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home : commentary : shesaid August 23, 2017

Fed up with food fads
I'm extremely fortunate that I have the money to buy food from the periphery of the grocery store, as well as the time to cook it. Many do not.
- Shannon Drury

by Shannon Drury

"Have you heard of the movie 'Fed Up'?" I asked my teen-aged son as we scrolled through our Netflix queue. "Yeah, it's about how sugar is destroying America," he replied, slurping on a Sprecher's grape soda. "We saw it in health class." Suddenly I no longer felt smug about serving my child pop from an independent Wisconsin brewery and not a can of Crush. I looked at the label: 66 grams of sugar per artisanal glass bottle. Yikes!

First fat, then cholesterol, then carbs and now sugar - every decade has its verboten food product, blamed for everything from heart disease to cancer to something called the "Feel Like Crap Syndrome," a non-scientific term invented by the author of an anti-sugar tract called "The Blood Sugar Solution" that I found at the library. The book lists so many vague symptoms (irritability, fatigue, achiness) that earning a diagnosis seems suspiciously inevitable.

When I felt crappy twenty years ago, fat was the cause, and sugary Snackwell's cookies were the remedy. Science doesn't always get it right, especially when "it" is something as slippery as good health. How does one define such a thing? Longevity? Not feeling like crap? Or feeling like crap, yet still thin enough to be a runway model?

After streaming "Fed Up," I crashed harder than a toddler after downing a grande mocha Frappuccino (61 grams sugar); the film forced me to confront the long list of all the sugar-filled foods I handed my kids in the course of a day. I'm not talking about Twinkies (19 grams of sugar per cake) - I mean the "healthy" stuff I used to tuck in lunchboxes with a clear conscience, like strawberry Yoplait (18 grams sugar per tub).

As a feminist, I'm very aware of the socioeconomics of food trends as well as the manipulative tactics employed by corporate America to tug at the moral conscience of our nation's mothers. In practice, however, I'm just another mom trying to raise healthy kids while saving a buck at Target.

I'm extremely fortunate that I have the money to buy food from the periphery of the grocery store, as well as the time to cook it. Many do not, a point made with heart-wrenching clarity in "Fed Up," though you don't need to see the film to know that fresh food is increasingly out of reach for American families. All you need is a trip to the grocery store and a calculator.

As of this writing, a shopper at Cub Foods in Minneapolis can choose between two breakfast options: Honey Nut Cheerios with 2% milk for 50 cents a serving, or two organic eggs and a nitrite-free pork sausage patty for $1.29 a serving. One is less expensive and more convenient short term, but has possibly devastating consequences long term. Nothing makes a mom feel more like crap than fearing for her child's future!

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When I stopped buying our favorite cold cereals, my kids asked for frozen waffles instead (3 grams of sugar each, but essentially a syrup-delivery device). When I refused, they asked for another favorite breakfast, Greek vanilla yogurt (15 grams sugar) with granola (14 grams). "Why won't you eat eggs?" I wailed.

"Are you cooking them?" my son asked. The last time he boiled a pot of noodles, he didn't notice the electrical cord under the gas burner until the acrid smoke nearly killed us all.

If you need me, I'll be in the kitchen until the next food movement arrives.

Shannon Drury is a self-described radical housewife. She lives in Minneapolis.

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