(Yes, I am Mom Enough to Say It.)
Everyone is talking about food these days. If it’s not pink slime, bug juice, mechanically separated something or high fructose corn syrup, it’s flax seed, juice diets, kale, greek yogurt, and panko crumbs. In the last day or so, a group is pushing for the White House to ban photos of the President enjoying apparently taboo foods. Now, I grew up on my mother’s Jane Brody-inspired health food in Southern California, and have a three-year old who calls a flax seed granola bar a “cookie”…but even I have officially reached my limit.
First, let’s consider the “foodie” badges I could earn: I’m a public relations specialist in the food and beverage industry. I have a terrible reputation among my family for substituting low-fat, plain yogurt for sour cream and lean ground turkey for beef. I bake my pie crusts from scratch. The rearing-little-locavores award could also be mine since I make and freeze all of my six-month-old’s baby food using fruits and vegetables from the local farmer’s market.
But, I have no problem offering my older daughter chicken nuggets once-in-awhile (and not the organic kind). I like corn dogs (but prefer the whole grain, lean poultry ones to their fattier beef counterparts). Occasionally I’ll treat my daughter to ketchup on the side of her plate. She is a fiend for french fries. And I’ve been known to buy those convenient cracker and cheese kits to make her mealtime a little easier for my husband when I’m on a business trip.
And even though I can hear the critique coming from miles away…(Processed foods?! Am I going to mommy hell?!) I sleep well at night.
Here’s why: What I love most about food is preparing it (or serving it) with love for family and friends. I take great pride in providing for my family. That cracker kit? Sure, not the healthiest entree, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s fun and makes life easier for just one meal and that earns me major points with the husband and my daughter. On those days, I still consider the food I haven’t prepared, be it a convenience item and highly processed, to be a good choice for my family. Just like my homemade grilled vegetables and chicken is good for us on other days. Of course, I think I read somewhere that we’re not supposed to grill anymore, either!
Food, for me, is fun, inspiring and a way I show people that I care. Every day now, I hear or read about foods not being good enough, or worse, being dangerous. It’s aggravating when it comes from family, but unthinkable when it comes from complete strangers.
No wonder the U.S. ranks only 25th in the ranking of the world’s best countries to be a mother. From the time our babies are born, we are watched, judged, criticized or congratulated for how we choose to feed our families. Don’t believe me? Check out this week’s issue of Time.
I understand the need for a fresh look at the American diet, and applaud the increased attention to nutrition education and the virtues of fresh, local foods. Food label transparency and education is key. But this constant rant about what not to eat, or worse, what is scary to eat, especially when it’s based on an agenda, runs the risk of turning listeners off completely.
Please save the warnings for when it really counts. Food recalls. Epidemics on U.S. soil. Otherwise, if the President chooses to indulge in a Five Guys craving on his lunch break before a dinner from The First Lady’s garden, let him have his burger…and I’ll take one, too.