Soon, The Dietary Guidelines for 2020 are due to be released. As usual, there will be a flurry of discussions, debates, praise and criticisms somewhat dependent on what sections of the food industry are happy and those who are not. The Dietary Guidelines, in my opinion, reflect who won the battle for the food industry’s interests this time around, to make sure their profit margins are kept intact. Little else new is gained from them and little attention is paid to them after their endlessly repeated advice based on lobbyists and politics. Who will win out this time? In the past few decades, the advice has lacked conviction, e.g. what is moderation, and has been so diluted, it plays little role in how our food supply affects our health. Enjoy a little history of past advice and forgive me for the cynicism.
Do you feel guilty if you do not eat healthy foods? Most of us don’t but there are people who now comprise a group exhibiting a new eating disorder called orthorexia.
The following article by Mark Bittman may put this eating pattern in a reasonable perspective. The Bottom Line? Enjoy food but make healthy choices (most of the time). This philosophy as stated by Bittman is refreshing – Seems to resemble the traditional diet of the French – the Good Life Savored.
“Eating well is an integral part of their national heritage. To say the French know their food is an understatement and it has been said that even their children are serious “foodies” with two-hour multi course lunches (not uncommon in France)” – all this without guilt. Contrast that with the typical American with a quick drive-through grabbing a burger with fries and eating them in the car with some snacking throughout the day. The French also maintain their weight with little dieting, calorie counting or snacking.” They simply say: If you eat too much one day, cut back the next day. Pretty simple advice but it seems to work (at least for them).
Source: 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines. by Steven Jonas, M.D, and Sandra Gordon.
Note: Obesity rates in France are among the lowest in Europe, but have been increasing steadily. The increase has been attributed to an increased adoption of the Western diet or Standard American Diet.
In France, almost 40% are overweight (including obese). You can contrast that with the U.S. at 70% (overweight and obese).
After 150 years of becoming a nation obsessed with weight loss, we still have not grasped the true experience of how difficult it is to lose and more importantly maintain that loss (if it occurs) so many still seek the “quick fix” Of course, the obesity industry likes it that way – success does not help them obtain more business and appears to keep their customers coming back for more promises and sometimes unhealthy claims.
This post addresses with more detail a previous post on a diet time line, tilted Is Dieting Dead ? from Banting to weight loss surgery for the morbidly obese. The obese get blamed for their dilemma which adds to their guilt, whereas, the emphasis should be more focused on not only how hard weight loss is, but keeping it off avoiding the Yo-Yo dieting phenomenon. This leaves the obesity industry even more gleeful as their customers keep returning. From Obesity Soap in 1903 to the dangerous Tape Worm Diet, the Drinking Man’s Diet, and eating disorders, the quest furthers our national obsession with weight. An excellent book,The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight, by Susan Yager aptly addresses this issue.
The New York World’s Fair: 1964
“In 1964, international cuisine was scarce in the United States , and few Americans had tasted Indian, Korean or Middle Eastern food. At the 1964 New York World’s Fair they got their chance. With 140 pavilions representing 37 countries on a concourse of nearly 650 acres, taking in the entire fare was difficult with 112 restaurants to choose from, deciding where to eat was even tougher. The exhibition boasted regional foods from Japan and Lebanon, Africa and Spain, Hawaii and Belgium. The Indian pavilion served tandoori and paratha; The Korean pavilion featured kimchi and other garlicky specialties. Jordan’s restaurant offered hummus and shwarma and the Hawaiian pavilion had a luau. Spain’s stunning pavilion complete with an art gallery displaying original works by Goya, Valezquez, El Greco, Miro and Picasso, offered authentic Spanish fare at three restaurants. the Belgium village had a 1500 seat beer Hall and a breakfast house that introduced the Belgium waffle to America. The fat, fluffy treat piled high with strawberries and whipped cream was, without a doubt, the fair’s biggest food sensation.” Bon Appetit, September, 1999.
‘Eggo waffles were invented in San Jose, California, by Frank Dorsa, who developed a process by which waffles could be cooked, frozen, and packaged for consumers. In 1953, Dorsa, along with younger brothers Anthony and Sam, introduced Eggo frozen waffles to supermarkets throughout the United States. Because of the egg flavor, customers called them “Eggos”. Eventually the name became synonymous with the product and, in 1955, the Dorsa brothers officially changed the name to “Eggo”. In 1968, as a means of diversification, the Kellogg Company purchased Eggo. Their advertising slogan—”L’eggo my Eggo”—developed by Leo Burnett in 1972 is well known through their television commercials.” WIkipedia
White House Style: The Kennedy Years
“From the moment Jacqueline and John F Kennedy moved into the White House in 1961, the world could see that a new generation had arrived. With their keen interest in history, literature, the arts, food and entertaining, the youthful, scholarly charismatic Kennedy’s roused stodgy Washington by setting new standards in everything from clothing to table decor and cuisine. The first lady, an avid recipe collector who loved French food, hired French chef Rene Verdon from New York’s Carlyle hotel to serve as executive chef at the mansion. The Kennedys hosted legendary dinners with dance, concerts, poetry readings, performances of Shakespeare, and other entertainment that showcased the best America had to offer.”
