Let’s talk about grocery shopping this week. What do you purchase when you go to the supermarket? On March 11, 2013, former first lady Michele Obama shared her grocery shopping experience within her ‘Against Childhood Obesity’ speech.
“It wasn’t that long ago that I was juggling a demanding job with two small children and a husband who traveled. Back then, something as simple as a grocery shopping trip required a finely-combed plan of attack. So if the fruit wasn’t already packaged, you could forget about it,” she said. “I did not have time for bagging and weighing and calculating costs in my head. I was all about grab and go, you hear me?”
Being a working mom in USA with no help from family, I certainly understand that it is hard to cook after working all day. Convenience matters. I do, however, have to remind you to be cautious about how much nutrition (or lack thereof) processed food can deliver to us. When the label is marked “healthy,” it might just actually mean it is “less bad” for you. Sometimes, it might not even end up being less bad! If a muffin is low fat and high in fiber, it means there might be artificial ingredients used as substitute for butter in it. That’s not good! The right amount of fat is actually beneficial for you. Our brain is composed of 60% fat. (Read “How Eating Fat Can Make You Smarter”). I would say, let a muffin be muffin. Put real butter and cream fraiche in the batter. Then, balance the indulgence with eating salad and fresh fruit for lunch!
Having taught cooking class to children for years, I am used to how foreign real food can be for children in the modern age. They eat the fruit that is pre cut and pre packaged. Some of them don’t even recognize the same fruit as whole, but they can easily recognize them as the slices in their plastic container. During one class, I asked, “How do you tell if a melon is good when you’re in a supermarket?” No one was able to answer my question. “It’s simple. If it is heavy it means it contains good amount of water and therefore is juicy. You also want to smell it. If you can sniff a nice aroma, it means it’s a good melon.” Then, we passed around the melon, to feel the weight and to smell it.
If you let a child choose among an apple, an orange, or a bowl of Fruit Loops, it is very likely that he/she will choose the last one. Who doesn’t like its colorfulness and crunchiness? The package is also fun and vivid. A child may fantasize living in a Rainforest like Dora the Explorer just by watching the package of colorful Fruit Loops with a cute toucan. And, look at the label: zinc, fiber, calcium, folic acid and different kind of vitamin. It’s not bad at all! In “Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal,” journalist Melanie Warner interviewed a Chinese Food Scientist Sang about his opinions on this topic.
Like vitamins, many phytochemicals are destroyed or removed in manufacturing and therefore aren’t particularly abundant in processed foods. Adding them back in, he said, wouldn’t work “from a biological point of view,” meaning they might not function effectively when isolated from their natural fruit and vegetable habitat. “Americans think you can eat poorly and then take supplements,” he said. “The idea is try your best to eat healthy in the first place.”
Being parents, we have to stand for food that is food. Let children taste the intrinsic flavor of real food. It can be informative and fun. Take oranges for example. Instead of buying Tropicana, why don’t we make the juice from scratch? The children will have opportunity to learn there are different kinds of oranges: navel, blood and Cara Cara (red Navel orange) and to taste those oranges and to compare the flavor profile of them.
I would say, the best categrories to shop in the supermarket are the raw ingredients, such as produce, flour, nuts, meat, seafood and dairy. Then, you take them home and create your own dishes from scratch. This way you know there are no harmful ingredients added to it.
As Alfred E Newman once put it, “We are living in a world where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” If you’re too busy to make food from scratch, go to places of good reputation such as Flour Bakery. If you are interested in learning how to cook, book an in-home lesson with me. I would love to share the joy of cooking with you.