Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Does Dietary Elitism Scare People off "Healthy" Eating?

What is "healthy" eating?

I suppose everyone has their own definitions of what's involved, and certainly there are some dietary adherents where food becomes nearly a religion, but forget about them. I'm talking about the masses, the folks who don't spend their every waking moment living and breathing a particular dietary regime. What do your average Joes and Janes who aren't inherently keyed into nutrition picture when they hear the word, "healthy" regarding food?

My guess?

Sprouts - both brussel and otherwise.

And certainly salads. And maybe weird looking (to them) plates full of grains with currants or raisins. Maybe cottage cheese.  Definitely lots of water.

Probably also they think "vegetarian" or "fancy", or "complicated".

And while "healthy" need not be any of those things, sometimes I do have to wonder whether or not part of the problem in inspiring the world to choose healthier food is that the notion that healthy's fancy is one that does in fact get regularly perpetuated by folks preaching eating healthfully.

Take for example last week's New York Times. In it readers are presented with Martha Rose Shulman's ideas for, "a week’s worth of light and simple ideas for dishes that travel well.....lunches they can take to work and eat at a desk". Her ideas? I'll present them in picture form down below, but among them they include the ingredients: Beet greens, Swiss chard, chickpeas, Lundberg Black Japonica Rice, edamame, soaked red lentils, dark sesame oil, walnut oil, pinenuts, lightly toasted cumin seeds, Aleppo pepper, fennel, nigella seeds, and peeled kohlrabi.

Really? Those are "simple"? If that's "simple" for healthy eating, I'd hate to see fancy. And I bet I'm not alone.

Could articles suggesting dishes like these are "simple" actually hinder progress towards nudging people back into their kitchens?  Do we over complicate "healthy"?

Me? I'm pretty damn happy with my oven roasted chicken sandwich on whole grain bread with an apple, but I guess the problem with that "recipe" is that it wouldn't sell newspapers, books or glossy magazines.

So if the media is our primary influence on what is and isn't healthy, and if actually simple recipes don't grab readers, who's going to help get our nation re-learning how to cook actually simple, healthy meals?

I've got nothing.  Do you have any ideas?

(all food photos taken by Andrew Scrivani)