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  • Writer's pictureamyk73

Why We Eat Fake Food

In true dramatic movie fashion, my image of fake food takes place in a desolate place that has long been vacated. I search the cabinets, drawers and places people normally kept food, when life was normal. Finding this small left behind package of some cardboard looking flat thing that is colorless and odorless is my reward. I’m tentatively eating it out of desperation and last thing on Earth because otherwise I will die.

No mention of what I eat next…

Right now in your pantry… is something that should be aligned to that imaginary movie scene. It is actually a horror film scene because it is disguised as colorful, enriched flavored, crunchy and satisfying. It may or may not melt in your mouth but you recognize it instantly as something that is edible.

Starving or not, that fake food in your pantry is there because it was selected form an array of other similar fake foods sitting on a shelf in the grocery. It awaits someone to open it and it will outlast a nuclear blast to be that single package someone finds left behind.

Dramatic you say?

We are likely to eat at least one fake food every single day. Most likely more than one. Let that settle in your mind a moment.

Not in some imaginary movie but in real life, the average Thursday, a quick lunch or some nighttime snack. Some part of our food for the day will be a fake food. There is fake food literally every where around us. Even if you are a health foodie, I promise you cannot avoid fake foods entirely.


What is a fake food?

The simplest definition of a fake food is any food that is manufactured, packaged and includes ingredients that are not natural. It contains ingredients that may have started out in life as a real food but has been stripped down to nothing to the point it needs to be enriched back with something that symbolizes the original food.

The average grocery store is roughly 75% to 80% fake food these days. This is why nutritionists tell you to shop the parameter. The minute you start looking at bags, boxes and packaged things, you often default to a fake food.

Fake food is surprisingly hard to identify sometimes. Labeling makes it deceptive. The US FDA further complicates this identification process by not requiring all ingredients be disclosed. There are actually ways to inject things into foods and food products without having to tell you, the consumer, what you are fully buying. YIKES!

When it comes to fake foods, we are all victims.

Our Children are Fake Foods Biggest Fans

The basic child diet consists of a lot of fake foods. Mac and cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggets make up the cornerstones of the preferred kid’s diet.

It is convenient and kids love it. The reason comes down to consistency. A chicken nugget will always taste like a chicken nugget. The shape is always the recognizable weird shape or in some vague dino shape. Kids recognize it in shape, color, taste and its easy for them to eat.

Many parents, myself included, have caved to the pickiness of trying to get kids to eat a veggie or fruit. In schools, day cares and pre-schools, packaged foods and drinks can be counted on as the meals and snacks provided. Once again because they know kids will eat it and it’s easy and cheap.

As a child grows up they become picky eaters instead of curious about the foods of the world. It limits their willingness to try new things and makes it one of the most frustrating aspects of family meals.

Even baby food is made in this way of consistency. What is more scary though is many baby foods include sugars that add to the desire to increase sugar in the diet as they grow. It literally changes the taste bud so real food is not good tasting.

How to break up with fake food

The hard core among us would advise breaking up cold turkey. A thorough sweep of your pantry and fridge with large donations to the local food bank. poof! A clean slate in which to introduce misery, irritability and hangry outbursts from everyone in your home.

To make matters more severe, let’s say you did a complete sweep and then you restocked your pantry and fridge with organic everything including tons of fresh produce. While certainly healthy you and well intended, you are likely not going to have good family relationships for a while. This was also very costly and an extreme way to improve your diet. Unfortunately, this has often proved a very harsh approach that not many find achievable or sustainable long term.

My family’s approach was not so severe and we continue to evolve as we find ways that work best for us. It takes time, but is also much less expensive. We also found a way to make it inclusive of all our tastes and likes while still balancing real life. Let’s face it, you and your family are never going to entirely avoid birthday cakes, chicken nuggets and sodas for the rest of your life.

Nor should you.

The first step we did was stopped buying some of the regular fake foods you’d find in our pantry. We experimented with different fresh fruits and veggies to find what we liked. We started looking for the organic label on produce and products and bought in small quantities to try them. Warning, organic peanut butter takes a bit if you are used to a certain brand.

I looked for sales to try different things we wanted to try. While I think it’s important to find healthy options and reduce fake foods in your home, it is also important to realize we all live on budgets. Food is not free. Taking the time to try things, figure out the prices and make sure it is a viable product your family likes, will use and is worth your money.

It is perfectly fine to honor your budget and your health. Both are important. – Amy Kramer, Dragonspit Apothecary

The good news is most organic foods do not cost more, and in many cases are comparable and even less than regular products. My favorite is telling people I found organic angel hair pasta for less than regular angel hair pasta. For the most part the difference is going to be cents in terms of cost.

This approached worked well for us because we were able to honestly say if we liked something or not. It gave us time to make budget changes and find ways to incorporate healthier eating in our home over time. It didn’t feel sneaky and was not interruptive to what we were already eating. Yet it was small incremental and intentional changes we were making every time we went grocery shopping.

Fake Food Grocery Store Education

When my husband looked at our current jar of Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter and the new jar of organic crunchy peanut butter he concluded they were pretty much the same things in both. This was true on the surface but the fact that all the ingredients in the organic version had organic in front of them and there were less ingredients in it was the difference.

Organic means it was minimally processed, was not exposed to chemicals and pesticides and was grown or made in the most natural way possible. There are not added things in the product to extend shelf life or make it prettier with the use of dyes. This slight change makes the organic peanut butter healthier by the standard that while calories, carbs, and other label percentages are similar the actual ingredients are not processed or chemical based.

This is the case with a lot of fake foods versus organic. This is where reading the complete label is important. Many companies are producing more organic products in response to the consumer demand for better. As a result, it is also necessary to know the company, parent company and sourcing of the product in some cases.

Green-washing is the process by which a company will make seemingly good changes to their product to make it better and more healthy. In reality, it is a switch of hand that covers up hidden things in the product that are not any better than the original ingredients. You’ll see this a lot in green-washed cleaning products but the same principle can happen with food products.

Essentially, if you cannot pronounce the ingredients or have to Google them, it’s probably something that falls more into the fake food category.

Filling your cart changes when you make this relationship change with your grocery store aisles. There are still bags, boxes and packages of things but the quality of them vastly improves.

Your cost for groceries stays about the same overall from my experience.

Why break up with fake food?

You can say food is food and whatever you can get cheaper is ok. Many people do this and I used to be one of them.

The truth is long term the impact to your health makes this change necessary. The sooner you can incorporate even small changes in the quality of foods you consume the more you are investing in your future health as well as improving now.

What I find most interesting in the fake foods we see typically in our home is how easy we have been made to believe they are right for us. Logically, we know these things are questionable at least. Yet out of convenience, habit, cost and just not knowing any different we buy these fake foods all the time. They are advertised to us constantly and often on sale making them irresistible.

Plus our family likes them. The kids won’t fuss about it so it seems a no-brainer.

When you take those first steps though to change that scenario you not only see improvements in the food that’s coming into your home but in how your family feels. Food is as much an emotional nourishing device as it is physical. The relationship between food, emotions and physical need is intertwined so tightly that often this is why doctors cannot find cures to what is causing is to be ill.

Breaking up with fake food is an incredible journey that will leave you feeling healthier, happier and more aware of just how wrong we have been steered down the aisles of the grocery store.

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