I’m reluctant to say so, as if saying so makes it so, but I feel the changing of the season.  There has been a break in the hot summer weather and the cooler, crisp air smells of early fall.  Perhaps one of the bigger signs of the onset of autumn is that the kids are reluctantly approaching their return to school.  I’m starting to wonder if we will be able to fit in all the summer fun I had hoped?  

Yet, the surest sign of late summer is not external.  In the same sort of mysterious way that furry animals begin to grow a longer coat or the leaves begin to change, my body senses the arrival of a new season.  Have you noticed it? I feel a little more sleepy in a certain way that I only do in the fall, as if a cozy warm bed is the right place to be.  I find myself craving pumpkin, acorn and butternut squashes, parsnips and beets.  I want hearty roasted vegetables, thick potato or pea soup and dense, rich, homemade bread of a variety of flavorful grains.  I look forward to a warm herbal tea.

The onset of new cravings and some worthwhile new reading about nutrition and diet has got me thinking lately about how and what we eat.  As someone who tends toward a diet low in animal protein, one of the things I love about my current reading is the emphasis on considering how different each individual is.  Our genetic makeup, our blood type, our ancestry- all of these things play a role in determining the best diet for us.  There is no “one size fits all” in the world of nutrition.  What to eat can be so confusing, especially when certain foods, diets, or lifestyles can be proven both healthy and unhealthy at the same time.  Milk is a great example of that and for years I wondered, what is the deal? I mean, why would something unhealthy be peddled as great for us? How else does one get calcium, but from milk?

Knowing that there is no one diet for everybody is comforting.  If your ancestors came from a place where no one drank milk, then perhaps it is not a food your body will tolerate well.  On the other hand, if milk was heavily consumed by the family that came long before you did, maybe you will do well to include it in your diet.  Personally, I’m convinced that some things will just not be great for us, but I’m not on a crusade to shut down the dairy farmers.  What I do feel needs some attention, however, is how far removed our eating habits are from those of the folks who came before us.  

The moment you walk into a grocery store you become a target.  I will even go as far as saying that you are being taken advantage of.  Items are placed strategically, packaging is bright, colorful and inviting.  A game of semantics is played out on each of the fun packages before you, leading you to conclude that the highly processed food you see is natural, nutritious, or healthy.  I realize this idea might worry some folks, because to tell you the truth it worried me.  I felt, at the suggestion that what I was buying for myself and my family was less than wholesome, a wall of defense arise within me.  I wanted to write the new information off since it clearly came from a bunch of crazy, crunchy tree huggers.

You are smarter than that, though.  You realize, as I came to, that we are constantly the target of advertising.  Companies of all types look to their bottom line and how to maximize profits.  Those selling us things want us to have an emotional connection to their product.  Someone will  buy sugar-coated, petroleum-based dye-filled toaster treats for her kids’ breakfast, because the company has craftily lead consumers to believe that they will meet the goal of every mother out there: she will have happy, cooperative kids eagerly joining her for breakfast in her harmonious, happy kitchen.  That same company also knows that her kids will beg her for it, because they will be totally hooked on the remarkable amount of sugar in the toaster treat... or the breakfast cereal... or the flavored oats... There is a science behind selling things to you and it happens wherever you go, even at the grocery store.

Before I start to sound too much like one of the raving, crazy, crunchy tree huggers I was so afraid of in the past, let me regroup a bit.  I do not aim to make you feel bad about what you might buy, no.  I hope to call to your attention to the fact that once not too long ago in the past sugar was hard to come by.  Meals did not come out of cardboard boxes or bags.  Once not so long ago, the foods people ate were not filled with so many unpronounceable additives, sugars, salts, or dyes.  Once upon a time, food looked more like it did when it came from the field or the farm, and that is what I hope to get you to consider.  Are the companies selling you smiling bear crackers for your tot concerned with his health and longevity, or their bottom line? Is a product so devoid of nutrients that it requires fortification really good for you, or is that tiger just too darned cute to push a cart past? Is it trickery to sell you a product which is truly a cookie, but in the shape of a bar with some works like, “sunny,” or “happy,” appearing on the box? You be the judge- but do me one favor and chew on it for a bit: is your health being stolen by the clever marketing of processed foods? Just look around and pay attention, how is food being sold to you and is what you are eating nurturing you, sustaining you, and keeping you healthy?

As always, I love to hear what you think.  Comments welcome!


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    Jennifer Loebel