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Expo West and “health food”

So Tif and I got back this week from Expo West in Anaheim, one of the biggest trade shows in the U.S. After three days, we were still seeing booths we hadn’t been to before. Everything and anything you can find in a health food store. A lot of stuff you’d find in the “organic” or “natural” section of a regular grocery store, or Costco, too.

This is my main reaction to the show. At the risk of sounding like a snob, most of what is flying under the banner of “natural” and “organic” is just expensive junk food. A lot of refined food, soy products, stuff with a healthy ingredient or two and a bunch of bad ingredients.

Tif works for me but isn’t a foodie or a health nut. So she’d tell me something tasted wonderful (oh, the samples are endless!) and then she’d ask, “Is this good for me?”

More often than not, I’d say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, the regular stuff is a 1 and this is a 2.”

One of the worst examples: an “all-natural” cake mix. The dude handing out samples of the cutest little cupcakes and brownies. I said no thanks, and he protested: “But everything in this is what you’d use to make it from scratch at home!” (He obviously doesn’t know me.)

I walked over and read the ingredients on the box. The first two were: wheat flour, cane sugar.

Tif said, “But it’s WHEAT flour!” That just means white flour–bran and germ stripped away, nothing but nutrition-free endosperm (and some chemical vitamins added). If it doesn’t say “whole-wheat flour,” it’s white flour. If the box doesn’t say “100% whole grain,” it’s not (and usually the first ingredient is, in fact, white flour–because it’s people who don’t know better who buy stuff with labels that say “includes whole grains.” You can legally put a pinch of whole wheat in the recipe and tout it as INCLUDING whole grains.)

This is what I call “feel good” health food. It’s not good for you. It just makes you feel better about your food dollars. At the end of the day, it’s still just a bunch of crap in boxes and cans and packages.

I have found just the very fewest of exceptions and I’ll be talking about them in the coming weeks. Seriously. Like 1 in 500 booths at that show are offering anything worth your time and money.

Just because white flour is organic doesn’t make it nutritious. Just because the sugar is organic doesn’t make it good for you. Just because it’s made of soy doesn’t make it non-fattening.

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