Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I am getting quite tired of all the talk about “nutritional food” vs “junk food”. It seems like we have talked and talked about nutrition until the word has lost all meaning. It is now in the same ball-park as other overused words like “democracy” and “freedom”. But the talk continues and now I see that some schools in England have dispensed with dispensing machines and are only serving hot “nutritional meals” to the kids and they are hoping and pushing for the same effort to be made in other developed countries.

So what is the context of nutrition in your mind? Anything that isn’t deep-fried? Any drink without sugar? Is it anything without salt, or sugar, or chemicals to retain freshness? Or is it anything that is so completely free of calories that it is one step removed from cardboard? Or does your mind just skip to six servings a day of fresh vegetables and fruits calculated by multiplying the amount of food you can hold in the palm of your hand? Or is it only brown eggs, and organic fruits and veggies? Is it only products made with whole grains? Or maybe its foods like apples, carrots, and potatoes with skins on. Maybe it’s just stuff high in fibre and low in fat. You see what a problem this nutrition business is.

But it becomes an even greater problem when one realizes that “nutrition” and “food” are one and the same. Either is any organic substance that contains or consists of essential body nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals, and is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth, and maintain life.

Now obviously, poor people can eat much cheaper by eating high fat, high carb stuff in moderation rather than switching to raw fruits and veggies. Is it fair what they are doing in England? Is it fair when children from families who exist on a repetitive diet of beans at home cannot have a plate of fries and a hamburger at school? How can this obesity-watching trend be democratic when it overlooks the children who are literally starving? When it seems to cater so strongly to those who just have too much money, too much food, too many choices.

Another problem with this Nutrition stuff is that it doesn’t take climate into account. Anyone should know that if you are sawing and splitting wood in minus thirty degree temperatures for four hours, a dinner of a lean piece of dime-sized meat, a palm-full of mashed potatoes, and four pineapple chunks ain’t going to cut it. But on the other hand if you are doing hard labor in a hot sun in the heat of the day in a tropical clime, a cold beer and a banana will suffice nicely for lunch.

But the experts know. And if we, for one minute, doubt the reliability of the experts, they will cough up a highly complex formula for calculating nutrition. Kilojoules vs kilocals, or else a differing formula that adds, subtracts, and finds the cosine of one’s height, ideal body weight, and ultimately nutritional requirements. Don’t even go there. The common man needs a more common solution.

So the oversimplified common solution is that when fat is less, calories are less, and mineral or vitamin content is high, that is nutritional food. So is nutritional food just stuff that allows us to make a total pigs of ourselves without becoming obese? (And if that is the case, why were all of the five Dietitians that I’ve ever been referred to, grossly overweight?)

You know nothing is so great an advantage to anyone in all aspects of life like a bit of self-discipline. How much more are we going to fuzz this nutrition business before we eventually swing to a new ideology that teaches variance and moderation. Or an ideology that has us listening to our bodies telling us what we need.

Now to tell you the truth I’ve never yet seen a comprehensive article written on Nutritious food. God knows, it was like uncovering some secret strategy of war to discover what a “serving” was. Nobody seemed to know. But finally, just yesterday, as a matter of fact, Hub told me what it is. A serving is the amount of peas, potatoes, or meat that you can hold in the palm of your hand. Oh please. Is this for real?

So just because Hub has little hands and short fingers and I have large hands and very long fingers, does that mean I can eat three times as much as him even though physically overall, he is much bigger than I? Does that mean that our rate of body metabolism is directly relative to the size of our hands? That’s about as rational as Big Sis was when she was in charge of splitting up a bag of the candy treats when I was a kid. Her adage was the smaller the child, the smaller the stomach, so as the youngest I got ten jelly beans, Brother, who was a year older got 12, and because she was three years older, she got 40.

Now I shouldn’t even tell you about my research. After all it wasn’t Academia-delegated or Government-funded, so it is quite unreliable for those reasons. Nevertheless, while in a busy airport watching a long line of travelers going through a baggage check, I grabbed a pen and paper and did my own Obesity Study. Out of 117 people, there was a ratio of obesity of 1 obese person to every 9 of standard or skinny proportions. And even at that, the ratio would have been less, because amidst the segment of people I labeled obese, there would have been a percentage that were not obese. They were simply the preferred weight they were meant to be – according to bone structure, height, rate of metabolism, and palm dimensions.


Anonymous Rich D said...

My guess is you're talking about our Jamie Oliver planning to take on America's school meals. I would take up the issue with you where you said that the program favours the richer families.

I watched some of the fascinating tv shows they made of Oliver trying to convince local boroughs to change their school meals systems. The existing meals were highly-processed, high-salt, high-fat, high-sugar, high-chemicals, cooked-from-frozen meals prepared by dinner ladies with no cooking training whatsoever. For very little extra spend (0-5p per child per meal) they ended up providing amazing balanced fresh meals.

The most impressive thing, once the kids got used to not having their french fries, was how much the academic achievements of the schools improved. And the best part was that it gave the opportunity to the kids from less well-off families to actually have a balanced meal every day.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

The academic thing, I just don't know. As a child in a family of 13 there was more than one winter that I existed on a diet of frozen turnips, potatoes, and a bit of wild meat. I didn't see my marks jump come summer when there was berries, veggies, eggs, grains, etc. But one thing I know for sure is nothing could have made me happier during those long months of this mundane diet than a big big platter of greasy fries and a hamburger. A plate of boiled broccoli, mashed potatoes, and lean meat? Hunger existed. I would have eaten it. But not with much relish or excitement.

10:44 AM  

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