Healthy Homeschool Living: Food and Food-Like Products

Firstly, what do I mean by Food and Food-Like Products?  Surely, if it is edible, it is food; if it is not edible, it is not food.  Simple, right?  Well, no actually.

The problem is we are not eating food anymore, we are eating food-like products (Alejandro Junger MD)

Food and Food-Like Products

Finding Food and Food-Like Products in the Supermarket

For the purpose of this post, I took a trip to the local supermarket – Tesco’s if you’re interested 🙂  What I was looking for though can be found in any supermarket.  They are all set out the same.  Veg, fruit, meat and dairy products around the periphery and all the less recognisable stuff in the middle.

Listening for the food….

Listen.  Because if you listen very carefully you can hear a cacophony of voices screaming at the harried shoppers.  Can you hear them?  Maybe you hear ‘Fat Free!’, ‘Low Sugar!’, ‘Gluten Free’,  ‘Added Fibre!’  These ‘health’ claims are so loud, most shoppers can not resist but follow: like the calls of SIRENS, who lured mariners to destruction by their singing.  This metaphor becomes even more literal when you consider that these half mythical women know the specific weakness of their prey, and used it to the detriment of their victim.  Those foods making the fantastical health claims? – well they are the self same foods which hinder health and contribute to the death of millions.  A wolf in sheep clothing, if you will.

A chocolate biscuit which is low fat, low sugar and high in fibre…and made with milk to boot?  Well, that is just too much of a temptation!  A healthy chocolate biscuit!  Does life get any better?

But listen again.  Wander around the fringe of the supermarket.  Slowly walk past the fruit, the veg, the meat and fish….all is silent here.  Take a deep breath and relax.  For it is here that no false promises are being made.  Because these promises don’t need to be made.  The apricot is not battling with the avocado to be bought.  The apricot is 100% apricot whilst the avocado is 100% avocado.  Both are jam packed with different but all vitally important nutrition.  Because, they don’t need to boast:  they are confident in their worth.

Here, there are no threats of being overwhelmed by noise and bickering between products, all claiming to be the healthiest.  The shopper can take their time to select products based on their needs (not their wants) without the nagging and harrying of the middle isles.

A Definition of Food and Food-Like Products

And this is the loose division between Food and Food-Like Products.  Usually, products found around the circumference of the supermarket tend to be food, whilst the products in the middle of the supermarket are generally either not food or are food-like products.  Yes, there are exceptions to this rule.  But it is a useful guideline.

A Clearer Definition of Food and Food-Like Products

More accurately, if it is grown and found in nature it is food, but if it is built in a laboratory it is likely to be a food-like product.

If it came on a plant, eat it.  If it was made in a plant, leave it (Environmental and food advocate Michael Pollan – ‘In Defence of Food’)

This was revolutionary to me.  Yes, I knew fruit and veg were good for me, and I also knew confectionary wasn’t.  But I had always, always, thought of confectionary as food.  Always.  To see it now, for what it is, changed everything for me.  Now, the chocolate which had always made my mouth water, did little more than make me feel rather nauseated.

Michael Pollan discusses Food and Foodlike Products

Join me tomorrow – Healthy Homeschool Living: Nutrition not Nutritionism

More Healthy Homeschool Living Posts

10 comments

  1. So true – raising children to see the value in food is somewhat foreign. When peers are so into lots of other and what they deem ‘normal’ it can be another form of peer pressure for them. So helping them learn early the reasons why – which is what your doing here is awesome and they then can have knowledge and know why!

    We try and make things from scratch more and more, it’s hard work and need more recipes and meal planners but slowly getting there ! The more ingredients the further I run from the shelves !

    This is such good reading !!!

    1. Yes, it’s not something you can do overnight, is it? No matter. Each change we make will increase our health just that little bit more. So fun to travel this journey together xx

  2. I love the way you write about fruits like they are people. The avocado is someone who embraces himself and doesn’t need a facade to draw people in…I totally want to eat some fruits and vegetables right now! Great writing 🙂

  3. I agree with many of your points here, and at the same time I have concerns about distinguishing between food in this way. I’ve had and still have issues with disordered eating, and I know a lot of people whose struggles have been even worse than mine. Value judgements about food are a huge part of eating disorder culture, and having “good food” and “bad food” plays right into commercial diets etc.

    I’m not suggesting that you’re advocating for eating disorders or causing unhealthy relationships with food, just thinking aloud about how hard it is to walk the line between emphasising the importance of listening to your body and making choices based on how the food, activity, lifestyle, whatever makes your body feel, and also avoiding reinforcing the idea that there’s a moral dimension to what we eat. But I don’t need to tell you that food is hugely psychological, you’ve fought that fight yourself!

    More information and understanding about what goes into food and how our bodies respond to it is never a bad thing, but certainly I have a tendency to try and make rules about what I can and can’t eat, rather than responding to my body’s changing needs. My friend who is in recovery from years of disordered eating talks a lot about intuitive eating and I just can’t wrap my head around it, because my intuition about food, if I ever had any, has been buried under layer upon layer of warped thinking and societal expectations and addictive tendencies and guilt.

    1. Thanks May, it’s always interesting to hear other people’s views on things. I guess everyone writes about that which has helped them, and definitely for me this mindset is by far the healthiest one I’ve ever had. And it has had wonderful repercussions for the health of myself and my family.

      You’ll not hear me talking about rules and regulations, because I do understand how damaging that can be. However, I do hope to share the principles that I am learning and applying to our own lives…..just in case it might help someone else 🙂

      1. I think you’re going about it the right way – everyone is on board (you’re not forcing anyone) and you’re keeping an eye on how it’s affecting everyone’s health, physical and mental. I was just thinking aloud really, because whilst I definitely would benefit from more fruit and vegetables and fewer processed things, my biggest issue around food personally is that it’s so fraught with nonsensical guilt that I end up not eating at all sometimes, and bingeing other times.

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