Salt, Sugar, and Fat. What's Up With That?

Let me put forth a disclaimer. I am not a nutritionist, a dietician, or a health professional. But I love food and I have a lot of experience cooking and eating. I’d like to talk about what I think is wrong with the way we eat today. For example, it just came out in the news that the WHO is recommending sugar intake to 5% of daily calorie consumption. I’ve also read the book, Salt, Sugar and Fat by Michael Moss. The message is clear. You are what you eat and if it’s a whole lot of the big three then you are in trouble.

Let me expand on my last statement. Food today is much different, from even when I was growing up. We are living in a world of convenience, with processed food everywhere we turn. Processed food, has huge amounts of salt, sugar and fat. Why? So it can sit on the shelves longer, which in turn reduces the price. Salt and sugar are preservatives. If you could even call it food. Think of how many times a day you reach for a processed food product?

I am not saying we should ban processed food. A better balance would be a good start. Don’t get me wrong, I have a sweet tooth and I like convenience too. I think more home cooking would mean healthier eating. Consider if you bought, say a Michelena’s dinner for lunch everyday. Hey, I used to. For example, a package of their spaghetti bolognese has 820mg of sodium. Right on the package, 34% of the recommended daily intake! If you had whipped up a batch of spaghetti at home, there would be much less sodium. What’s in my basic spaghetti sauce? Fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and dried basil. Add some stir fried ground beef seasoned with a little salt and pepper and I’m done. It takes half an hour to make, or less. Boiling pasta included.

If you could imagine, and some people do, eat processed food for every single meal and snack. That is why there is a problem. When I grew up, we used to have family dinner every night. At least one meal in the day that was home cooked. I’m not even sure if people have family dinner anymore.

People need to learn basic cooking skills. Spend a few hours on the weekend preparing a meal and then freeze the leftovers for lunch. I batch cook every weekend (I’m not expecting everyone to) and have a rotation of freezer meals I use for lunch. Even eating 2 home cooked meals for lunch instead of eating out, frozen dinners or snacking from the desk drawer is an improvement. How about finding like minded friends and batch cook a number of dishes to share?

The thing about home cooking is, that you control what you put into it. There are no strange ingredients that you can’t pronounce and you control the amount of salt, sugar and fat.

There are times when I don’t have time. I’ve gone away for the weekend and have nothing for lunches and dinner the coming week. It’s ok, no one is perfect. If you fall off the wagon once in a while, get up again. For these moments, I usually dig into the freezer or order some ready to heat dinners from local suppliers. They are usually much healthier then frozen dinners. I used to buy my ready to heat meals from The Liberated Cook, but they are no longer in business.  The Main Dish sells these types of meals. Also what is wrong with a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner? Nothing, if made with local bread, like Prairie Mill bread and some unprocessed cheese (not processed cheese slices). Add a salad and you’re all set!

Invest in a slow cooker. Nothing like putting in the ingredients before work and having dinner ready when you get home.

Try to buy local and in season. I subscribe to Eagle Creek CSA in the summer for my fresh vegetables. I do a lot of salad, veggie stirfry and BBQ in the summer. Easy peasy.  There seems to be a CSA for everything these days. Eggs, grains and meat.  I used to buy my meat from Ravenwood Farms, but they are no longer in business. These days, I get delivery from SPUD, buy from Master Meats or the Farmer’s Market for locally and consciously raised meats. I do get lazy and still buy supermarket pork and poultry. I only eat naturally raised beef.  Also, Spolumbos makes good sausage!

Slow down. Make the time to cook and enjoy a meal. Not everyday after work am I running off to an evening activity. Make good food a priority. You are what you eat.