It seems to me that those newly highlighted “organic” and “non-meat meat” foodstuff offerings at the grocery store sure make life a bit more challenging. You see, I am, and have been for a long time, the meal planner, grocery shopper, and food preparer for our family. Oh, it’s not that my Sweetheart-for-Life can’t perform these chores – she is quite a good cook – it’s just how our various household tasks have shaken out. Frankly, I enjoy the challenges and besides, all five of my brothers were quite handy around the kitchen with my older brother being in the “chef” class. Then, too, our three boys are no strangers to planning and fixing meals.
Anyway, I grew up with the idea that meals should be simple, balanced, nutritious, and tasty – you know, cereal, milk, toast and such for breakfast; sandwiches and soup for midday; and some kind of meat, chicken, or fish along with a starch and vegetables – sometimes combined in chili or a stew – for the evening meal. Dessert might be flavored gelatin, canned or fresh fruit, or an occasional cake or pie. Sunday brunch – a big treat – often consisted of eggs, fried potatoes, biscuits and sausage gravy, and maybe bacon. Straight forward, right?
I continued with this basic approach – with variations by adding Chinese and other ethnic foods – while the younguns were home, but they have long since gone except for occasional visits when they expect Dad to whomp up one of his old time feasts. Well, we have modified our eating in response to our health-related needs. My heart attack, later heart bypass, followed by a stent in a critical artery kinda forced me to minimize my intake of fats and concentrate more on carbohydrates.
On the other hand, my Sweetheart-for-Life is an insulin-dependent diabetic who needs multiple shots a day plus oral medication. And so she must strictly limit her intake of carbohydrates while foods with higher fat content are acceptable. Sure makes meal planning a challenge but so far I have managed to make things work.
Okay, back to these “organic” and “non-meat meat” foodstuffs making a splash in the marketplace. I think I have a handle on this “organic” label. According to Webster, it is: “ of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.”
How can meat, eggs, and such be labeled “organic”? Turning once agan to Webster’s : “Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. … Beyond eating organic feed and being free of hormone injections, an organic animal must spend time outdoors and have enough space to live what the USDA defines as comfortably.” Got that?
So is paying lots of extra money for “organic” food worthwhile? Well, some studies show buying organic fruits and vegetables to avoid consuming chemicals such as residual pesticides and maybe gaining some additional nutritional value might be beneficial, but benefits of “organic” animal products, remain debatable. (Some folks consider the mandated treatment of animals is worth the extra cost.)
Moving on to the other fashionable entry in foods – the “non-meat meats.” Yep, we’re seeing “meatless” sausage, burgers, chicken patties and a whole raft of these products. Just for fun I looked up the ingredients of one such burger. It consists of: “Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin
B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.”
A “fake” bacon’s ingredients includes; “Egg Whites, Soybean Oil, Textured Soy Protein, Modified Corn Starch, Corn gluten, Wheat Gluten, …” – and over twenty other ingredients such as disodium inosinate and carrageenan. Anyone know what this stuff is? I sure don’t and maybe I’m better off not knowing. Well, after studying the challenge of whether to integrate these highly touted fares into our diet I kinda figure I already have a pretty good handle on how to meet our nutritional and health requirements – and so I doubt if we will be making any major changes. After all, I’ve been fine tuning our diets for a number of years and I don’t see much, if any, benefits to deviate from the tried and true. I suppose it’s a case of “the devil you know as opposed to the devil you don’t know.”
At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor is a regular contributing columnist. This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.