If you’re like most people I know, this list won’t change your life.
But if you dare, read on. Read slowly.
You’re on your lunch break, and you want to find something fresh and healthy. So you hurry into Subway and order something like a 9-grain wheat bread, some chicken breast strips, American cheese, olives, and light mayo. Here’s what you’re actually eating.
Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, whole wheat flour, sugar, contains 2% or less of the following: wheat gluten, oat fiber, soybean oil, wheat bran, salt, wheat, rye, yellow corn, oats, triticale, brown rice, barley, flaxseed, millet, sorghum, yeast nutrients (calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), vitamin D2, dough conditioners (DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, potassium iodate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide), caramel color, refinery syrup, honey, yeast extract, natural flavor, enzymes.
CHICKEN BREAST STRIPS:
Boneless, skinless chicken breast with rib meat; water, flavor (potassium chloride, maltodextrin, sugar, autolyzed yeast extract, gum arabic, molasses, flavors, salt, lactic acid, disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate, fructose, medium chain triglycerides, dextrose, succinic acid, vinegar solids, thiamine hydrochloride and artificial flavors), soy protein concentrate, modified potato starch, sodium phosphates, salt. Contains soy
AMERICAN CHEESE (processed):
Cultured milk and skim milk, water, cream, sodium citrate, salt, sodium phosphate, sorbic acid (preservative), citric acid, acetic acid, enzymes, lecithin. Contains soy and milk
Ripe olives, water, salt, ferrous gluconate
Water, soybean oil, food starch-modified*, distilled vinegar, egg yolks, contains less than 2% of eggs, salt, spice, potassium sorbate* (a preservative), phosphoric acid*, calcium
disodium EDTA added to protect flavor, DL-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), extractive of paprika, soy lecithin*, phylloquinone (Vitamin K1).
*Ingredient not normally found in mayonnaise.
This is one sandwich. How many of the ingredients did you recognize? If I counted correctly, it took over 100 ingredients to create this sandwich.
I’m not trying to pick on Subway, but it is a great example of an often considered healthier fast food.
But is this real food?
It’s not just at Subway. Go to a grocery store and find cheese that doesn’t have coloring in it. Try buying food without sugar, soy, or corn in it. Do not be deceived by an organic or “all natural” label. Sauce, salad dressing, yogurt, deli meat, bread…it’s everywhere.
We are constantly consuming hundreds of preservatives and ingredients we can’t even pronounce… and they are making us sick.
Andrew Olson was stunned by the ingredient list for subway sandwiches too. He began an unconventional diet on The One Ingredient Chef where he stopped eating everything that isn’t in its “natural state.” Basically, you “stop eating any foods that contain more than one, whole ingredient that you can hold in your hand. Cut out the ingredients and you cut out the processing.” Find out why this works: http://www.oneingredientchef.com/one-ingredient-diet/
Many people who hear about my struggles with food don’t know what to make of it. We live in a Starbucks-On-The-Go culture, where our food comes wrapped plastic, not from the earth.
Our culture has become so disconnected from the source and quality of our food, that most can rarely taste how fake it has become. Did you know that some honey companies will actually feed bees corn syrup and call it natural? We feed processed and genetically modified food to our children that is banned or severely restricted in over sixty other countries.
I share this because I believe much of the sickness I’ve struggled with has been tied to the food I grew up eating. My parents have always valued home cooking and crazy concoctions like vegetable scrambles and green smoothies. Still, we consumed food sprayed daily with pestides and pumped with preservatives. And the previous generations grew up eating hearty meals out of the can. Now, generations later, I do not doubt that its effects are written in our genes.
More and more young people are discovering illnesses like Crohn’s disease, severe allergies, or intolerances. We’re not in our forties or fifties anymore; we’re thirty, twenty, even teenagers. Although we can be genetically prone to certain conditions, the majority of our gut health is an accumulation of environmental factors. Did you know that some people who are gluten-intolerant in the United States have traveled to Italy and experienced no reactions to the pasta there?
In the United States and most Western countries, diet-related chronic diseases represent the single largest cause of morbidity and mortality. – Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet
For the love of people and sandwiches, we deserve better.
We should feel free to eat and enjoy food. I’m not saying to ditch the chocolate, but to be more conscious of journey your food makes to your table.
But, you may be thinking, I want food with soul, not that cardboard, gluten-free stuff.
Me too. There are fantastic alternative recipes out there; it just requires a little more searching. That’s what my blog has been all about trying to do: how to somehow keep the pleasure of food alive without sacrificing our health.
I’ve been far from this since my diet has taken a turn for worse, but that has only confirmed how desperately we need to start rethinking food.
Also, note that taste buds really change. When your diet has a steady income of sugar, everything is going to need sugar to keep up with that. When you go without it for a couple months, well, everything begins to taste different.
Anyway, I think we’ve got enough collective brain power in this country to challenge the food consumer culture. We should be asking some serious questions about sustainability and food justice. Who are the sickest people in our country, and what are they eating? Why do the poor have such limited access to fruits and vegetables? What environmental sacrifices are we making in order to mass produce our food? Considering our country’s wealth and resources, why does our middle and upper class just keep getting sicker and sicker? Why have so many other countries prohibited the processed food we eat?
Of course, accepting the reality of this can feel incredibly difficult and isolating. It requires personal sacrifices and time. I live this every day.
But I hope that in the least, this post may prompt you to think twice about how you read labels.