May 26, 2010

Processed Food Flood

In our modern society, we enjoy the convenience of eating out, social gatherings involving food, and a constant supply of snacks wherever we go. In my attempt to reclaim and maintain my health and that of my family, the biggest struggle has not been learning to prepare real food at home. The biggest struggle has been trying to avoid all the fake processed food that I don’t buy or prepare that is constantly offered to my family everywhere we go.

I know this is hard for people who know me to imagine (smile), but many people think I’m extreme. I’m often told things like, “It doesn’t really matter this once.” or “This is a special occasion.” But life is full of special occasions and the “this once” statement doesn’t make any sense to me at all. It's not “just once;” it's a constant flow of processed junk, in the classroom, lunchroom, youth group, church nursery, children’s ministry, camps, retreats, school parties, birthday parties, sports events and practices, business meetings, business trips, office parties. It is an overwhelming tide, and people who refuse to let their children eat orange crackers shaped like fish or filled with peanut paste may not only be considered extreme, but impolite as well.

Our family is still working on answers. My children are teenagers now, so they have to make some decisions for themselves. They know a lot about food. They rarely ask for fast food and enjoy home cooked meals; but they attend camps, youth group, school functions and outings with friends. It is socially difficult for them to abstain from the junk, and impossible in situations like camp that would require lengthy fasting, but they generally pay the short-term price by not feeling good. What will be the long-term price? I heard one mother say that her teenage daughter tells friends that she has “special dietary needs which require her to eat real food.”

I tried this recently on a form for a summer program. The form asked parents to sign up to bring a snack on one day of the program. The snacks could not be homemade but must be packaged (processed) food. In the space where it asks for any allergies or dietary restrictions, I put “he cannot eat processed foods. We will provide our own snacks.” Believe it or not, the snack police never showed up at our home.

Encouraged by that success, we have decided to “opt out” of the soccer team snack program next season also. It’s a no-win situation for us. If we bring healthy snacks, we will be unpopular; if we bring junk, we will feel guilty. By opting out, our son must deal with the stigma of a “weird” family (something he is getting used to), but at least we can provide him his own healthy snack and homemade electrolyte water.

If you’ve read this far hoping for some good advice regarding how to stop the onslaught of processed food, I’m afraid I've disappointed you. If you have any ideas of your own to help the rest of us, please post your comments. My biggest hope is that more people will join together to find ways to change the social norm of filling our children and ourselves with toxic food. (Just say, "No"?)

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this! I have been of the every now and then won't hurt philosohpy but you're right that those occasions are too frequent. Wish the day when the others agreed with us would come soon so we could stop struggling against the flow!



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