Food, Bar, and this post is totally not about programming

I just noticed this book on Amazon. I’m intrigued. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, this guy made a nice little sound bite: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He means to say that the modern Western/American diet (processed food, white flour, red meat, etc.) is bad for us and that people have come to believe in “nutritionism” (looking for vitamins and minerals; basically, looking at numbers too much). We’ve become focused on vitamin C, iron, and protein instead of bananas and spinach. And we Americans are so fat and unhealthy and blah blah. The cure? Don’t eat so many preprocessed foods. Eat mostly plants. Buy higher quality food, eat less of it, care about your food instead of just shoveling it down.

I agree! I’m also not going to buy his book because it’s self-defeating: in preaching simplicity, he’s simplified his message to the point where you don’t need to read the book. I think. But the point is, I agree with this guy.

Another side topic: Beej was talking about this ONQI thing, aka the “100 point nutritional scale” that I blogged about before. (a recap: the idea is, instead of (or maybe in addition to) the current nutrition label, we’d just have one with one number, 1-100, to tell you how healthy something is.) Pros: if it’s implemented well, people might realize that all the processed stuff they’re eating is unhealthy. Cons: if it’s not implemented well, people might think that all the processed stuff they’re eating is healthy.

See, what Michael Pollan is talking about (click on that link and read the article, he sounds like a champ) is the same thing I’ve heard from a lot of other people, and it makes sense. Use less pesticides, stop making everything out of corn and soybeans, don’t eat mass-produced meat, don’t eat all these added sugars and chemical nonsense, etc. Oh, and stop reading those numbers! We’ve grown accustomed to this idea of counting our food: counting calories, counting fat, counting protein, etc. Back in the 90’s it was “fat is bad.” Now it’s “fat is fine, carbs are bad, protein is good.” Oh, and fiber is good too. So just eat GoLean cereal, why don’t you? Only 140 calories, 10g fiber, 13g protein! Who needs produce? After all, you won’t get any protein in your watercress or pomegranates!

I guess what I’m trying to say is: if nutrition were just as easy as counting numbers, why couldn’t you just eat every day a box of GoLean and a multivitamin and be totally healthy?

There are a lot of possible answers, including:

Anyway, if you want to eat healthy, eating food, not too much, and mostly plants sounds like a good way to go.

But is there more to food than healthiness?

What if you don’t want to eat healthy? Well, dammit, you should! But sometimes you don’t. That’s cool too. Our bodies are pretty miraculously flexible, and I feel like they can deal with a lot of crappy food. Just maybe not as much as the average American puts into them. Whatever. Sometimes it’s not all about health. Let’s consider some ways food can be good. It can be:

And I’m proposing that you can pretty easily get all but one. For example: all but healthy? Fast food. All but convenient? Cook your own! Home-cooked food can easily be healthy, tasty, and cheap. All but cheap? Well, that’s a little trickier, but there’s a lot of takeout places that you can get good stuff. Even Evgefstos in the UC is pretty good at this.

But all but tasty? That’s the question I aimed to tackle. See, I like Clif bars. And any other “energy bar”- I like food that’s convenient, tasty, and cheap. And I can sometimes convince myself that it’s healthy. (look at all that fiber and protein!) But look at the ingredients list sometime. Disregard the “made with organic oats and soybeans” badge on the front. Yeah, it’s processed stuff just like any other shelf-stable packaged food. So I set out on the same path that the Clif bar inventor did: I aimed to make my own.

And if I’m in the middle of a long day on campus, I’ll take all of the above except tasty. Granted, I love to care about food. But sometimes I have to be on campus all day, and I may not have time for a meal. So give me something that’s healthy and convenient, and don’t let me get into the habit of paying $5-7 each for lunch and dinner.

So I embark on Project Bar.

What was the result? A bar made of almost-equal amounts of whole wheat flour and pureed spinach and peas. Sprinkled with pistachios and dried blueberries. A couple eggs and baking powder so they weren’t bricks. No added sugars (except for those in the blueberries, and there weren’t really that many blueberries). I found them surprisingly palatable! (Of course, I also eat herring-and-sour-cream sandwiches on walnut bread, so I may be a bad judge of taste.) Anyway, I don’t think anyone else would like these bars, but screw them, they’re for me! And they’re pretty healthy. Although I aim to make them better! I’m thinking for Bar v2.0, I may toss the blueberries (the only sweet ingredient) and make them more savory. Or maybe not; I’m eyeing grated carrots, beets, and perhaps mashed sweet potatoes as a way to keep them interesting. The pistachios are out; peanut butter may go in. If you’d like more updates on Project Bar, let me know. And once I perfect the recipe (or at least get something that other people might find edible) I could make you a batch! You, too, can eat healthily, cheaply, and conveniently!

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