American Culture – In Bulk Part 4

As I continued to walk the aisles of this NYC wholesale store, I couldn’t help but notice how high the shelving units go – 30ft – 40ft., easily. I thought to myself, “I wonder how long it takes for the food on the top shelf to make it down to the ground floor?” Coincidentally, I asked myself this question just as I laid my eyes upon a ceiling high stack of chocolate milk and other dairy products.

Rhetorical question: have you ever smelled, or tasted, rotten dairy? I can tell you that the smell of sour milk is horrid, and Google tells me that it only takes milk four hours to completely spoil. How is it, then, that all of the milk products are kept out at room temperature, for days at a time? Jokingly, I asked my friend how milk could be kept out like this, and he sarcastically answered, “come on, bro – you didn’t know milk was shelf-stable nowadays?” No, actually… I didn’t. 

Walking through the aisles… not the refrigerated section, you’ll see a plethora of dairy products – milks, yogurts, and cheese sticks to name a few, all somehow “shelf stable.” Simply put, the amount of preservatives these dairy products must contain is staggering. Years ago there was a similar concern with a product called “Muscle Milk.” The public wondered how it was possible for this liquid dairy product to be stored indefinitely on store shelves at room temperature. It turns out there isn’t actually any dairy in it at all – which is why their packaging, by law, now discloses that their product has less in common with a cow than fire does with ice. 

Sadly, self-stable food products have achieved mass-market acceptance. To put it differently, foods loaded with preservatives are now commonplace. Combined with the vast amounts of artificial ingredients, added sugar, food dyes, and processing techniques, it is safe to say that the majority of Americans have absolutely zero clue what is in their food. 

Take away #8: know exactly what you are putting in your mouth. When you see a child putting a Lego or some other small toy in their mouth, you stop them – saying, “no, don’t put that in your mouth, that’s not food.” Well, let’s not be hypocritical… stop putting things in your mouth that isn’t food, too. Amazingly, though, we do this every day… consume food and drink products that have a laundry list of ingredients, many of which we can’t even pronounce, let alone identify. Know what is in your food. For example, almond butter should be made of almonds… nothing more, really. If you put roasted almonds in a blender for long enough, they’ll turn to almond butter. That said; if you pull a jar of almond butter of the shelf with a list of ingredients (like sugar) that honestly shouldn’t be there, love yourself enough to find an alternative… or to buy a high-powered blender. 

Take away #9: Don’t fall for the buzzwords. If it says, “fat free,” it is therefore loaded with sugar – otherwise it would likely taste like cardboard. If it says, “multi-grain,” that means it has more than one grain… that has no indication of health at all. If it says, “zero calories,” and has 0g of sugar on the label, it is a lie, for that is impossible. It is completely possible to have “all-natural” ingredients, yet still be filled with added sugar. The reality is you can’t trust anything you read. You actually need to do your due diligence yourself. 

Take away #10: Be realistic. The caloric landscape is peppered with added sugar, artificial ingredients, processed foods, and dozens of buzz words that sound nice, but have little validity – i.e. “all natural.” Do your best to eat foods that are actually all natural – aka, as Mother Nature provides it, but don’t sweat it if you live a busy life and have from inside a wrapper every once in a while. Do your best to make health conscious decisions, and remember that everything you put in your mouth must add value to the body. Take your time when food shopping. Yes, we are all on the go (as showcased by the crashing shopping carts and shoulder bumping in the NYC wholesale store), but love yourself enough to slow down, read the labels, and maybe even give up the parking spot because the other guy beat you to it.