Thursday, September 26, 2013

Indulgences: "Permissible" or Not?

I read an article recently in the Wall Street Journal that conveyed how more and more companies are creating snack foods out of "healthy" ingredients because consumers are looking for "permissible indulgences." For example, salty fried chips made from sweet potatoes rather than white ones or a  "snack" made of 100% seaweed sheets.

Being a person who craves salty and crunchy, I've tried a number of these products. Seaweed seems like such a great snack food! Until you realize that you just paid at something like $1.00 per wafer thin sheet. True, it was healthy, but the vitamins and minerals it gave you probably would've been cheaper in some other whole form of vegetable and you would've stayed full longer to boot.

I've also fallen victim to items like vegetable chips (usually potato chips with a little bit of color added from other vegetables) and those amazingly delicious crunchy vegetable slices which often don't say, but always are, deep fried (which does make them delicious!).  Sure, they're dehydrated before they are deep fried, but I personally used to always stop at the fact that they're dehydrated thinking that the wonderful food production companies had found a way to extract liquid from vegetables and thereby make them crunchy (without then frying them in oil).

Looks like vegetables, tastes like (and is) fried, salted vegetables (sort of like a potato chip!)
Now, when I say "fallen victim" I don't mean that it was bad to eat these foods. As we try to teach people who need help normalizing their eating, foods are not "good" and "bad." What I think we can classify as good or bad though is the intention behind eating something that is marketed in a certain way, especially if words are used to make it seem healthier when in reality it is not. Do I think that the crunchy vegetable packing needs to say "you may as well eat potato chips" on it? No. But I think that the preparation method should be made explicitly clear by stating, for example: Deep fried green beans, carrots, and beets instead of: Garden Chips. That way the consumer can see that, think to themselves "this might not be healthy enough to become an everyday snack but it looks delicious so I'll try it knowing that it is probably not a magical alternative to an unhealthy snack."

An indulgence should be just that - something that you crave, something that you want. If you have to put the word "permissible" in front of it, that gives control not only to the food but also to the food production companies who want you to think that their product is more permissible than others. Chances are if you're thinking to yourself that something in a permissible indulgence, it's not really an indulgence at all. I've read that for some people, if they deny themselves the food item that they really wanted, they'll end up eating even more of the alternative choice because it will never fully satisfy them in the way that the original item would have; they then end up consuming more calories and being unsatisfied.

1 comment:

  1. When you switch to an unprocessed diet and make your meals from "in season" fresh vegetables it is amazing how your tastes change. After eating this way for awhile, when you try something processed it tastes too salty or too sweet. Cravings actually go away and you begin to really appreciate fresh food. Some of the items that people eat and consider food are really not food. Cheese curls and soda are manufactured and shouldn't be passed off as food. Modern food production has corrupted people's taste buds!