Don’t Be a Scaredy Cat

July 18, 2010

Question: Why are these crappy fat free, diet, “healthy” foods still on the market?

Answer: Because people are scared.

Do you remember when the whole low fat craze started? Products started coming out that were light, low fat, fat free, and reduced fat. These words, the untrained eye, can be very deceiving. They can make you feel uber comfortable with these foods, as if they can be good for your body. But what people don’t understand is that labels lie, and they’re doing a darn good job with it, too. Eggo, Kellogg’s, Lay’s, and hundreds of other food companies have scared us into thinking that we should buy their “healthier” options.

Reduced fat or sugar, fat or sugar free, or light simply mean the company that makes this nasty stuff altered the chemical makeup of their product. Less fat usually means more sugars. How can a frozen dinner that comes pre-packaged from a manufacturing facility be called all natural? You know what makes Oreos taste good? All the unpronounceable chemicals and artificial sweeteners. You know what makes reduced fat Oreos taste good? All the additional unpronounceable chemicals and sweeteners. And we all know how healthy hydrogenated, modified, refined, bleached, enriched, and artificially flavored things are.

You see, when companies manufacture “low fat” products, they’ve got a system going. A sneaky one. They don’t genuinely want to help you cut calories – that would be bad news bears for them. Less calories for you  means less profits for them, because you’re eating less of their food, right?


Most refined, sugar-laden products are high in carbohydrates. And not the good kind. You know I love me some carbs, but I wouldn’t touch the ones in processed snacks and “diet foods” with a ten foot pole. Refined carbohydrates, like white flour, rice, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and cakes and cookies all give you energy for a few moments when your blood sugar spikes. But then you soon come crashing down and feel like this:

Friggin tired, man.

I also feel the need to let you in on a big secret. Fat is good for you! I know, I know. Shocking. Take a second and catch your breath if you’ve never been told this before. Believe it or not, fat plays a critical role in our health. I could write a whole post on the benefits of fat (and I probably will) so I’ll just cut to the chase and say it here: fat is not the enemy. You need the stuff to function. You just need the right stuff. More on that in a minute.

So what’s a savvy, smart, but hungry bugger to do? Here’s my top tips for healthy eats.

  • Be able to pronounce and recognize all of the ingredients in whatever it is you are eating. The shorter the list is, the better. The ingredients at the top of the list are found more abundantly than those near the end.
  • Whatever you’re looking at, don’t buy it if the first ingredient is an artificial sweetener.
  • Speaking of sweeteners… stop buying or eating fake sweeteners like Splenda and aspartame. For real, I’m not going into details because you can Google that yourself.
  • Go for whole grains. Whether it’s bread, pasta, rice, or flour. And don’t be fooled by the words multigrain or wheat flour. If it doesn’t say 100% whole wheat, it’s not a whole grain.
  • Don’t be afraid of fats. Like I said before, you need fat to function, but not all fats are created equal. Stick to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats and trans fats have no place in our diets.
  • Don’t be intimidated by any claims a label makes. Sugar Adventure Puff cereal can say whatever they want to get you to buy their product, but what the deciding factor should be is how the ingredients stack up.
  • My definition of “all natural?” No chemicals, pesticides, artificial ingredients, or hydrogenated oils.
  • Read the nutrition facts and the ingredients list while you’re in the store. Screw that lady who’s telling you to move on and just put the box in your cart. Take the time to really know what you’re putting in your body.
  • Finally, don’t forget to let yourself have a little splurge sometimes. No one’s perfect, and if you try to eat “perfectly” all the time, you’ll only be disappointed in yourself when you slip up. Don’t have crazy expectations or ridiculously high standards, have wiggle room instead. If you want to eat deep fried Oreo once a year at a state fair, do the damn thing.

So stop being scared. It’s a big wide world out there, but I believe that if you eat what comes from the world and isn’t created away from the world (ie in a factory or laboratory) is just fine.