Bon Appetit, September, 1999.
1951 I Love Lucy debuts on CBS.
1952 The Lipton food company rolls out its dehydrated onion soup that will earn it fame as a base for onion soup mix: 2 envelopes of mix plus 1 cup of sour cream. Lipton eventually prints the recipe, “California Dip” on the package.
1953 Eggo Frozen Waffles are introduced.
1954 Employee Gerry Thomas from the C.A. Swanson Co, has an idea (although fellow workers nearly laughed him out of the Omaha plant): package the left-over turkey, along with some dressing, gravy, cornbread, peas and sweet potatoes into a partitioned metal tray, sell it frozen, and consumers could heat it up for dinner. His name for the leftover meal: TV Dinner.
1954 The first Burger King opens in Miami. A burger is 18 cents, as is a milkshake. The Whopper is introduced in 1957 and sells for 37 cents.
1955 Milkshake-machine salesman, Roy Kroc tries to persuade Dick and Mac McDonald (owner of the original McDonalds in California) to franchise their concept. They aren’t interested but tell Kroc to go ahead and try his hand. Kroc opens his first restaurant in Des Plains, ILL., and eventually buys out the McDonalds.
1956 Jif Peanut Butter is introduced.
1956 More than 80 percent of U.S. households have refrigerators. By contrast, only 8 percent of British households have refrigerators.
1957 Better Homes and Gardens prints its first microwave-cooking article.
1957 Margarine sales take the lead over butter.
1958 Eighteen- year-old Frank Carney sees a story in the Saturday Evening Post about the pizza fad among teenagers and college students. With $600 borrowed from his mother, he and his fellow Wichita State classmate, opens the first Pizza Hut in Wichita, KS.
The other day, I cooked a pork tenderloin (at low heat) and was surprised to find the meat “stringy” and not very tender. We had not found that a few years ago when we had used the very same recipe. What has happened to the perfect pig?
Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter. They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm but tender and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing.
Excerpts from an article from U.S. News and World Report (August 15, 2005) offers some reasons.
“Pigs aren’t porky anymore. Instead, they are as lanky as marathon runners. However, today’s pork roasts all too often don’t taste good and the meat is dry.” Through breeding practices, searching for a leaner pig began back in the 1970’s when customers began to demand low fat food products that satisfied the flawed low fat movement for heart health. “This alarmed pork producers who launched a now familiar campaign, “The Other White Meat” attributable to pork that suggested that it was just as lean as chicken. It wasn’t just hype. According to 2005 standards, “supermarket pork is 31% lower in fat than it was 20 years ago.”
“All during the 80’s and 90’s, animal scientists continued to try to say that they could get a leaner hog with more muscle” said a meat scientist at Iowa State University. “They lost the taste, they lost the moisture content”, he said.
So what is the perfect pig? It depends on the time frame. The feral pig was first domesticated in the Middle East and central Asia 9,000 years ago. It was brought to America in 1493 on Columbus’s second voyage. The 1900 pig was bigger to provide lard that was highly prized at the time. Some pigs topped 2,000 pounds. The typical market pig today is lean and muscled, with a market weight of from 275 to 300 pounds.
Everyone has their own motivation when it comes to changing their diet; to lose weight, to be healthier, to eat or reduce meat consumption, to address environmental or animal welfare, and to enjoy great tasting food.
For some of us, the perfect pig is a “happy pig”. Fat or lean – the most important aspect is how the animals are treated by us when they are in our care (my opinion).
Being an “ethical omnivore” is about an attitude towards what you consume and the effect it has on you and others. It also involves how we treat the animals we choose to consume or not to consume. We as “ethical omnivores ” need to know where our food comes from and respect the welfare of the animals in exchange for what they provide for us.
A better idea rather than manipulating their fat content in the ethical treatment of animals may be seeking out and encouraging pastured pigs that are raised with animal welfare standards including compassion and dignity in their own natural environments. There they can receive better diets that are more suited to their physiological needs rather than attempting to alter their size and fat content artificially to please the food industry profits. After some soul searching combined with my love for animals, I think pork will come off our menu for a long time.
