analyzes the history, context and importance of health topics before giving her opinion. In "What to Eat," she takes an aisle by aisle look at the supermarket. I've read until chapter 13 and taken notes. Here's a summary of what seemed important to me:
  • Prewashed vegetables and fruits are clean when they are packaged. Public water in America is chlorinated, which kills most microbes that could contaminate the veggies. However, wash that lettuce: Have you ever taken a look at those misters? Algae, mold and other contaminants!
  • Fruit waxes and veggie waxes aren't worth stressing about. Buy unwaxed if you want to eat the peel. Otherwise just peel it. You'll be fine.
  • Nearly half of the typical family's food budget is spent on food made and consumed outside the home by people who have no interest in health or nutrition.
  • She frequently points out that farming is a business, which means that farmers in general aren't worried about your health. They're worried about making a profit!
  • Because organic farmers grow crops using manure, they have stricter rules about microbes and contamination. Conventional farmers don't face such rules.
  • If organic foods are grown in better soils, they are perhaps higher in minerals, but their vitamin and phytochemical content is pretty much the same as conventional. The differences result from genetic strains or treatment after harvest.
  • Eat organic because you want fewer pesticides in your body. Eat local because you want to reduce the energy expended to bring your food to your plate.
  • GM foods' PLU codes begin with an 8, but how often do you seen them? Growers don't have to label such foods! It's a big mystery!
  • It seems that those who eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day have half the cancer risk of those who eat just two (half-cup) servings of vegetables and fruit.
  • In the late 90s, the USDA calculated that it cost just 64 cents for five servings of fruits and vegetables (f/v from now on because I'm tired!). That's because there are plenty of half-cup servings in a pound. (Ex: 1 lb green beans minus the inedible parts = 9 servings!)
  • $36 billion in spent on food and beverage marketing a year. Just a few million is spent on produce marketing; tens or hundreds of millions can be spent on a single drink, cereal or candy bar.
  • 18 cents of food dollars go to the grower; the rest goes to store, truckers, packagers, promoters, etc.
  • There are two sets of issues regarding milk: the effects of its compounds on health; the effects of production on the cows.
  • Since 1970, dairy farms have decreased from 650,000 to 90,000. Cows have been reduced from 12 million to 9 million. However, each cow's yearly production has increased from 9,700 pounds to 19,000 pounds.
  • in 2003, 22 % of cows were injected with rbST (recombinant bovine somatotropin, a growth hormone)
  • Nestle says milk's health risks -- and benefits -- are small.
  • Yogurt: "Yogurt, it seems, has performed a marketing miracle; it is a fast-selling dairy dessert with the aura of a health food."
  • Ew: 55% of calories in Go-GURT and 67% of calories in Danimals Drinkable are from sugar!!!
  • Stonyfield Organic is 85 % owned by Groupe Danone.
  • Margarine is soybean oil and additives. It has few health benefits. She calls it "nutritionally confusing."
  • Margarine is dyed to look like butter.
  • Food claims are silly: Margarine has no cholesterol. Duh. Only animal products have cholesterol!
  • Liquid sweeteners are disgusting (my opinion here). Ever read the back of that CoffeeMate bottle? Yeah, corn syrup solids and chemicals. Yuck! My family is fond of those liquid creamers, and so is Fred. I dislike them. Nestle is honest about them: They're sweet, liquid margarines.
  • When such sweeteners are fat free, it's because some milk solids have been introduced. Low carb means the sugars have been replaced with artificial sweeteners.
  • Soy foods are usually pretty heavily processed, and soy manufacturers play both sides of the field: They lobby for higher subsidies and move production overseas.
I'm also currently reading Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food." However, I own that, and Nestle's book is from the library so I'm reading it first.
I'm eating cage-free organic eggs at my mom's for $1.50 a dozen -- half of what I spend at home. Her neighbor has a chicken. One of the (few) benefits of being at home.
I wasn't planning to blog about this tonight, but it's on my mind so I will. THIS HAS BEEN EDITED, per my mother's request.
My teenage sister refuses to eat much more than refined carbs, dairy and meat. The only borderline vegetables she'll eat are potatoes (really a carbohydrate) and corn (more of a grain). My sister -- despite good examples, healthful meals cooked for her (like the Korean feast I'll blog about later) and plenty of talks from her sisters -- refuses to eat anything new.
Pollan's advice, like that of so many other sage nutritionists and experts, is simple: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
And yet, so many people refuse to eat plants!
She practically lives on grilled cheese sandwiches and pasta with cheese. No matter what we do, she won't try even a bite of any vegetable. I'm frustrated and upset by it, but I'm not sure what to do, if anything. I know that no one can make someone take control of his or her life, and she is just 14.
My passion is life, my calling, is to enlighten people about eating better. I've tried with my sister, but I just get so angry. Watching her, I just feel so sad.
If she were my child, (there are so many "ifs" in this situation), I would make her eat vegetables. No vegetables? Fine, then no refined carbs or full-fat dairy, either.
I needed to vent. I feel quite powerless, and I hate seeing her so unhappy with her body. I love my sister, and I just wish I could make her realize how important good nutrition is. I realize that many Americans are trapped by poverty and believe they cannot afford to eat fresh produce. However, she is educated enough and from a family who is comfortable enough to afford fresh produce and healthful foods.
Am I being unreasonable by trying to get her to eat vegetables?


At 14 January, 2008 01:22 , Blogger Kelly said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 14 January, 2008 22:44 , Anonymous Katie said...

I hate to say it, but unfortunately, I really don't think there's anything you can do. I got up to 235 pounds before I had my wake-up call, and that was at age 24.

In general, while people may not know the ins and outs of complete nutrition, they know the basics. Veggies good. Fried foods bad. Too much = weight gain. If your sis is ignoring these basics and having her habits reinforced by her dad, it's probably going to be college at the earliest before she gets wise to the situation.

Just keep making healthful food for her to try and encourage her to accompany you on walks/runs/yoga classes/whatever. Use it as an invitation for her to spend time with you; don't pressure her (she'll have complete revulsion to it if you pressure).

Also, encourage her and your mom to make sure she goes to all her yearly doctor's check-ups. If she's really as bad off as you say, and I suspect she is, sooner or later it's going to come up in tests. She may start having high blood pressure or be diagnosed as being pre-diabetic or what-not. Naturally you don't want it to get to that point, but that may be the thing that gets her to right her ship.

At 09 February, 2008 16:31 , Blogger Kelly said...

After seeing the edits you made to this post, I deleted my comment.

At 10 February, 2008 14:29 , Blogger srr said...

I understand, Kelly. My mom is a bit melodramatic sometimes. Family drama. :)

At 18 February, 2008 01:56 , Anonymous Great Big Veg Challenge said...

You are right to care but you aren't her mother so you can't really have that much more influence than you do.
My son only ate potatoes and corn over a year ago - now he likes about 17 vegetables and has tasted many many more that he will tolerate.
But he is 8 and not 14.
I am sure she will change and learn in time. It is lovely that you care but also family peace is worth maintaining!


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