A repost from April 2020. In today's age, when we are finding so many ways to argue and find sides, this article seems applicable.
People can be picky and tricky.
In this self-conscious age, there are just as many opinions on how to eat healthy as there are personalities. The list of diets people have clung to include low fat, low sodium, Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan, no red meat, low starch, Paleo, Adkins, juice, intermittent fasting, ketogenic, and DASH. Take your pick, and you’ll find someone who stands by it, and someone who can’t stand it.
In the past few decades, vegetarianism and vegan lifestyles have become more popular, whether they believe it lowers cholesterol, extends people’s lifespans, saves animals, or saves the earth. Vegetarianism eliminates meat from the diet (and vegans eliminate all animal products), and when you take something away—you have to put something in its place. Humans need certain amino acids and vitamins that are readily found in meat—so creative ingredient management allows for many of these items to be replaced by products from plants high in protein.
Enter the veggie burger. I remember my first taste of one of these in the 1990’s—a pressed, lumpy, chewy disk reheated from a freezer box that had little more flavor than the cardboard it was packaged in. Modern “faux meat” or “plant-based protein” is supposed to look, taste, and act so much like the real thing that manufacturers claim they fool even the most devoted red meat eaters with their products.
So even vegans can have a juicy burger, right?
Not so quick. Who are faux meat burger companies really targeting with their commercials? When you have a cowboy who is used to eating red meat biting into a juicy burger, and then tell them you tricked them into eating processed plants, are you targeting the cowboy, or are you targeting the vegetarian? I know some vegans who gag with the thought of biting into meat—much less watching a commercial of a juicy burger.
But then there are the vegetarians who are trying to eat healthy. Just because you see the word “plant-based” doesn’t mean it is healthier. If they look at the ingredient list of one of these new veggie burgers, they are going to see some funny looking names, and a higher sodium content than regular beef. And those people on Paleo diets and trying to eat less processed foods? Don’t look at these faux meat puppies—imagine what has to be done to peas, rice, mung beans, potatoes, apples, etc., to make it look like beef.
The beef folks have grabbed onto this concept to sell their product—and shoot down veggie burgers. Their ads make fun of the ingredient list of the patty, and that it has to be highly processed to imitate what they naturally produce with one ingredient.
So now, through advertising, we have people fighting each other—veggie or beef burger?
Similarly, there is a fight between dairy milk producers concerned with almond and soy “milk” manufacturers taking over their market. The alternate products are good for those with lactose difficulties—but dairy farmers don’t like that they use the word “milk” because they don’t come from animals. They do have a point—I know someone who thought almond milk was just cow milk flavored with almonds, not a dairy free product that didn’t benefit the dairy producers. This seems to me another advertising fight: are you on the side of soy/almond or cow milk?
You know who wrote about this years ago? Dr. Seuss. Remember the Sneetches? Butter side up or down? They launched a war over something as silly as food preference.
Rings a bell, doesn’t it?
Pretty soon, we’ll have the beef producers launching steaks at the pea and mung bean producers, and the almond producers shooting the dairy cattle with nuts. THAT sounds nuts to me.
As a consumer, it is your job to be informed. Do your homework—know what you are buying, know what is good for you. Don’t rely on advertising to tell you what you should be eating or doing. And perhaps advertisers should be focusing more on the positive aspects, rather than picking fights with what they feel are their competitors.
As far as what we should be eating: who do you know that only eats one kind of food? “Chicken only, thanks”. “Lettuce every day”. “But we had shrimp last night, Mom!” Boy, that would be boring. So unless you have Crohn’s or lactose intolerance or a proven reason to avoid eating what you are avoiding—I’ve found that variety really is the spice of life, and if you eat with moderation, and eat with mindfulness—chances are, you’ll do well. And respect what’s on your neighbor’s plate, please.
Can’t we all just get along?
Hey—if we start agreeing to find a middle ground for our respective diets, maybe we can talk the politicians into reading some Dr. Seuss—and bring the Sneetches’ lesson to Washington, D.C.!
Thanks for reading,
Julie S. Paschold
April 17, 2020
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