Sunday, February 3, 2008

Don't just reach for the "organic" label

True story - my husband comes home with a jar of organic peanut butter. He's as pleased as can be, but here comes the spoiler, "Diana the label reader". (Yep, it takes me forever to grocery shop - sometimes I see friends in the store who "lap me" - what? are you still in this aisle??)

Why is it that some companies trying to capture a share of the organic foods market seem to cater to the lowest common denominator, by which I mean those "focus groups" filled with people who have been conditioned over the past several decades by our food companies to prefer food products with added sugar, fat, and salt?

The brand of peanut butter that my well-meaning husband bought contained "organic sugar" (yikes, who needs the extra calories from sugar in their peanut butter?), "organic palm oil" (yuck, who wants palm oil with its health and environmental concerns in their food?), and just plain old salt (at the tune of 55 mg sodium per serving, not outrageously high, but again who needs it? I don't, nor does the vast majority of us.)

The company and/or brand does not matter. The label is what matters along with your subsequent actions (that is called voting with your pocketbook and/or fork). I have written this company via their web site saying I will not purchase their product again (and hopefully my husband won't either!) pointing out that if they used great tasting organic peanuts to start with, no focus group would want all this additional "stuff" (polite word) in their food. Formulated as it is with these additional ingredients, their peanut butter is no longer a food but instead has morphed into a "food product" as thoroughly discussed in Michael Pollans' excellent new book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

My take home message from this experience is for us to not take the word organic for granted, assuming that the product is healthier for us. Instead, I hope that I've helped my husband and all of us to "take time"; take time to read and understand the significance of the information on labels, take time to plan meals, take time to cook and prepare foods to eat, take time to say a grace before meals, and most of all, take time to enjoy eating meals with family and friends.

Here is another of my favorite graces, a beautiful simple blessing to end this post about giving thanks for our food and not taking it for granted.

So often bread is taken for granted,
Yet there is so much of beauty in bread --
Beauty of the sun and the soil,
Beauty of human toil.
Winds and rain have caressed it,
Christ, himself, blessed it.
~~Christian prayer

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting the graces in your posts. I have been enjoying them.