Fully aware that I’ve been on the kvetchwagon for some time, I’d like to bring a(nother) annoying text to your attention, Dear Intertron Readers! The offending text was published today in the Washington Post; I don’t regularly read the WP, but I do receive their weekly health-related newsletter (a subscription I began years ago during my “Get Fit Now” phase).
This morning, Katherine Tallmadge published a list of “5 so-called health foods you should avoid.” The title — perfect for SEO — piqued my curiosity, but only because I was saving the choicest morsels of my G-reader for later this afternoon. What would I find on this list? I wondered. Almond milk? Chia seeds? Or — god help me — KALE?
Answer: none of the above! Nope, this list contained nothing so revolutionary. Instead, Tallmadge calls out reduced-fat peanut butter, enhanced water, energy bars, multigrain foods, and non-fried chips/crackers as junk in sheep’s clothing. Her claims are valid, sort of; peanut butter and crackers aren’t the healthiest choices (though they are delicious). Even still, I have the following BEEF with this article:
1) The foods listed don’t really claim to be health foods. With the exception of multigrain items, the foods Tallmadge lists don’t purport to be health foods. The huge majority of packaged foods tout their healthier attributes (case in point: candy bars that boast about reduced fat content; cereals that advertise increased vitamin levels), but this advertising doesn’t mean those foods are promoting themselves as health foods. I’ve seen peanut butter advertised as part ofa healthy breakfast/lunch, but I’ve never seen a Jif commercial claiming its product = the fountain of youth.
2) Eaten in reasonable amounts, these five foods can be healthy. I’m sure you all have heard about people who have lost weight by eating nothing but vending-machine fare. I’m not equating lower weight to increased health (because this can be a false premise); I am stating that, as part of a balanced diet, even peanut butter has a place. Tallmadge also fails to mention the emotional/social benefits of foods, which aspects contribute to a food’s overall value.
(Aside: Carr’s crackers, made with the whitest of the white flours, aren’t HEALTH FOOD, but they figure prominently into childhood memories. I still eat them from time to time and revel in the nostalgiathon, which promotes my emotional well-being. Which, come on!, is a part of overall health.)
3) The article assumes reader ignorance. If there’s one thing I hate (and lord knows there’s not just one!), it’s articles that presume the readers to be idiots. This article assumes the worst about readers. Writes Tallmadge, “…make a habit of reading the ingredients list, not just the Nutrition Facts panel.” Why, you don’t say! Read about the ingredients of the food I’m eating? I’ll be damned.
Annnnnnnnnnd that concludes today’s heckling! Beyond disappointment, annoyance, mild irritation, &c, this article left me confused. Not about the foods mentioned, but about the article itself: WHY DOES IT EVEN EXIST?