PLEASE PASS THE METAMUCIL
February 13, 2012 13 Comments
“I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to become a vegetarian”
I have just spent two weeks with our older daughter, husband and two of our grand-daughters skiing at Beaver Creek, staying in a luxurious condominium owned by a close and generous friend.
Beaver Creek Beaver Creek is an upmarket resort in Colorado, USA, just down the road from Vail.
Whilst we have a fully equipped kitchen, we have been dining out a lot as this is one of the fun things to do as part of the holistic snow experience, from going to a fun diner “Route 6 Cafe” in Eagle-Vail to gourmet dining at“The 10th” in Vail and “Blue Plate” in Avon.
These are great eateries, but one main thing that they have in common is that there is hardly a vegetable in sight, beyond the occasional salad as a starter.
There is a massive consumption of fast foods in the US, and what I find interesting is that there seems to be a belief that if you preface a hamburger and fries, or steak and fries, with a small salad that this turns an unhealthy meal into a nutritious and healthy one. I have no question that if the starter is a salad then the average calorie count of the two courses drops compared to a buffalo wings or pizza starter, but the fact that this combination is now considered to be part of a balanced diet is as crazy as believing that you can counteract a Big Mac with a diet Coke.
Even in the expensive restaurants the main courses tend to be served with something like Piemontese potatoes with sour cream, macaroni cheese or spaghetti as the accompanying “vegetable”. Americans really do love Italian food especially if served as a “side salad”.
Don’t get me wrong, the food we have eaten here is really good, but as someone who had a bout of bowel cancer some 20 years ago, I am very conscious of the fact that a balanced, healthy diet must have a significant percentage of roughage or fibre. The attitude here in the US appears to be that you can eat anything that you want that is high in salt, sugar and fat, no matter how processed it is, as long as you supplement your diet with a daily intake of something like Metamucil, which is a bulk producing laxative and fibre supplement. I have nothing against psyllium, which is the major ingredient of Metamucil (although in the US this has to be sweetened to make it acceptable to the American palate), and I have been taking a small amount daily since my own hemi-colectomy in 1989, but not as a replacement for natural fibre from fruit, vegetables and grains, but as an additional part of my diet.
I questioned the head chef at one of the establishments about this lack of vegetables, and he initially pointed out to me that there was a vegetarian option on their menu, being tomato and basil linguini. On pushing a bit harder, he told me that customers felt cheated if a significant part of the plate was covered in vegetables, as this would be seen as being “mean” with the main ingredient, being the featured protein. Based on the fact that the main course plates are usually about the size of a Mack truck hubcap, I couldn’t buy the argument, so I sought out and chatted to the manager of the local food supermarket, who was very helpful. The sales of fruit and vegetables in his establishment represent less than 3% of his total sales, being heavily dominated by reheatable, and nukeable fast foods. The major criteria seemingly being speed and simplicity of preparation in movement from fridge/freezer to table.
The state of Iowa decided that they would try an intervention to increase the sale of fruit and vegetables by targeting 8 supermarkets over an 8 month period. (see the report at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10168262).
From the report “The intervention consisted of: (1) one-page supermarket flyers that identified fruits and vegetables on sale, gave recipes and menu ideas for using sale foods, and gave a store coupon worth 50 cents toward the purchase of any fruit or vegetable; (2) store signage to identify fruits and vegetables featured on the flyer; and (3) consciousness raising activities such as food demonstrations and nutrition related signage.”
Whilst awareness of the flyers was 43%, discount coupon use was 36% and 18% had used one of the supplied recipes, sales of fruit and vegetables did not go up at all.
It appears that Americans just do not like fruit and vegetables.
The US department of agriculture estimate that less than 30% of Americans actually consume the recommended 5 daily serves of fruit and vegetables, and that even fewer people in their middle and later years adhere to this advice than they did two decades ago.
I find this fact particularly unusual based on the American obsession with dieting.
With about two-thirds of the American population being overweight and one-third considered obese, it is estimated that nearly 50% of women and 30% of men go on a diet every year.
I find it interesting that most Americans appear to be really worried about how much they eat between Christmas and New Year. It appears that they would be much better off worrying less about this specific time period, and becoming more concerned about what they eat between New Year and Christmas instead. Just replacing the spaghetti side dish with some freshly cooked vegetables would go some of the way in helping to improve their diet.
As comedian George Miller (1941-2003) said “The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.”