Wednesday, October 29, 2014

oh, sugar. a confession, a little diatribe, and some reading.

I just ate a pack of Sour Patch Kids. They are my favorite. I have childhood memories of finishing off giant bags of SPKs over the course of a movie despite the fact that the taste buds on my tongue were large and swollen from overdosing on their sugar. The pain of one more bite, I found, always won over the pain of stopping before the bag was finished. I even have a method to the way I eat them. Oranges and greens go first, then yellows, and (now) the blues. Red kids I save for last. It is rare I share a red. They. Are. The best. 

I had to tell you all this before segueing into the rest of this post. I want you to know that I'm not perfect ... that I, too, have a crazy sweet tooth and love, love, love a heaping helping of straight-up sugar. Especially Sour Patch Kid sugar.

See, I've seen sugar in the news a lot lately. And for good reason. Let's talk: The pack of Sour Patch Kids I just finished has 36 grams of sugar. For the average adult, sugar consumption should equal no more than 5 percent of your daily caloric intake ... when based on a 2,000-calorie diet, we're looking at 25 grams of sugar here. Clearly, in one snack-time sitting, I just exceeded that. Oops. 

Now, I don't have diabetes and I am not overweight. There are very few items of processed foods in our pantry, and Jon and I make a concerted effort to cook in the majority of the time. On other nights of the week we eat at places we know source their food responsibly. We don't have cereal for breakfast and we don't use pre-made sauces, soups, or dressings for the very reason that those are notorious for large quantities of added sugars. If we want apple juice, I juice a few apples and add water and ice. Seriously. In other words, every now and again, yes, I indulge in a packet of SPKs because I know I'm very careful about sugar intake in other parts of my diet. 

Think I'm overthinking things? Let me share with you a few links and clips I've come across lately ...

First, have you watched Fed Up yet? I ordered it off iTunes one night earlier this month. This documentary is worth your time. Especially if you have children. Here, check out the trailer:

Probably the two scariest things that movie covered was that our brains respond to sugar the same way it does to cocaine, and how corporate money distorts science. None of this is new news, but as I was telling Jon, a nicely packaged documentary like this one is exactly what I need to watch the moment I am tired and want to just start regularly buying processed spaghetti sauce already.

I should say that I do realize I am a stay-at-home mom and that that *generally* affords me the luxury of time to cook a meal before the bedtime scramble commences. When our family made the decision for me to leave the magazine I worked for and stay home, I decided childcare was my "job" and dinnertime was a nightly "deadline" to meet. Learning everything about both subjects as though I were researching them for a story was something I really took to heart, and it's pretty safe to say that I really fell down the rabbit hole with food. (Ahem, hence a post like today's!) So dinnertime ... sometimes, yes, Cecile is hanging on my leg, begging me to the play room instead of letting me cook up dinner. (Love those days. Ugh.) So please note, most of the meals we cook at home are easy and simple. They rarely take more than 20 minutes to prepare. But it's taking those 20 minutes to sweat some garlic and onions and tomatoes in a pan over popping the lid of a jar. Or tonight's dinner, for example, will consist of lightly seasoned bone-in chicken breasts roasted for 20 minutes at 450 F with quinoa and green beans. Like I said, we're talking super simple stuff here. Sure, the inner gourmet comes out at inspired moments when Cecile is behaving. But more or less our meals are simple, but they are healthy. And, most importantly, Cecile eats them :)))

On that, Mark Bittman had a great essay a few weekends ago in the NYT Magazine about cooking at home for his daughters. The entire magazine, actually, was all about food. There was a particular focus on the types of food our kids should be eating, too. The photo essay about what children eat around the world was amazing, I thought (and I think nodded to bits of Baby-Led Weaning, actually), and this article about school lunches was about as depressing as it gets. Sorry, Cecile, but you're going to be brown-bagging it in a few years if things don't change. But the highlight of the package was a video that went viral (on my Facebook feed at least) before the Sunday paper even hit our driveway. It has been a long-time want of mine to dine at Daniel. (A dear grad-school friend went with her parents before our graduation, years and years and ago. I was so jealous. Go figure she now has a job at Food & Wine.) Well, check out these lucky, lucky kids and just try not to crack a smile:

Oh, I love it :)))))

THEN, this last weekend, The Washington Post rounded back with a magazine feature on candy by Joe Heim. The article was short (that magazine is THIN these days!) and to the point: Candy is the next target in America's "health war." Again, not new news, but I find it interesting that these sugar debates are being so widely covered by so many outlets ... and I don't think it's just because of the convenience of a holiday that's all about trolling neighborhoods for sweets.

Last, but not least, was John Oliver's most recent Last Week Tonight, which targeted the sugar industry in brilliant fashion. Don't let me ruin it for you. Just watch:

I have to say I so admire John Oliver's weekly platform. He always does a great job breaking down information, sharing it with humor, and giving his audience some homework. This week (similar to a long-ago Mother Jones' article), Oliver compares the amounts of sugar in foods and asks us all to tweet food manufacturers and demand they #showusyourpeanuts. (Confused? Just watch the flippin' clip already.) But the most important part of the segment, I thought, was information about the FDA's current push to change food labels so that you can see how much sugar is added to your food. Specifically, the FDA wants labels to show, in grams, how much of any given food's sugar content wasn't in the food before it was produced and packaged. Personally, I wish they'd take it a step further and tell you the daily value, too.

We'll see what comes of all this. In the meantime, if you're worried about the amount of added sugar in your processed foods, look it up on the Environmental Working Group's "Food Score." EWG does a great job reading labels for your food and your skin care, too. If you're looking for a good resource to clean up your household, that's a good place to start. 

OK, so there's my little (ha) rant. Clearly sugar has been on the brain lately, and this post was totally, totally fueled by an indulgence of it. And this is the week--if ever!--for such an indulgence, right?? But an indulgence should be exactly that. Hope you've found all these clips and links as fun and useful and informative as I have.

Happy Halloween!! ;)
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