Several weeks of sedentary living while nursing an injury gave me a few extra minutes to pop in on some reading. The New York Times Magazine hanging around since February featured a canary-yellow cover with a delicious looking chip and a quote that continued to draw me: “I Feel so Sorry for the Public.” The article discusses the science and marketing of addictive junk food and is adapted from Michael Moss’s book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.
This is a tough read and a tough look in the mirror,
with wonderful terminology from the manufactured food world, such as “stomach share,” “pleasing mouth feel,” “designer sodium,” “bliss point,” (bliss point to me usually kicks in at about mile 5 – apparently there is also a manufactured food bliss point) “vanishing caloric density,” , and “sensory-specific satiety.” As Moss discusses the methods used to develop food products that will keep us eating, not just eating but eating more of the foods high in salt, high in fat, high in sugar, I realize that I and my fellow active boomers are included in the public that is pitied.
Much as we like to believe we who are the senior runners, the track geezers, the aging athletes are above the tricksters of the processed food industry, we (at least me – and those of us I see chomping down chips after a 5K) are also caught in the junk food trap. It seems the industry research shows that baby boomers can continue to be pursued with fatty foods because we don’t regularly eat real meals. We are still busy people, going to meetings, working, working out, doing whatever. So, we are a population group destined to provide growth potential. Lucky us. What will they develop next for a “pleasing mouth feel” for our aging palettes?
Don’t think we’re safe from them by hanging out in the produce aisle. Case in point: next to the avocado bin in my local grocery stands a conveniently placed rack of All-Natural Stacy’s Pita Chips. Nice fresh looking package, 0g trans fat, baked (forms of the word “bake” appear at least 5 times on the package) and it says “delicious.” Well, they are delicious. I should know. The bag is nearly empty. The Stacy name sounded familiar as I read Moss’s article. He explains the product originally developed by a New England couple for their snack cart was acquired by Frito-Lay. I wouldn’t know that from the packaging which tells me it is made in the USA for Stacy’s Pita Chip Company. Moss also reports that the pita chips averaged 270 milligrams of sodium, a big chunk of what I should be taking in during the day. Examining the bag, I see he is right on. One serving (8 chips) – 270 mg sodium.
I admit it. They had me pegged. Does it have to be that way? Is there a food product I can purchase, short of those I pick from a tree or pull directly from the ground, that wasn’t designed to maximize my bliss with fat and salt? I don’t need help in this area, thank you very much.
Let’s just simplify. Bake a sweet potato, season with cinnamon.
Have some apple slices drizzled with honey and call it a day. Keep my shopping eyes on the avocado and diverted from the chips. That’s my plan.
- How Scientists Get You to Love Junk Food (newser.com)
- Why You Can’t Stop Eating Junk Food (uniquedaily.com)