Salt, Sugar, Fat: the book about creating the irresistable trifecta

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My last post was about the non-nutritious food served on airlines. If you want to learn how, as a nation, we have ended up with an overabundant supply of not food, but food-like substances, as journalist Michael Pollan, calls them, you should read, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by New York Times journalist Michael Moss.

The book is an eye-opening account of the food industry from when it began to employ scientists and marketers, and collude with the government and certain health organizations, to create cheaper food with few real ingredients and many chemicals. How and why the government began paying farmers to overgrow corn, wheat and soy, and how they all promote these fake foods as healthy with false nutrition claims.

There are so many devious, just-this-side-of-lying, and outright lying strategies about the nutritional value of these concoctions of chemicals, you will find the book jaw-dropping; unfortunately, in the worst way.

For example, America’s beloved Velveeta cheese, is a processed cheese-like product invented in 1918. Today, as over the years, its formula has changed, it is labeled as a “pasteurized prepared cheese product,” no longer technically cheese. Certainly it bears no resemblance to cheeses either made by artisanal makers here or in Europe, where the process is slow and personal and the prime ingredient, milk, comes from grass-fed cows.

Oscar Mayer Lunchables, which became a runaway lunch best-seller amongst kids, had not a speck of nutrition in it. It was the company’s way to reel in more money. Tang, which captured America’s heart when astronauts took it into space, has more sugar in it than soda. Cheap hamburger meat, that goes through bleaching and worse, that got termed “pink slime” finally got pulled off supermarket shelves when enough people complained. Trust me, I was raised on Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink and Pop Tarts and daily tuna fish sandwiches on Wonder bread. And an all time favorite, Chef Boy Ar Dee canned ravioli!

The history of how quick, cheap, processed foods arose is fascinating and all here. It started with a Kellogg brother, John Harvey, a doctor, nutritionist and health activist who created a sanitarium for people to regain their health in Battle Creek, Michigan. One of this main staples on the menu was whole grain cereal, no added sugar. When his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, in John’s absence on a trip to Europe, added sugar to the cereal and saw how people loved it, he split away from his brother and created the first sugar-laden breakfast cereal – Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Frosted with what? Sugar. American breakfast was born.

Coca Cola is given a lot of attention as a genius company for strategizing and turning the entire world onto Coke. During WWII they got Coke out to soldiers on battlefields, adding a patriotic feel to the product, and into gas station vending machines across the country.  Sad to say today as Americans recently began to drink less Coke, understanding the health risks, Coca Cola began exporting Coke overseas to hook poor people in underdeveloped nations.

You cannot read this book and not understand why we’re facing our current healthcare crisis and epidemic of chronic illness. And why what you eat is at the root of health, and disease.

Best and worst airline food

Each time I’m on an airplane I marvel again at how unhealthy the food is. Yes, if I can, I bring my own food on board, but that’s not always possible. I don’t eat the white bread roll and chemical-heavy salad dressing. I don’t eat whatever processed snack item they may serve like fake pizza. If I actually get a meal, I usually eat the protein and veg of the entree, skip the dessert, and save the cheese for a few hours later.

How interesting that someone actually rated the best and worst foods among most airlines. Turns out Alaska Airlines came in first place. Darn, not much chance I’m going to Alaska anytime soon.

Still, it’s interesting to see how our major and smaller airlines stack up – A ‘diet detective’ rates the best and worst US airline foods or health.

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