How we are supposed to live a healthy life when even our more reputable dinner joints are serving us fat-, sugar-, salt- and carcinogen-laden fodder?
By Ben Bull
Published March 09, 2010
A couple of years ago, on my way to the Formula 1 race in Indianapolis, I stopped at an Appleby's Restaurant in the middle of a car park just outside Cleveland. What I saw inside weighed me down. You know those moments that are captured in your brain like a photograph? I'm looking at one now:
There's a lady - a very large lady - sat across from her generously rounded husband. The two of them have just finished a Steak and Fries main. They are staring at a pair of humongous cinnamon buns which the waitress has just plonked down in front of them.
The lady is emptying a bottle of syrup all over her bun. Squirt, plop, squirt...round and round it goes, up and down, zig and zag. Mmmm...
Like most memorable pictures this one has a message beyond the lens. The lady appears lost, melancholy, alone. It's as if she doesn't want to be there, with him, eating all that food. I remember the two of them never spoke a word throughout the whole meal. Even the waitress was silent.
I remember wanting to ask the lady: Why are you eating all that crap? Why do you need sugar on top of your sugar? I wanted to yell: Stop!
I saw a lot of weird things on that trip. At the circuit, waves of waddling Americans clutching hotdogs, cans of coke, Slushies or Budweisers. Everyone was holding something. It was as if they were worried they would fall over if they weren't held upright by something drinkable or edible.
I remember the quaint little food signs, like the one hanging over the Souvlaki stand: 'Meat on a stick'.
This excursion came back to me today after my wife showed me a little snippet from the Toronto Star. Every week the Star analyzes a dish from a local restaurant or fast food place.
Normally the health statistics relate to the usual junk food suspects, burgers, breakfast biscuits - something beginning with 'Mc'. And normally the stats are pretty grim.
Today's dish though, was a relatively posh affair - Pad Thai from Spring Rolls.
Here are the stats:
Two days' worth of sodium and almost a whole day's worth of calories - in one meal!
As I read this I got angry. How we are supposed to live a healthy life, I wondered, when even our more reputable dinner joints are serving us this fodder. Isn't anyone looking out for our interests?
My wife struggles with her weight. So, it seems, does half the planet. More than half of America is obese.
While it is common knowledge, I hope, that anything that takes less than three minutes to take out is probably not the healthiest fare, the amount of crap contained in some of our supposedly 'healthier' dishes - Pad Thai? Noodles? What could be less fattening? - is worrying indeed.
Same goes for packaged food. How many countless hours have you wasted scouring the labels in the supermarket, only to have to throw half the stuff back on the shelf? That '50% less fat' label doesn't tell the whole story. 'Low in sodium'? High in carbs.
And don't get me started on carcinogens. How is that we can know about the effects of these additives and yet do nothing to remove them?
Whenever I'm feeling paunchy or shielding my wife's eyes from the digital readout on the bathroom scale, I think back to the Appleby's lady and wonder: If only it were that simple.
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