After a long and busy day at work, Sarah drove home with the one thought that crosses millions of brains every evening: What’s for dinner?
“Most of the time I’m able to prep meals ahead of time so that I don’t have to think about it when I get home. This was an especially busy week and my schedule got away from me,” she recalls. Sarah has lost over 100 pounds on keto and report her energy and confidence are through the roof. “Keto has made all the difference in the world for me. It’s part of me now. There’s no going back,” she said.
Like millions of other women and men, Sarah relies on packaged foods not only to speed up the dinner process but to maintain her keto lifestyle and weight loss. To achieve the fat ratio necessary to enter ketosis, she uses an MCT oil in her food and also when breaking her fasts.
At one level, it may appear counterintuitive to fight obesity, inflammation and metabolic diseases with the same sword that arguably led to the epidemic in the first place. At the most basic level, we can agree that packaged food alone isn’t the culprit. In fact, you may say its origins are altruistic.
Making mealtime easy
Packaged food has existed in American kitchens for over 100 years. In the beginning, it helped reduce the cost of food and cut preparation time of meals significantly. Nathan’s hot dogs and Aunt Jemima syrup can be traced back to the 1910s. Wonder bread and Wheaties, to the 1920s. By the 1950s, packaged food was everywhere — along with fast food restaurants — helping busy housewives provide fast, filling and ready-to-eat meals for their families.
To the American people, it seemed like a gift. Behind the scenes, however, an unlikely ally raised an eyebrow…
The FDA, which by this point had provided subsidies to corn growers — a crop used to manufacture high-fructose corn syrup and bring down the cost of mass produced foods — went so far as to publish the 1958 Food Additives Ammendment[*] requiring manufacturers to prove the safety of additives they used.
What went wrong?
It’s the million-dollar question that we continue to ask today — $388 billion to be exact, the size of the market.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
At the world’s largest meeting of food and nutrition experts a couple years ago, the exhibit hall buzzed with registered dieticians, researchers, and policymakers seeking to make a difference. Thousands of dieticians attended to earn credits for continuing education.
Attendees were attracted to exhibitor booths with game show wheels and pop quizzes about the real fruit and whole grains found in Fig Newtons. Yes, the packaged cookies with a shelf life of over a year. The booth belonged to Nabisco.
Not too far away, you could sample reduced-fat Doritos. Unilever — the behemoth that makes your bath soap handed out ice cream samples. Don’t worry — real vanilla flavor more than makes up for the 3 ½ teaspoons of sugar per ½ cup serving. All this — and all of them — at the world’s largest food and nutrition expo.
In what could be the most blatant example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the Sugar Association doled out the sweetest advice for our wee ones: sprinkle a little sugar on your kid’s veggies to get them to eat them.
In 2017, the packaged food market reached $388 billion. With a number of that caliber, it’s easy to understand why Nabisco would rather produce reduced-calorie Fig Newtons than give up a fat-free slice of the pie. In an effort to reduce production costs and boost profits, food manufacturers have been adulterating our food supply so badly through over-processing, GMOs, additives and artificial ingredients.
In response, our cells have revolted against this unrecognizable food. In my docuseries, The Real Skinny on Fat, Montel Williams was spot on when he said that when America decides to mass produce food, we the people get hurt when we start eating it. Montel described how the wrong foods made him sick and the right foods helped him heal.
Obesity. Allergies. Inflammation. Metabolic diseases. Sugar addictions…
This is the sad state of our health today.
The chart below shows the rise in obesity from 1990 to 2017 across all U.S. states. Whether you’re in the state with the most obesity (West Virginia) or the least (Colorado), the trend lines for all states have climbed for decades.
Is there a place for packaged food?
Without technological advances in packaging, processing, freezing, and canning, there would not be access to many foods that do our bodies good, whether on keto or not. It is simply not possible to make every ingredient needed to be well nourished from scratch.
So, yes — there is a place for packaged foods… the ones made from natural ingredients without chemical additives or preservatives.
Take MCT oil, for instance. According to trusted sources, about 80% of conventional MCT oils on the market are made using harsh solvents, hexane being one of them. Extracting oil from coconut flesh is no easy task. Once extracted, it must be heated and purified for safety. Chemicals make the process much faster, easier and cheaper.
Becoming one’s own health advocate requires some work and diligence, such as reading the list of ingredients on a food package for starters. A master’s degree in nutritional science or chemistry is not needed to know whether there are questionable ingredients in a product. Most of the time, good instinct suffices. Next, take the time to look up the brands you buy from. Learn about their values and approach to sourcing ingredients and processing their products.
This shifts the responsibility for our health from a factory lab to our homes, and that’s a good thing. While we may lose the speed and convenience of tearing open a package of low-fat cookies — the freedom, lightness, and independence to be gained are well worth the time and effort.
Best of all, together we can start to build the right foundation for our kid’s and grandchildren’s generations to reverse the trend… without the need to sprinkle sugar on their broccoli.
Learn more about how the billion-dollar food industry created a billion-dollar health crisis in The Real Skinny on Fat.