Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts on food. Calories - or so much more?

Last week I joined the Montgomery County Health Advisory Board again. I went to a few of their meetings last year, and got frustrated with how little got accomplished. This year the leadership has changed a bit, and the Board seems to be geared up to see some real changes happen.
One of the things that used to frustrate me to no end at last years meetings was the fact that the amount of calories seemed to be the only criteria to determine the quality of food in our school cafeterias and vending machines.

Following are some thoughts I've articulated about that matter.

We seem to look at nutrition labels as our only criteria for healthy food, but seem to forget to look at where this nutrition and the calories, our children and we are consuming, come from.
I think as species we have become too concerned with numbers and requirements. We take a scientific approach to something that is so fundamental and so common sense…
We buy processed, prepackaged food, because it seems more convenient in our busy lives, and also because we trust that the Food Industry has done it’s homework and offers us what is best for our bodies – colorful packages of food like substances, neatly labeled with a list of ingredients, suggested serving sizes and counted calories. (While the Food Industry’s main concern is to cheaply redistribute all the cheap corn that is being produced by conventional farming as a monoculture; and make the biggest profit while doing so.)
We trust the labels blindly, partly because it takes too much effort to learn to think for ourselves, and to learn to cook for ourselves again.
And we forget, or choose not to think about other aspects of food – other than the required daily amount of calories.

Is food just chemistry or is it more?

Should we keep counting the calories or should we put more effort into bringing forth the aspects of food that cannot be charted and measured?

For instance – the aspect of food as nourishment, rather than fuel, and beyond that – as nourishment for our souls as well as our bodies.
The aspect of food as shared experience – especially in school cafeterias, where hundreds of kids sit down together and take a moment (too brief in my opinion) to slow down, to nourish their bodies and souls and to connect with:

*each other and their teachers at a more personal, less structured way.
*people who prepare their meals
 When Food Industries cheap surplus food comes in cans, is presented on Styrofoam trays and are served conveyor belt style; eaten hurriedly – the sense of belonging and understanding of a place can not happen.
When you know that the potatoes, chicken and salad greens that you are eating come from a farm(s) in your community or at least within your state, you feel connected to a place, it’s people and resources. You develop pride in belonging and become invested in the community that sustains you.
And when this food is fresh, and lovingly prepared – will you still count the calories?

A few links to follow these thoughts. 
Three basic recipes. (I would add SOUP to that list - so versatile, can be made in big batches with little effort of cost!)
Eating invasive species. (In troubled times people become creative! There is plenty of kudzu around the south to feed the hungry!)
How eating at home can save your life. (Cooking at home is not rocket science! With average american spending 32 hours watching TV - some of that time spent on watching cooking shows - every household should be able to cook at least a few meals at home by cutting out some TV time!)

Allright. I could (and will in the future) rant more on this topic, but will leave you with these words today: We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are. —-Adelle Davis


Laurie said...

Good post. I enjoyed the links too.

Anonymous said...

A lot here to think about. Great post Anne.

T.Gray said...

well said!!!

farmhousewife said...

Food is one of the most intimate ways we take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Much more thought should be put into what we ingest and how we prepare our food.

Good thoughts.

p.s. I make a lot of soup!