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Amuse Bouche: The fall of food, part III

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By Scott Mechura EBS COLUMNIST

This column is part of a series. Read part I and part II here.

Eating is hard. 

As if what we eat isn’t challenging enough, how and when we eat has long been something many of us throw our hands up at.

Maybe you’ve heard that the key to a healthy metabolism is eating a healthy, sensible breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up. Maybe a couple of eggs and avocado. Or perhaps oatmeal with chia seeds, blueberries and oat milk. 

Or perhaps you should fast for an extended period of hours. 

Only eat within an eight- to 10-hour window, they say, thereby allowing your body a controlled fast. Make your body crave food. Because when it does, it then burns calories.

For every person who says early breakfast is key, another will tell you to fast. In the end, we’re just left confused.

The amount of food products in grocery stores today is beyond overwhelming. How many of those items do you really buy? You enter the store with your list, which probably contains only about 50 items. Yet the average grocery store contains no less than 82,000 items.

So just who exactly is buying all this stuff?

From Hot Pockets to Mountain Dew; from Gogurt to Lunchables, we’ve traded health for convenience. Quality food takes time to purchase and prepare. Meals in a plastic bag, sealed in a cardboard box in the freezer section with 37 ingredients, of which you only know four, sure do heat easily and often times taste good, due to the discovery of the bliss point. But they also hit us where it hurts.

We began to patronize McDonalds in the mid-20th century and they began to slowly increase the fat content, corn content and portion size of our food. 

The workplace began to get busier and our jobs sped up. So, “big food” created meals to coincide with the increase in life’s pace. Well intentioned? Maybe. But with mass-produced, convenient ready-made meals, they needed to taste good or no one will buy them. So, as I’ve written about before, many of these meals contain either a combination of, or all three of, the holy trinity of flavor: salt, fat and sugar.

Remember, if it comes from a plant, you should probably eat it. But if it’s made in a plant, you probably shouldn’t. And along with speed and convenience, the portion sizes grew.

Another milestone after steel canned foods and high fructose corn syrup was what we thought at the time to be an innocuous food creation. Small by today’s portion standards, 1967 saw the introduction of the Big Mac. To have multiple toppings, three buns and two patties in one burger changed the way we viewed the indulgence of fast food forever.

In 1955, a McDonalds hamburger was 3.7 ounces. Imagine that! By today’s standards, that’s a slider.

A McDonald’s soda in 1955 was a mere 7 ounces, but today it can tip the scales at 30 ounces. That equates to about 4.5 ounces of sugar in those 30 ounces of soda. Measure out half a cup of sugar and then imagine drinking that.

So, what do we do?

We find time to exercise in today’s fast-paced world and constantly try to find foods and ways to eat that optimize our health, while simultaneously being inundated with more and more Hot Pockets, Gogurts and juice boxes every day.

It’s as if the conglomerates want us to remain obese, addicted to sugar and stuck at a certain life expectancy which, according to the American Medical Association, has actually decreased.

A final tip to combat the holy trinity and bliss point of flavor: Do not eat until you are full; eat until you are no longer hungry.

I’ll be concluding this series with a return to where it began; a deeper exploration into canned foods and high fructose corn syrup to see exactly what it was that we got ourselves into. 

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the executive chef for Horn and Cantle restaurant at Lone Mountain Ranch.

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