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Buy Naked Food!

I wrote a newsletter on February 6, 2008 called BUY NAKED FOOD!

I am going to expand on it and use it again as a ParenTip. Why? 1) Not all those who click on my website are newsletter subscribers. 2) I just saw the documentary “Food, Inc.”

The movie is hard to watch (definitely not for kids because of graphic depictions of how the food industry (made up of a child-sized handful of corporations) treats the animals we eat. But I think parents should see this movie because the issues of food safety (food-borne sickness and the presence of pesticides in our food supply), what factory farming does to the environment, the effect the plenitude of corn products (found in almost every processed food we buy) has on our caloric intake and the epidemic of obesity…. all of these matters pertain to your kids and mine.

While waiting in the check-out line at the market the week before I wrote the newsletter I looked around at other carts, especially those with a child sitting in the basket or hanging on to Mom.

I had a revelation. You can pretty much identify junk food by the fact it’s packaged which almost always means it’s processed. And you can identify healthy stuff watching it roll around on its own.

My cart held a sweet potato, a white potato, an eggplant, romaine lettuce, vine tomatoes, bulk carrots, celery, broccoli, grapefruit, apples, bananas, and blueberries (pricey, but I had this awful craving!) Of course some of the food I was buying was packaged: obviously the blueberries, eggs, milk, cheese, flank steak, a chicken, and a package of crackers. But nothing I bought except the crackers had been precooked or processed. And the crackers only had three ingredients: rye flour, water and salt.

The next cart over was filled with brightly colored bags of chips, cereal, cookies, crackers. Guess what? All the carts I saw to which children were connected were piled high with processed foodstuffs. Lots of bags and cartons. Very few or zero foods rolling around on their own.

I know. Moms and Dads are oftentoo busy to cut up vegetables and cook. The fully-dressed (packaged) processed foods are convenient. Kids don’t eat veggies. I’ve heard and used all these arguments myself.

But I learned from experience that if you don’t have chips in the house but you do have cheese, carrot and celery sticks, and sliced apples your kids will eat the healthy stuff. (Household hint: slice apples, sprinkle with orange juice and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. Leave out a jar of peanut butter and a butter knife. Your kids will make sandwiches out of the apple and PB).

So the next time you shop try to buy fewer things sealed in big bags and more naked, or near-naked, food. A big step toward keeping your family healthy.

I have to add after reading such books as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, and “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver and seeing Food, Inc I want to add a plea for buying local and buying organic, at least when buying certain foods.

The average food product travels an average of 1500 miles to get from point of origin to your grocery store. The transportation of food accounts for tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

And, like war, pesticides are not healthy for children and other living things. I have hesitated to advise parents to buy only organic food. Not only because many cannot afford the additional cost but also because the label “organic” did not always mean that what you bought was a safe product. But labeling is improving, albeit slowly, and when the package says, No hormones or No trans-fats it is usually accurate.

So TRY to buy local and organic: farmer’s markets, agricultural co-ops. Check out websites like Buy foods in season. Winter grapes travel a long way from Chile to your house and pesticide levels are often higher in foreign-grown food.

And stay away from the center aisles of the market where all the attractively-packaged, processed food lives. Eat, and see that your kids eat, lots of NAKED FOOD.