Saturday, August 21, 2010

Caution: Mai Just Found Her Soap Box

I got back from the grocery tonight and, frankly, I was pissed off. At one point I was ranting around the kitchen with a rolling pin in my hand, punctuating my anger by occasionally thrusting the pin in the air. My husband leaned against the counter, kind of chuckling, but kind of scared at the same time.

And this is what I was fired up about: crap in my food.

Okay, we know I’m a label-reading freak. I can’t not do it. But every once in a while, after I’ve read a few too many partially-hydrogenated oils or mono-diglycerides or any other crap that hides away in all our food, I just get fed up.

Funny enough, I’m not mad at the big-wig food companies that put these things in fig newtons and coffee creamer, and I’m not mad at the grocery stores who stock their shelves with all this fluff, all this non-food. These folks are only giving us what we want. We, the consumers, are the ones who allow them to do it. And until we stop buying food that contains these chemicals and tampered fats, there is no reason for the suits and stores to stop giving it to us.

I’m sorry to get all riled up, folks. Typically, I like to keep it light and airy. We’ve got enough guilt in life, with the laundry piles, overdue projects, bathrooms that haven’t been cleaned in weeks, emails that haven’t been replied to in months. I don’t want to add another thing to your list of things that you feel bad about. This isn’t about guilt. It’s about respect and love for yourself and your family.

I think about when my babies were born: these unblemished, soft, pure little bodies. And for the first year of their lives, we are so particular about their diets. We breast-feed or search around for the best formula that agrees with their fresh digestive systems. So much care goes into making sure they are properly fed. “But their growing so much then,” you say. “They need the extra attention to their diet. It’s different when you’re older.”

Folks, that is a lie. Yes, I’m past my growing years. In fact, when I went to the doctor last month, I had actually gotten shorter, and that really sucks. I always thought old people shrank, now suddenly I’m 32 and, by my own standards, considered an old person. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care about what’s going into my body. No, I’m not growing, but I’m moving and thinking and interacting with people and making decisions, and in order to do all these things to the best of my ability, I have to feed myself with the same care that I fed my newborns. I’m not a trash can. I’m a human. And so are you. And it’s about time we start feeding ourselves with a bit more respect and care.

I’m putting out a challenge to all of you: for one week, read the labels of everything you’re putting into your mouth or the mouths of your family. Wonder why your kids are so hyper and out of control? You might be surprised what you find in their food. Feel like you’re tired all the time? Our bodies weren’t created to digest and sort through all the crap that we’re putting into them. Crap in our food slows us down and that’s all there is to it.

I’m putting this challenge out there simply to get you aware of what’s crossing the threshold of your lips. Don’t make this a diet thing. We’re not talking about calories and fat grams; we’re talking ingredients. However, I do find it interesting that the shorter (and easier to pronounce) the list of ingredients, chances are the less detrimental a food will be to your health and waistline.

Most importantly, I want to hear from you during this challenge. I want to hear what surprises you, disgusts you, and makes you happy. And I want this to be a guilt-free exercise. This isn’t about making you feel bad about your food; it’s about you feeling more respectful of your body.

My goal is that at the end of this challenge, you will look at that 15 item list of chemicals and other garbage on the back of a box of chicken nuggets and say, “My family and I are worth more than this”. And then, together, we can figure out how to create recipes or find products that feed you and your family better. Maybe it’s a lofty goal, but I think it’s worth a try.


  1. Mai, i'm with you! for pete's sake, some brands of tomato sauce have sugar in 'em...TOMATO SAUCE!! it's disgusting! i've been reading labels for 6+ yrs now & it's a CRIME how simple food are murdered! ...shall we climb the soapbox together?! :)

  2. Hey Mai,

    So I am not at the kiddie stage yet, but am obsessed with the idea of being a hot 60 year old, aka aging well. So, I started focusing on getting rid of foods that have crap in them. It started out with small changes, the first being no lean cuisines or other quick single girl foods. Most recently, I gave up my biggest vice, soda's. I now only eat lean meats, vegi's and fruits. You are right, without meaning to, weight loss does happen. But food tastes better and health is better. I feel good. So, all that said, hooray for your soap box. Go get em' girl!


  3. Esther and Jennifer, thanks to both of you for your comments and commitment to REAL FOOD! Keep up the good work and spread the word!

  4. You GO girl!

    I needed that good reminder today! Thanks. :) I sometimes get lazy about the breakfast food options at our home. I am trying for for a month to just scramble up some organic cage, free eggs every AM or make up some slow cooked oats. Hopefully, I can wean them off their cereals b/c I can't find a healthy cold cereal they will ingest.

    People should post the most heinous label they read each day this week. ;)

    Maile-question to you. So, how to you prioritize $ wise when it comes to eating healthful, organic, whole foods? I have been focusing on our meat/dairy being top notch first and then buying organic produce as often as I can and the budget allows. I try to buy local and farmer owned when I can, but the budget does not quite cover everything being fab. Tell me how you prioritize-Teach us, Maile! :)

  5. I am with you, Maile!! It is disgusting what is in our foods. The movie Food, Inc, was so eye opening. We shop at trader joes, and whole foods when we can afford it, because they buy and make good foods! It was nice when they told me their foods had no genetically modified ingredients in them! It's sad the state our food supply has come to. I hope some day I can live in a house with a yard where I can at least grow some of my foods! :) Hope you are doing well...can't wait to see you in october at jill's wedding. :)

  6. Maria, I love the idea of sharing the most heinous label you've read this week. I know what I'm gonna share but I'll wait till Friday. Also, later this week I'll give you the rundown on my organic/local food priorities on our fairly tight budget.
    Kristen, I know it's a crime but I have yet to see Food, Inc. I want to but I don't want to at the same time because I've heard so much about the atrocities it reveals. Lots of love to you and your family--so fun that I will get to see you at Jill's wedding!

  7. We watched Fast Food Nation and King Corn a couple of years ago, but Food, INC we finally got around to watching this last month and it was very well put together and very informative. I think those films are the trifecta of motivation to eat well and send a message about the proper treatment of people, animals and the earth's resources with what we buy.

    I will search out the nastiest label in my pantry. I am ashamed to say I know we have a few contenders in there---

  8. You share my passion!! Maybe we should watch Food Inc together - I've been wanting to watch that for a while now.
    Thanks for this - keep it up!

  9. The Omnivore's Dillema is the book that Food Inc is made from and goes into a lot of great detail. It's a fun book too. Michael Pollan does a great job on the info. You dont get the visuals you do in Food Inc, however of you have s good enough imagination you can get there. Yea Maile. This stuff needs to be talked about.

  10. Big Fan of Michael Pollan-Omnivore is good and In Defense of Food is decent, too.