14 Responses to “Don’t Be a Scaredy Cat”

  1. Very well said!! I get sick of seeing diet products promoted as healthy – Special K bars are my favourite…every time I see an advert, I want to scream at the tv ‘YOU’LL BE HUNGRY IN 1/2 HOUR AND CRAVE SUGAR!!! DON’T EAT IT!’ Infuriating!
    I’d rather a little of the real thing personally 🙂
    LOVE that cat pic 😛

  2. Rebecca Says:

    Very informative post – and SO true! When I eat things as close to their natural state as possible, I feel like I’m giving my body a hug. And everyone knows hugs are better when they’re not artificially sweetened ^^

  3. Megan Says:

    Hooraaay for fats! And all-natural food! I read Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” last night… YIKES is all I have to say. The cereal thing makes me so mad though, like how boxes of Lucky Charms claim to have fiber and be good for you. Annoying!!!

  4. Chelsey Says:

    I love this post – I know for a long long time I had fallen under the trap of thinking that diet food was the way to go. It’s hard when you are uneducated about food and what should be good for you. However, if I had stopped to think about it – “duh! natural, unproccesed food should be better” – it would have been a no brainer.

    I am so glad I took the time and had the passion to educate myself over the past couple of years about different foods and came to the realization that unproccessed foods were the way to go.

    I am going to link this post to my site sometime today!

  5. Very good post! And I loved the addition of the passed out kitty lol I always try to avoid anything with a health claim and I read the ingredient lists of everything I put in my cart (:

  6. Hey clean eats. I love your blog and I gave you an award. I hope you havent gotten it already. Check it out here:

  7. Great post…and my sentiments exactly!! It saddens me when I hear people justifying what they’re eating with “it’s fat free,” or something along those lines. I mind my own business, but always think “fat free with how many chemicals?”
    I agree – minimal ingredients is the way to go.

  8. The Mom Chef Says:

    Well, since I drink Diet Coke and it’s all chemicals anyhow so altering them is just just a nudge of this and that and it’s already fat free, just calorie free, I’m good, right? Just kidding (kinda). I agree with you about fat. We’ve turned a nation that needs healthy fat into one that avoids it yet still consumes the junk.

  9. kaztronomic Says:

    I hate “diet” food with a burning passion, and those Special K commercials — with that little skinny minnie trying to lose ten pounds — irks me to no end. I hate how they advertise 60 calories of chemicals and air as a “decadent” treat — heck, for 50 calories I can have a square of real dark chocolate and be far more satisfied than some fluff would.

    Or how about that advertisement that says something like, “Want a snack? Chew on a piece of sugar free gum instead!” No, I want FOOD, not some stick of death that’ll make me swell up like a Macy’s Day balloon.


    Thanks for this post! I think you gave some excellent, intelligent information. I eat mostly real food, too, so I’m not going to berate myself for occasionally partaking in a sip of some real (non-diet) soda — like Cola made with real sugar, like the kind from Mexico. Or enjoying some real mousse instead of 60 calorie air. ❤

  10. caronae Says:

    Great post my friend! I am with you on all of this. Good fats are our friends. Processed crap is not our friend. Plain and simple. And I have never tried a deep fried oreo before but would like to try one someday. 🙂

  11. this whole post=yes!
    1-in the words of Michael Pollan, “eat food. mostly plants.”
    2-i love fats. the good fats. plant based fats=nuts,seeds,olives,coconut,nutbutters, flaxseed. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm 🙂

  12. Such a fab post! I was scared of fat for a long time and seeing fat-free food everywhere just fuelled that fear. Ever since I have tried to eat more healthily I haven’t counted a single fat gram that I have eaten – but I know that it’s a lot! Eating fat hasn’t made me gain any extra weight and I fell great!

  13. Meg Says:

    SO true. Whole foods ALL the way! Fats have made my hair and skin glow more that it ever has before. Low fat/fat free just ain’t cool anymore 🙂

  14. indiechic927 Says:

    I LOVE this post! So much of what I tell people everyday when they make bad food choices. At least, my family. I don’t go to random people who pick up diet soda and smack it out of there hands screaming “do you know what that does to you?!?” (it’d be epic if I did, but that’s not go down that road of assault… ahahahah) But, what a great post… still. 🙂 I love when people agree with my health-nut way of thinking.

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