A good book to read about animal-human relationships is Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals. Hal Herzog is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on human-animal relations. He is a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and lives in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Even though it has been reported that meat consumption has declined recently, in the past, Americans have been consuming about 150 pounds of “red meat” per capita/year. The percentages are startling: 60% beef, 39% pork, with only 1% for lamb and mutton. The percentage of goat is too small to even mention.
Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter. They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing. Other food animals that were available were goats, sheep and chickens.
Goat meat was the first to be abandoned which virtually disappeared. Goat meat was occasionally consumed in the South by low-income groups as well as some Hispanics. Goat meat is still served in some Mexican restaurants.
Sheep migrated into British cookery as a by-product of wool production, especially in Scotland and Ireland. Lamb eventually became more popular associated with the wool industry in New England, but did not catch on in the South due to the influence of the cotton industry. Later, dairying replaced sheep herding in New England.
The Great Plains became the ideal location for raising cattle. When the corn production moved west, the pig and cattle industry followed. Then, they had to be “walked” back over the mountains to the Eastern seaboards by “drovers”. Cincinnati became known as “Porkopolis”. By the time of the Civil War, Americans were “hooked on pork and had become “the staff of life”, primarily in the South and Midwest.
The Northeast became more partial to beef. New Englanders no longer raised pigs due to the cutting down of the forests for the shipbuilding industry. Little corn was grown to “finish” the pork.
In the Western plains, the American Indians preferred the buffalo, so the government (U.S. Army) figured out that if they could get rid of the buffalo, they also could rid the area of the Indians. Cattle ranchers with the help of the railroads began to raise herds of cattle to replace the once prolific buffalo herds. Progress with the railroads replaced the cattle drives and the Chicago stockyards became the center of cattle slaughter. In 1882, refrigerated cars became more available for safer transportation; the West was running out of grazing land that forced more feedlot “finishing” with corn.
Beef became cheap and ranchers were paid to supply the Indian reservations with beef to prevent starvation (after eliminating the buffalo). For a while beef consumption fell again due to losing its price advantage at the turn of the century until about 1940.
In the early 1950s Americans were eating about equal amounts of beef and pork. By the late 1950s, beef consumption in the U.S. surpassed pork for the first time. By the 1960’s Americans were eating 10 times more pounds of beef and by the 1970s, 25 pounds more.
Why is beef king in the U.S?
- Changes in beef production and marketing at the end of WW II fit the new postwar lifestyles. Meat had been rationed during WWII.
- Improved breeds appeared that were given soy, fish meal, corn, sorghum, hormones, antibiotics that allowed faster “finishing” times due to accelerated growth since the cattle ate day and night.
- Lifestyles began to involve more home ownership in the suburbs, which lead to outdoor grilling. Beef patties were ideal grillers; pork patties fell apart.
- There were no dangers of trichinosis with beef.
- Women entered the workplace that resulted in eating outside the home.
- The fast food industry exploded and the hamburger became the staple at the drive-in.
- Presently it is estimated that Americans are eating about three hamburgers a week.
American still eat more meat than most cultures in the world, but even here, consumption is declining. It is estimated the U.S meat consumption may fall by more than 12% from 2007 to 2012. This computes to about 165.5 pounds per person, or about one-half a pound a day.
- Health concerns about meat consumption are reaching the public.
- Campaigns like Meatless Mondays may be having an effect. People are getting the message to cut down on saturated fat.
- Some lower income people may attempt to obtain cheaper sources of protein like grains and soy to improve their health while wealthier groups may have some environmental as well as health concerns.
- All meat production in America requires a great deal of fossil fuel. Production relies entirely on nonrenewable fossil energy. There are also concerns about adding grain crops to animal feed, water scarcity, and animal welfare.
- Cost of meats has risen due to animal feed prices.
How do cows negatively affect the environment? Take a look at these statistics from a recent PBS News Hour video.
- It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.
- We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.
- The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrous oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
- The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms or dead zones where nothing can survive. In the U.S. we find them in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Oregon, and the Chesapeake Bay.
- In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.
Americans still value animal protein from meats and dairy with 65% of the U.S. protein coming from animals. The global average is about 30%; some low-income countries only get about 6-7 % of their protein from animal sources.
Will the U.S. population accept the current trend of plant-based diets as part of their protein source as well as their taste buds? Time will tell – but it will be a hard road ahead. The current trends for plant-based burgers (aka as the Impossible burger, and Beyond Beef) will be trial balloons to see how accepting the typical American consumer responds. It is now recognized that most healthy cultures globally depend on a more vegan diet approach than what we find so far on the American plate. The environmental benefits of growing plant crops may help to persuade some Americans to accept this diet pattern more readily. (my opinion).
