While coming back from an EarthSave board meeting recently, I was reading the SouthWest Airlines inflight, airfluff magazine and came across an article called "Worth Its Salt." The article discussed the dangers of the excess sodium most people eat, noting correctly that processed foods are a real culprit here.
Of course, the salt in ham, eggs, bacon, or meat wasn't much talked about. (A medium sized potato contains 7 mg. sodium, whereas a serving of prime rib contains 1,692 mg. or the better part of the 2,400 mg. Recommended Daily Allowance -- which recent research has shown may be set too high.)
This wasn't surprising to me because the dietitian quoted in the Southwest article was none other than the ubiquitous Susan Adams, a registered dietitian and assistant professor at Washington State University's branch office in Seattle.
A frequent flack for the American Dietetic Association (ADA), Susan was also on the forefront a few years back trying to blunt the message of Benjamin Spock, MD, when the revered doctor came out against feeding milk to children in favor of a vegetarian diet.
Arguing against vegetarian diets, Susan said: "By restricting children's diets so much, they can't interact normally in social situations with other children. What's a birthday party without ice cream? Having to be treated separately is hard on kids."
Huh? Obviously, this "expert" doesn't have any experience as a parent of vegetarian children, but that doesn't seem to slow down her pontifical soundbiting. When she can't find anything negative to say about vegetarian food from a nutrition standpoint, suddenly she becomes an "expert" on child psychology, child rearing, and social development...
In our own dairy-free world, the other kids in our childrens' classes turn vegetarian; one of their teachers was already a vegetarian; and another turned vegetarian last year. As for being "treated separately," it's the other kids who often want to eat the vegetarian food our kids bring to an event, rather than the burgers and hot dogs the rest are choking down.
Moreover, our kids are far more nutritionally aware than most kids their age, something which I would think Susan Adams and the ADA would love to see -- rather than evidently the opposite. When kids are educated about health and nutrition, they WANT to eat a healthy diet and get exercise. And their peers start wanting to emulate them.
Ms. Adams further pooh-poohed Spock's dietary advice saying, "Rice and pasta can be quick to fix, but cooking beans and other vegetarian foods takes time."
Is this the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard? This is obviously someone very ignorant about what vegetarians eat. She thinks we just eat rice, pasta and beans. Hey, cooking ANY food takes time. Duh! (Except, maybe, the pre-prepared foods that Ms. Adams probably sticks in the microwave for 90 seconds to feed her own kids at night.)
Of vegetarianism, Ms. Adams said: "It's not the way most people live today. Parents shouldn't be made to feel guilty or that they are putting their children at risk nutritionally because they make other choices."
Why shouldn't a parent be made to feel guilty if they're making their kids sick or fat because of the food they're feeding them? There's a reason guilt exists; it's feedback for when you're not doing the right thing.
One thing is certain: getting a nutritionist degree and joining the ADA doesn't guarantee that a person is smart or understands the subject. You don't have to be an "A" student to join the ADA; and we've all met Ph.D.s who we can point to as the biggest morons on the planet.
Here's the Susan Adams quote I really loved from the Southwest Airlines article, because it's the mantra of the people who produce and market unhealthy foods -- and of "experts" who are in their pocket:
"There really are no good foods and bad foods. All foods, in moderation, can fit into a good diet."
It's the same argument once employed by the tobacco industry. "There is no proven connection between tobacco and cancer. There are no bad cigarettes."
In other words, if it feels good, it's okay to do it.
Granted, you don't have to smoke but you do have to eat, and all foods, to one degree or another, contain nutrients. But if you can thrive on a group of foods which contain nothing harmful, why eat ANY foods from another group which are known to contain many harmful substances?
The fact is, there ARE bad foods. And if someone wants to eat the popcorn with the super high-fat, high-cholesterol oil in it, simply telling them "Eat that in moderation!" doesn't do much when it comes in a five gallon tub.
Telling someone addicted to junk food to eat it in moderation is like advising a heroin addict just to shoot up once a month; it's a daily habit. The problem is people CAN'T just eat these foods in moderation. And even just a little can sometimes cause big problems.
There is, of course, perfectly tasty popcorn without the fat and cholesterol: so why not promote that instead, rather than fighting to defend the rotten stuff?
If you manufacture and market unhealthful food, or if you're a "scientific" lobbying group paid by the food industry, or if you're a nutritionist who follows the food industry-funded ADA line, then you tend to want to put a negative spin on health advocates. People pointing out the harm in foods become "the food police" who want to "rob you of your pleasure" to "enjoy the foods you love."
Calling someone "the food police" is just one more way to try to draw attention away from the real subject at hand. When someone dared to let people know that eating lard may not really be all that healthy, then these same people came back saying, "You're the food police! How dare you disparage lard!"
It's interesting to note that the ADA's "fact sheet" about heart disease is paid for by -- the pork industry. It's literature stating "facts" about chocolate is paid for by Mars Candy. It's "facts about milk" brochures are paid for by the dairy industry -- and yes, the beef industry pours plenty of cash into the ADA to insure meat will be deemed "part of a healthy diet."
In short, ADA doesn't really appear to stand for "American Dietetic Association" but "American Dollar Association," because that's their true bottom line. They may want us to believe there are "no bad foods," but there certainly *is* good money to be made when you can be bought off by industry flacks.
Jeff Nelson is President of VegSource Interactive, Inc., and Chairman-elect of the Board of EarthSave International. He is a direct descendent of H.O. Armour, founder of the Armour Meat Company.