You are what you (think) you eat

NPR recently published an article that posed the idea that labels on food packaging may have a sort of placebo effect.  It’s an interesting theory.  Of course, the science of “calories in/calories burned” remains, but that the idea that the suggested calorie count, or the (perceived) impact on the body of certain food properties, may impact one’s overall intake is fascinating.

Considering how complicated and frequently inconsistent food labeling is globally; and given how ill-equipped most of us are to decipher labels, even who are reasonably educated about diet and nutrition, how do we determine how much labeling is needed, what’s effective, and what’s necessary to disclose?  What is reasonably needed for a person to make an informed judgment about one’s selection (although I’m not sure there is a way to make some of those chemical names sound reasonable)?  How accurate are labels that originate outside our home countries?  Most importantly, how does a regular person cut through all the marketing and red tape to enjoy food that is both satisfying and nutritious, physically, mentally, and emotionally?

The answer is both simple and not.  The simple answer, of course, is to go to source as much as possible.  Raw, fresh, organic, responsible, unadulterated.  Idealistic?  Absolutely.  It means planning ahead, learning basic prep/cooking skills, and making the effort to actually prepare food from scratch.  Is that reasonable?  For most people I’d imagine it is more so than they realize.  However, is it the answer?  I believe not.  Convenience foods are not going to disappear; the industry is tremendously lucrative, and people are accustomed to relying on it.

I’ll admit, I’m a huge fan of takeaway sushi and sandwiches, coffee and muffins.  Sometimes I splash out on pre-made soup or frozen pizza, although I know that home made is always both better and kinder on my budget.  All things in moderation probably remains fine, but I’d prefer to know how my food choices impact me, nutritionally and psychologically, especially where it affects the bottom (scale) line!

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