slowfoodWhy is the slow-food movement gaining increasing importance?    Because the fast-food movement is slowly killing off its customers.   For those who really need to be convinced of this,  we respectfully request that you please take notice of the following recent studies:

  • A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on the menu items at eight popular fast food chains found that the nutritional quality of the meals had scarcely improved between 1997 and 2010.   Notwithstanding the 13 years that had been spent in the interim educating the public about fast food deficiencies.
  • Two additional studies that arrived at a similar conclusion:  that sodium levels in 402 processed and fast food items have been stubbornly inconsistent and slow to decline.  While there is some dispute as to what is a safe level of dietary salt, there’s little dispute that processed and fast foods have far too much of the stuff.
  • In another study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed the nutritional content of breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings from 19 sit-down restaurants and determined that the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium levels are “alarmingly high”.  On average, each meal added up to about 1,128 calories, which is close to the average recommendation of 2,000 calories for an entire day.   The meals contained:  151% of the sodium content an adult should consume in a day, 89% of the daily amount of fat, 83% of the daily amount of saturated and trans fats and 60% of the suggested daily cholesterol intake.    And that’s just one meal.
  • A recent Tufts University study tested 157 meals from 33 individual or small-chain restaurants and found the average meal contains two to three times the calories a person needs at a single sitting, and more than half what is needed for an entire day!

Enough with the medical studies!   Here’s an economic one that should drive economists crazy:   Americans are paying higher prices for this fiendish food.  Time Magazine reports that Americans are spending 42% of their food dollar on packaged foods or meals outside of the home.  Do the math yourself:  the cost of a family of four to dine at a halfway decent restaurant will run approximately $100 or so, even more with a bottle of wine.  That same meal could likely be duplicated at a cost of less than $40.  In just two hours, that family will have needlessly wasted over $60.

Ironically, in order to reduce these costs, Americans are taking their families to the fast food chains that churn out sugar and fat-laden combustibles that are contributing to the explosion in diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and, although not yet proven, addiction to reality shows.

Yet more and more Americans are eating out.  Why?  In part, because we are a nation of incompetent chefs!     In fact, most of us are so embarrassingly inept in the kitchen that we make onions cry. And that is a shame.  In other countries, food preparation is seen as part science, part art, and part sex.  For ages, women have seduced their husbands (and others) with the magical elixirs that emerged from their kitchens.  Likewise ask a woman what truly turns her on and she’ll tell you a candlelight dinner expertly prepared by her man.  Perhaps there is something about a man wearing a cooking apron.  But I digress.

I can’t help but chortle at the consumers who will spend an hour shopping to save $5 on a piece of clothing and then blow $50 dollars on a second-rate restaurant meal of overcooked roast chicken.  Are we really buying convenience?  I don’t think so. We are closer to the truth if we recognize that dining out conceals our cooking ineptitude.

Perhaps the best investment one could make to pare the weekly budget is to invest in a basic cookbook and perhaps some decent cookware.  This $200 investment could pay for itself within one month if it were to save you from dining out three times during that period.

The oft-repeated refrain of “I don’t have time to shop and cook” will slowly make its way into the history books as we learn that meal preparation is a group activity that requires a modicum of planning.    Too often, parents view their job as that of cooks, when they are more like chefs.   Chefs don’t have to do the cooking as much as supervise the cooking.   The family should be viewed as a cooking team who contribute to the chopping, cleaning and cooking chores.    Observe how restaurant kitchens operate and think of similar ways in which you can get your family involved in the cooking and post-dining tasks.

What you’ll find is that cooking can be a rewarding social experience and even a bonding experience.    And the meals that you prepare will likely have a seasoning that you simply can’t find in a restaurant – love.    In addition to saving money,  your family has an opportunity to eat better.    Home-cooked meals offer:

  • More reasonably sized portions
  • Use of healthier ingredients
  • Reduced levels of sugar and salt, often added by restaurants to “add flavor”
  • Less rushed meals
  • Quality time amongst family members

Lest you think that we’re conveniently skipping over the hassles, the food fights, the burned and overcooked food, the messy clean-up chores and the inevitable complaints about redundancy of meals, you bet we are.   You already know what they are – why dwell on them?

Now here comes the controversial part: we humbly submit that there is an alternative to the fast food follies.   Over the past fifty years, we’ve been on a search to find the ultimate healthful diet.   We’ll let you know when we discover this Dietary Holy Grail.   In the interim,  we’ve created a chart that offers what we’ve learned so far about the foods you should chew and what foods to eschew:

GOOD TO CHEW WHAT TO ESCHEW
Blueberries –  Bursting with antioxidants.  Nature’s uber food. Strawberries –  Gave been hybridized into flavorless, rock-hard lumps of cellulose
Dark Chocolate –  Loaded with antioxidants and serotonin (happy hormone). Milk Chocolate –  Perfectly good dark chocolate watered down with cow secretions.  Ugh!
Gluten-Free Grains –  brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, non-GMO corn, sweet potatoes Bad Starches –  Any wheat-based flours, white rice, russet or red potatoes,  granolas.
Nuts –  Almost any nut or nut-based milk with the exception of peanuts (which really aren’t nuts) Most Dairy Items –  Cheeses, whole milks, sweetened yogurts, cream, sour cream, cream cheese….and definitely creamed corn.
Red Wine –  Full of flavonoid antioxidants.  Works for Europeans. White Wine –  Deprives you of the healthful skin of wine grapes.
Fish –  Full of Omega-3 and fish oil.  Keeps Eskimos warm and dolphins happy. Beef & Pork –  Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse?   Did you ever watch Babe?   C’mon.
Honey –   It’s good enough for baby bees, why not for you?  An alternative: Stevia.  A very cool herb. Sugar –  Almost as addicting as cocaine but with more calories.  Avoid unless it is in dark chocolate.
Veggies –  If its green, it’s keen.  …unless it is spoiled. Processed Foods – All convenience, no class.
H2O –   Drink a lot and drink it often. Soda –  View it as liquid cocaine.

And for those who don’t like to read charts, here it is in one paragraph:  Eat blueberries.  Exercise.  Eat fish (that isn’t endangered).    Eggs are OK too.  Exercise. Eat dark chocolate. Drink red wine.  Exercise.    Eat greens and other veggies.   Drink a lot of water (throw some lemon or lime in it).   Exercise.  Get enough sleep.  Then exercise.  Repeat daily.   Oh yeah, and floss.