Holidays

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Cheap Food, Real Food Hype

English: Photo by R L Sheehan of commercially ...

Let’s get something straight: “All natural,” “natural flavor,” and “natural ingredients” don’t mean shit. Well, actually, maybe they do mean shit. Shit is natural.

“Natural” is a clever marketing term from dear old Madison Avenue, where the dear old ad agencies roam. “Natural” is a term designed to fool you into thinking a food product is healthy and good for you. “Natural” can be used ANY WAY THE FOOD COMPANY WANTS TO USE IT. If they can find something in nature that mimics a natural flavor, like castoreum that is sometimes extracted from the anal glands of a beaver to make artificial raspberry flavoring, they’ll throw the “natural flavor” label on the product. Even though it’s not done a lot because the critter has to be talked into excreting it…. well,

First of all, euu. Second, WHO tasted the anal glands of a beaver and decided “this is just like eatin’ a raspberry?” It’s a Jeff Foxworthy bit if ever I’ve heard one. Here’s a thought, why not simply use raspberry juice or even the flippin’ raspberry itself to flavor stuff? I mean seriously, the anal gland of a beaver? I’ll go with no flavoring at all if that’s the case.

Food with “natural” anything is a chemical experiment. It’s cheaper to add this to that and get something resembling the real taste of a real food than it is to grow it, water it, harvest it, ship it and stock it in the stores. There is a lot more manual labor involved, so the cost of real food is higher than the “Frankenfood.” And Frankenfood has to compete with other Frankenfoods, so Madison Avenue designs clever ad campaigns to fool us. When the last time you saw two different brands of bananas duking it out on TV, or a brand of mango trashing talking another? It doesn’t happen.

Real food doesn’t need ad campaigns. You may see a few, like for Cuties (oranges) or the old Chiquita banana and the Idaho potato commercials. But I can’t recall ever seeing them for: asparagus, mushrooms, lettuce, carrots, peppers, onions, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes or radishes. People eat them anyway.

Food companies, whether they are fast food chains or mega brands like Kraft, Nestlé, etc. have one goal and one goal only, and that is: to make money. HOW can they make money? By putting CHEAP ingredients in their foods. They ARE NOT CONCERNED WITH YOUR HEALTH. So stop believing all the fucking hype about natural this or whole-grain that. Whole grain is great if it doesn’t come with a lot of other processed muck, and I’m slowly changing my stance on whole grains even being healthy for you. They are better than a lot of alternatives, but at least as far as bread products go, they are still processed food. We don’t exactly walk out to the field and start munching on a stalk of wheat or oats.

The easiest way to avoid buying overly processed foods is to simply shop the perimeter of the store. Dive into the aisles for things like cleaning vinegar, nuts, or my personal favorite food group: coffee. Take your time in replacing your favorite Frankenfood, and don’t expect every change to mean that you can NEVER have your favorite food again. Just limit that crap out of it. I used to LOVE hot dogs as a kid, and now I allow myself to have one (as close to a healthy version as possible) once a year on July 4th, if I want it. At Christmas, I get to have a slice of pecan pie, organic as possible. In springtime, when Swensons drive-in opens, I’ll allow myself a sloppy American burger if I want it. (I don’t always because I imagine the price I’ll pay with my digestion over three days.) The thing is limiting the bad foods, and not, not ever having them again. Remember you’ve tasted ALL the bad foods before, and many times over, I’m betting. So try some new things. Healthy things. Tasty things. And let me know what you discover.

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Eight Tips for a Stress Free Holiday

Christmas gifts.

The mere mention of “the holidays” can cause a stress reaction. What does that mean?  It means the body reacts with a “flight or fight” response, which causes the release of adrenaline and cortisol, and that wouldn’t be so bad if they also didn’t cause our heart rate and blood pressure to rise and our digestion to slow down. Some studies link excess cortisol to abdominal fat. Who wants to fight the battle of the bulge without at least eating something decadent to deserve the flippin’ muffintop? Stress tears down your immune system causing you to be susceptible to every bug going around, including the nasty yearly flu. (Read The Mean Nurse’s Flu Prevention Tips and What You Don’t Know About the Flu Vaccine Can Hurt You!) Stress ages your body and your face. Ack!

Too many parties to attend, gifts to buy, kids home from school, relatives, food, and noise take a toll and at the end you collapse from exhaustion and wonder: “where did the spirit of the holidays go?” You’re exhausted, cranky and OH LOOK… Santa gave you an extra five pounds in your stocking! The bastard.

If you don’t want the stress, exhaustion and the extra weight, try some of the following strategies. You might have a shot at keeping the holiday spirit alive without needing to drink so much of the holiday spirits!

1)         Keep your regular routine. Whether you take a CrossFit or yoga class every Thursday night or go running, do not skip it just to attend an office party. Do both. Your presence will only be missed for a short while and you will keep your integrity and commitment to your health. Knowing that you have to work off whatever you eat or drink may prevent you from overindulging.

2)         Don’t accept every invitation. More parties with more food and alcohol means an ever-expanding waistline. Do you really want to spend an extra five or six hours of your life working that off?

3)         Make instead of buying. Homemade gifts come from the heart, and they can be as simple as a cookie mix in a canning jar to as complicated as a handmade china cabinet. Handcrafted gifts are imbued with your energy and love you have for the receiver. If you aren’t a handy person, visit a local holiday craft fair. You will find plenty of items for gift-giving.

4)         Recycle. We’ve all had something in our house that someone has envied and commented on every time they visit. So take the thing they love, wrap it up and give it to them. Chances are they will treasure it always, and you will get visitation rights! The Swedes actually have a holiday tradition of exchanging one personal item they no longer use with a loved one who chooses a similar item from their own household.

5)         Buy throughout the year instead of waiting until the end of the year. People’s tastes generally remain the same and you probably could have most of your holiday shopping done by the time the season rolls around. Shop throughout the year, and it will save you hours of frustration and stress later.

6)         Cut down on the number of gifts you buy for each person. In Italy, most families only give one, maybe two, gifts to one another and that includes the children. The time families spend together is more important than any gifts they receive.

7)         Only make the food you need. We have all come away from family gatherings with containers or plates of extra food. Again, think of that extra exercise time. Prepare and take less home with you.

8)         Ask people what they would like to receive instead of trying to guess. Consider taking them shopping with you and let them pick out the item they want. Adults especially care less about ripping off the wrapping paper than children, and would rather not have to stand in the returns line.

How do you make your holidays less stressful?

Any tips or tricks you’d like to share that streamline gift giving, baking or decorating?

 

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