Thursday, July 30, 2009

RMRF 31: What does “Eating Healthy” mean?

The LA Times has had some provoking articles in the Food Section lately – for me, hitting both ends of a spectrum. Last week, I was actually kind of disgusted by the glowing article on Lisa Lillien and her Hungry Girl blog and empire. There was a small paragraph that acknowledged,“Critics say that her recipes may be low-cal, but that doesn’t mean they are healthful” – Hungry Girl’s answer was that “her critics are missing the point. She says Hungry Girl subscribers are well-versed about nutrition -- they don't need to be lectured. Instead, they're looking for low-calorie ways to scratch a snack itch without blowing their diets.”

What it means to eat “healthy” (or “healthfully” or “healthily”?) seems to be so confusing for Americans. Russ Parson’s re-addresses the Organic Food debate in this week’s LA Times (he apparently addressed it previously on July 1st when I was in NC: “Organic label doesn’t guarantee quality or taste”) with “Organic debate goes on, naturally”.

In both of Parson’s articles he makes good points about the complexities of farming and sustainability as well as taste and quality, but what all three of these articles don’t mention is a basic thing that most kids (and probably adults) today don’t know: what “food” is. The overwhelming majority of items called for in recipes and food-like substances reviewed on Hungry Girl are NOT food. And I would argue that there are a lot of items you can buy at Whole Foods carrying an Organic label that aren’t food either. Sadly, as a nation, we aren’t teaching our kids these basic facts, even when we say, “you can only eat things that are organic.” I just don’t think that Organic soy protein nuggets are actually food.

Finally, there’s a more inspiring article this week, “A New Crop of School Gardens” discussing parents and chefs and even LAUSD school personnel who ARE starting up new programs teaching kids about how to grow and cook real food, despite the massive cuts that CA schools are experiencing. As a parent at Saturn Elementary says, “These are skills that kids used to learn at home. Today, that's not a reality.”

But we can’t let ourselves off that hook. We can teach our kids to grow food and cook food, rather than to heat up a premade batch of something in a microwave. One plant, one recipe at a time.

OK, I’ll stop lecturing. (You can link to the articles below and to the left and argue amongst yourselves!) Here are some recipes for the week – who knows if they are “healthful”, but they’re made of food! Seems like a good start…

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