KAT’s question this week: Who’s really to blame for our convenience food-dominated diet? Was the I Hate to Cook Book a progressive, pre-Friedan feminist manifesto, or a culinary cop-out?
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Eating Liberally’s “kat” took me to see Frank Rich’s interview with Stephen Colbert last night and what fun that was! But no such thing as a free event, apparently. Today, kat wants to know what I think about Doritos’ sponsorship of Colbert’s campaign. Take a look at her question and my response and weigh in on this, please. Even if it’s a joke…?
My Eating Liberally question this week is about whether is makes sense to put cartoons on vegetable packages to encourage kids to eat more healthfully. I think not, of course, but here’s Disney doing just that. Is this a reasonable strategy? Weigh in please.
Much later addition (Dec 10, 2018)
Here’s one I missed, apparently, from September 2007.
Several people, among them Kerry Trueman of Eating Liberally, asked my opinion of John Tierney’s column about Gary Taubes’ new book, Good Calories Bad Calories, in today’s New York Times. Taubes’ book arrived while I was in
I continue to be impressed by how difficult it is to separate the health effects of fat, carbohydrate, and protein from the calories they provide, the foods that contain them, the diets as a whole, or the rest of the lifestyle that goes along with the diet. Finding out what people eat is hard to do. Determining the health effects of dietary factors or patterns is even harder since humans make such awful experimental animals. Plenty of things about human nutrition are reasonably well established–the basic nutrients that are required and the amounts that prevent deficiency diseases, for example. But it is much trickier to figure out the effects of nutrients on chronic diseases that are also affected by activity levels, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and social factors such as poverty, stress, and lack of control. So I can’t help but be skeptical of journalists who think they have answers to questions that scientists have been grappling with for years.
In a situation in which questions remain, is it better to say nothing or to give the best advice possible based on existing knowledge? Intelligent people may differ on this point but I am convinced that people really want to know what diet is best for their health and want help making food choices. What seems amazing to me is that despite decades of arguments over fat v. carbohydrate, basic dietary advice for preventing chronic diseases hasn’t changed in 50 years. I summarize this advice in What to Eat as don’t eat too much (eat less, move more); eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and don’t eat too much junk food. This seems like a pretty good approach backed up by plenty of research.
Oh, and the calorie question. It’s not that people are overeating 50 to 100 calories a day (the amount in one or two Oreo cookies) and gaining weight. Most bodies can easily compensate for small differences in caloric intake and output. But, as I hear from pediatricians all the time, kids these days are consuming hundreds of calories more than they need, and sometimes thousands. Metabolism–in kids or adults–just can’t handle that level of overload. In that situation, carbohydrates may be harder to handle than fats, but both will end up in the body as fat if those calories aren’t used up in physical activity.
Fortunately, my precepts leave plenty of room for enjoying delicious food, and aren’t we lucky to have so much around.
My latest interview with Eating Liberally is about the policy implications of the “F is for Fat” study (see earlier post).
Thanks to Kerry Trueman of Eating Liberally for pointing out the investigative report in today’s Washington Post revealing how lobbyists for the infant formula industry induced the Department of Health and Human Services to tone down ads describing health risks to babies that are not breast-fed. These anti-public health lobbying efforts emerged in the wake of Congressional Hearings demonstrating widespread political interference with statements of health officials that might adversely affect some company’s products or the Bush administration’s ideology. The Post article links to two letters from a lobbyist, Clayton Yeutter, who in classic “Revolving Door” action used to be Secretary of the USDA under George Bush I. My favorite statement in his April 21, 2004 letter: “For our government to give all those mothers [those who cannot breast-feed] a guilt trip would just be appalling.” He goes on to explain that the proposed campaign would “send a risk-oriented message to [women in the WIC program]…that most of them will find incompatible with what they’re being told by USDA, and will at best confuse them, at worst frighten them.” Those of us who have followed lobbying efforts by infant formula companies (I describe the resulting boycott of Nestle formulas in Food Politics and more recent lobbying activities in the baby food chapter of What to Eat), will not be surprised. Breast feeding may be good for babies, but it is not good for formula companies–and they know it.
This week’s interview with Eating Liberally comes out of our dismal experience at the Yearly Kos convention (see post) at the McCormick center in Chicago. I didn’t mention the food because it was so 1980s. Surely, Chicago can do better, and does in other parts of the city. It’s also posted at Huffington Post.