A very long article by Michael Pollan but is worth reading if you want to understand the complexities of our food system. It involves the “elephant in the room” consisting of Covid -19 that exposes the interrelated factors associated with our our current food system and health care costs. Based on this essay, our “diets may be killing us” as a few recent articles have suggested. Click the link below or find it on the Website of Michael Pollan of (“eat food, not too much, mostly plants” fame).
A quote from Forbes, May 12, 2000 in an article from Nav Athwal sums it up:
“One thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught us is the level of control we have over our lives is not as great as we think. Whether it be our ability to be mobile, our ability to meet with friends or the food we eat and how we eat it, the conveniences we took for granted not long ago are luxuries in a post-coronavirus world.”
Any suggestions for a solution?
By Sally J. Feltner, M.S., Ph.D.
Ponce de Leon began his quest for the fountain of youth in 1531 and humans have been seeking magical solutions for keeping us younger and living our later years in relatively good health.
In 2009 with the backing of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, AARP and the National Geographic, Dan Buettner established the Blue Zone Project and authored The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who lived the longest, He interviewed those who were either centenarians or those in their later years and began to investigate what factors may have contributed to five regions of longevity hot spots in the world that included:
- Sardinia in Italy with the highest concentration of centenarian men.
- Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
- The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica that has the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
- Ikaria, Greece that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and lowest rates of dementia. Only 20 percent of people over 80 showed any signs of dementia, whereas a similar study of long-lived people near Athens showed an almost 50 percent rate of dementia- a rate similar to that for older Americans.”
- Okinawa, Japan home to the world’s longest living women.
Remarkably, all the regions had common characteristics that included family and purpose, community and spirituality, stress reduction and physical activity. Mr. Buettner later published The Blue Zones Solution and coauthored with Ed Diener, The Blue Zones of Happiness.
One major practice was that all their diets, though not vegan, were predominantly based on plants. Meat and other animal products are either the exception or used as a condiment. Okinawans, practice a philosophy called hara-hachi bu regarding food; they only eat until they are 80% full
In the Costa Rican Zone, everyone feels like they have a plan de vida or life plan. Even at ages above 60 and 70, inhabitants don’t stop living. They keep themselves busy; they love to work. It provides them a “reason to waking up in the morning” called ikigai. There is no word for “retirement” in Okinawa.
The book introduces some very interesting longevity “superstars.”
- Marge Jones, at 100 years old from Loma Linda begins every day with a mile walk, a stationary bicycle ride, and some weight lifting. “I’m for anything that has to do with health”, she says
- Kamada Nakazitam, 102 years old from Okinawa says “To be healthy enough to embrace my great – great grandchild is bliss.”
- Ellsworh Wareham, age 91 from Loma Linda, assists during heart surgery procedures, something he does about two or three times a week
- Abuela Panchita, 100 year old Costa Rican woman whose 80 year old son, Tommy bicycles to see her every day, spends every day cooking, splitting logs and using a machine to clear brush from her
- The notion of moai in Okinawa stands for “a social support network. Says 77 year old Klazuko Mann, “each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends.”
- From the author: “I once pressed a 101-year-old woman in Ikaria, Greece to tell why she thought people there lived so long. ‘We just forget to die,’ she said with a shrug. None of them went on a diet, joined a gym, or took supplements. They didn’t pursue longevity – it simply ensued”
The final chapters in the first book boil it all down into nine lessons and a cultural distillation of the worlds’ best practices in longevity. Buettner provides credible information available for “adding years to your life and life to your years.”
However, there is a downside that is currently happening. From the Author: “Sardinians today have already taken on the trappings of modern life. For example, junk foods are replacing whole-grain breads and fresh vegetables traditionally consumed here. Young people are fatter, less inclined to follow tradition, and more outwardly focused.”
The first book concludes with a chapter on Your Personal Blue Zone. Other books give us more explicit ways to establish Blue Zones in other areas such as the U.S.
From the back cover of The Blue Zones Solution – “Propagating the Blue Zones would not only prevent a rise in the prevalence of diabetes (and other misfortunes) it would allow us to eliminate more than 80 percent of the burden we have now. That’s revolutionary.”
David Katz, M.D., Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center
Often wonder why some foods have a gender-specific connotation, e.g., “Real men don’t eat quiche” as well as the title of the following article. This and many other foodisms can be found in a book by Paul Freedman titled “American Cuisine: And How It Got That Way.” Enjoy!!!!