dark side of processed foodsI grew up in the 50’s and my parents were early adapters. Since they both grew up very poor, they enjoyed their climb to middle class by availing themselves of the latest trends. Our house was furnished in a modern Jetson motif. We had white walls, white curtains, and white carpet. We even had a white dog with a white name (Cotton) who used to jump up on the white couch to pee.

We were the first family in the neighborhood to get central AC and a color TV – thrilling stuff back then!

But nowhere was my family’s embrace of “new and modern” more evident than in the kitchen.

My dad insisted on meat and potatoes every night, but beyond that fake food reigned. Not just because it was more convenient, but because it was “better” than real food. After all, it was “new and improved”.

How could a glass of orange juice compete with Tang, the breakfast drink of astronauts? Why just have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast when you could have Carnation Instant Breakfast and get all the nutrition you need for the day? Heck, you could live off this stuff!

We lived in Chicago. When neighboring Wisconsin “America’s Dairyland” outlawed margarine, my dad saw an opportunity. We’d load up the car and smuggle margarine into Wisconsin. It was in great demand since it was so much “healthier” than butter!

Jello and Whip ‘n Chill were my mom’s preferred desserts. She put me in charge of making them because she didn’t have the knack for getting either to gel. So she said. (She had nothing on Tom Sawyer.)

My mom had a tiny silver jar with equally tiny tongs for serving saccharine tablets for our iced tea. The aftertaste made me shudder, but I figured it was an acquired, adult taste, so kept at it.

In the summer the Good Humor truck rolled through the neighborhood most afternoons. I’d usually get a banana popsicle with a flavor reminiscent of turpentine. Sometimes I’d get blue raspberry instead, the same refreshing hue as the community swimming pool. They were truly special – there aren’t many truly blue foods, you know!

My parents went out for dinner with friends most Saturday nights, leaving me home with a Swanson TV dinner. I was in heaven. I loved the turkey and dressing version – Thanksgiving on a tray.

Little did we realize that being raised on fake foods made us part of a huge experiment – whether humans can thrive on food made in a factory, not as nature intended. It didn’t go too well.

In spite of advances in modern medicine, baby boomers are not as healthy as their parents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control the US is now the fattest country in the world with 1 in 3 of us considered obese.

According to Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Moss the trillion dollar processed food industry is largely to blame. Food corporations create foods with the intention of getting us hooked on them. Scientists calculate the “bliss point” of these foods to determine the precise amounts of salt, sugar, fat, and other additives needed make sure we keep coming back for more.

This brings new meaning to the potato chip slogan “betcha can’t eat just one”. Of course you can’t! Your taste buds and appetite control center have been hijacked.

Millions of adults rely heavily on energy bars, frozen diet dinners, and meal replacement shakes thinking they are healthy and will help them lose weight. But these foods have also been designed with hooking you in mind.

The best way to kick the processed food habit is at the grocery store. Say “no” when filling your cart. It’s much easier than trying to resist these foods once you have them home.

Fill your cart with “real food” instead. Not sure if it’s “real”? If a food item has been on this earth less time than you have, you should probably skip it.

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