University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Food Dilemma of the Omnivore
Everybody loves food, especially America. Americans are obsessed with food, and that is correlated to the fact that in America, food is almost always readily available to us. We have fast food restaurants, grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers markets with most of the food being relatively affordable. Our nation without a doubt has many dilemmas that need to be solved, however if you were to group all of these dilemmas into different sets and focus on the “food” set of the dilemmas, which would be our nation’s current food dilemma? Taking everything into account, finding healthy, tasteful foods seems to be the main concern of many Americans today. With obesity on the rise like it is, healthy foods are a need to many of Americans. However, this is a very difficult dilemma to solve because many of the tasteful foods are usually the unhealthy ones, eating only healthy foods could very well make us miss out on key nutrients our body needs, and also the “important” qualities of food are only known because of science.
Some of the trademarks of American foods are pizza and hamburgers, however when has a regular pizza or regular hamburger ever been ordered by someone on a strict diet or someone who only eats healthy foods? Hamburgers have been transformed into veggie burgers and pizzas have been changed to white pizzas. The problem with veggie burgers and white pizzas are they simply do not taste as good as a regular hamburger or pizza. As Michael Pollen stated, “to think of some of the most delicious components of food as toxins, as nutritionism has taught us to do in the case of fat, does little for our happiness as eaters” (13). When Americans try and eat healthy, they opt to go for the healthy options and not the unhealthy options even though those are the foods that taste the best. So to conquer the dilemma of finding healthy, tasteful foods, we must find healthy foods that taste as good as the unhealthy foods.
In America, the amount of Americans who vow to eat healthy and live a healthy life has indeed gone up of the past decades, but how come the amount of Americans who get sick and who get diseases have gone up. The quality of life is certainly greater now than it was during World War II and during the steel mill days, but the amount of cancer patients has gone up along with many other life threatening diseases. Could that be connected to the fact that food is no longer what it used to be and vital nutrients are missing from our diet because they are only available to us from unhealthy foods? In The Changing Significance of Food, Margaret Mead brings up the question, “how can the country be overnourished and undernourished at the same time” (15). Mead is point on when she states that America is overnourished based upon how many healthy foods we have, however it is very interesting when she states we are undernourished at the same time.
America is able to be both undernourished and overnourished because the healthy, diet foods do not contain the nutrients we need to live a healthy life. An example of this would be the choice between whole milk and skim milk for a baby or toddler. Skim milk is obviously healthier and does not contain as many calories as whole milk, however does skim milk supply all of the nutrients whole milk does to the body. If we can succeed in adding all of the nutrients we as humans need to the deemed “healthy” foods, we will be a step closer in conquering the problem of finding healthy, tasteful foods.
There are so many foods out there that are labeled healthy, like turkey, white chicken, green tea, and skim milk. However, how do we as consumers know what make all these healthy foods healthy? All of the information we know about food comes from inside a laboratory where food scientists study the components of all the food imaginable. Because of this, any food with any trace of fat in it is automatically thrown out of consideration for being labeled healthy. On the other hand, sure fat may not be healthy, but what if there is a health benefit to eating a certain kind of fat. Maybe down the line scientists will discover a certain kind of fat can help prevent cancer.
Going back to Michael Pollen’s article of Nutritionism, Pollen’s quotes Harvey Levenstein when he states “taste is not a true guide to what should be eaten; that one should not simply eat what one enjoys; that the important components of foods cannot be seen or tasted, but are discernible only in scientific laboratories” (14). Important qualities of foods now a day are calories, fat and carbohydrates while in the past they were vitamin B, protein and calcium. When producers take out all the unhealthy nutrients in food, the tastefulness of the food indeed goes down, making it a less desirable option. Once again, with the “important” qualities of food being limited and constraint to a strict standard, it is harder to combat the problem of finding healthy, tasteful foods.
Closing out the problems that make it harder to combat the dilemma of finding healthy, tasteful food options, consumers must remember that eating healthy is a very tricky thing. Like stated earlier, the choice between skim milk and whole milk can be a very difficult decision because of the pros and cons of each choice, but in the end the choice should always be decided on which food is better for your body, not which is the “labeled healthier” option. All in all, our nation’s current food dilemma is finding healthy, tasteful foods because many of the tasteful foods are the unhealthy ones, the country is so concerned about eating healthy we are missing some vital nutrients from the “unhealthy” foods, and the “important” qualities of food are only known because of science.