Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Wendy-vore's Dilemma: Or How Michael Pollan Has Ruined Me

As most of you know, I've been on Weight Watchers for a year now. Yay! My "anniversary" date was in September. I lost 28 pounds in 12 months. Which is pretty good. (Although, there's this one lady at my meetings who has lost 56 pounds since January!!) I've still got about 8 pounds to go before I reach my goal weight. And I'm working on it.

In order to lose that weight (and keep losing), I've had to totally change the way I think about food. In my attempts at a paradigm shift, I read the book, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

That book has now ruined me. I will never think about food the same way again. 

Since I can't rehash the entire book in a blog post, here is Pollan's own synopsis of his work: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

By "food", he means real stuff. Like apples and blueberries. Not apple-cinnamon cheerios or Martha White "blueberry" muffins. He even goes so far as to list the ingredients on a loaf of Sara Lee's white bread and proclaim that it is not, in fact, bread, but a "bread product." He cautions against anything labelled with health claims. Real food doesn't need health claims and usually doesn't come with a label anyway.

I really can't do the book justice so you'll just have to go read it for yourself to see exactly what I'm talking about. 

So here is my own dilemma. In looking for "healthy" recipes for me and my family, I run across ones such as this frosting recipe from Hungry Girl

HG's Crazy-Amazing Cream-Cheese Frosting
1/8th of recipe (1 heaping tbsp.): 20 calories, PointsPlus
® value 1*

This creamy frosting tastes good on almost everything... Sweet stuff, anyway! 

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
1/2 cup Cool Whip Free (thawed)

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix cream cheese with Splenda. Add Cool Whip, and stir well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Spread and enjoy!

Cream-cheese frosting for 1 PointsPlus???? Yes, please!!! 

But wait......fat free cream cheese? Fat free foods are made by removing the fat and then adding in sugar, gums, oil, and other things to make up for the lack of fat. 

Splenda? That's an artificial sweetener. They have a long history of controversy. Some people don't mind them and others avoid them like the plague. Personally, I refuse to eat them if I can help it. I think the jury is still out on their safety. Plus, isn't regular sugar (grown in a field, not a lab) better? 

Cool Whip Free? The same problem as the fat free cream cheese. This is no doubt made to taste the same as regular whipped cream by the addition of sugar and chemicals to mimic the fat that is usually found in cream. 

So which do I choose? I can make this version and only have to count 1 point for my daily points value. But it's filled with chemicals and "fake" food! But if I switch and use real cream cheese, real sugar, and real whipped cream, the nutritional statistics will be astronomical! 

What should I do??? 

At this point I am stumped. I try to strike a balance between processed food and whole food. I use low fat dairy products but nothing fat free. I avoid artificial sweeteners except for the trident gum and breath mints I munch on to keep myself from snacking all day long. I try to go for "real food" as much as possible, but some days, a Stouffer's lasagna in the microwave for 30 minutes gets dinner on the table when I'm tired and everyone around me is cranky. I haven't purchased Hamburger Helper or Homestyle Bakes at all since I read that book. 

In some ways, I am no wiser now than when I wrote this rant about food. I understand the objection to processed food now but I'm still lost as to which way is "better."

I would ask what anyone reading this thinks about my dilemma, but food philosophies are now almost as dangerous to discuss in polite company as religion and politics!

I think I'll just go have a glass of water.