Jun. 12, 2006 | If you've seen "Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock's hilarious documentary about fast food, you've already met Marion Nestle. She's the only person in the movie who is able to offer a coherent definition of a calorie.
Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food science and public health at New York University, has long been a leading critic of the salty, fatty, sugary junk that passes for food in America, and especially the way it's hawked to kids. She blasts the U.S. government for allowing the food industry to determine public health policy on everything from the food pyramid to transfats. And her books, such as "Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health," have inspired such fear and trembling from Big Food that she's been smeared as a "diet scold" and, even more feverishly, as "one of the country's most hysterical anti-food-industry fanatics."
Nestle's new book, "What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating," brings her analysis of food politics into the grocery store, giving shoppers advice on what to buy and what to leave on the shelves. Armed with a notebook and calculator, Nestle spent a year in the field -- or, in this case, the produce, beverage, cereal and dairy aisles -- making observations about what's actually being sold. She came away stunned at the blizzard of choices offered up in the average Safeway or Kroger, and how easy it is for consumers to be bamboozled by marketing messages masquerading as nutritional data.
Read the entire article here.
I'm actually interested in seeing what advice Nestle give's on shopping in the typcial Safeway or Kroger (or in my case Vons and Albertsons). The silliest observation (and I've always wondered if it means anything) that I always have after a shopping trip to Vons vs. a shopping trip to Trader Joe's is how brightly colored and cheerful and fakely excited (Low Fat! Half The Fat! Half the Sugar! Half the fat none of the sugar!) all my foods are that I buy from Vons. The Trader Joe's food never screams at me. And it is usually in tastefully muted colored packages, browns and oranges and blues. Are those the colors of soothing organic farmers? I wonder if TJs did any focus groups with organic food buyers and found out that brown and blue were their favorite colors (hey I'm a market research I have to wonder)
I mean just compare the bag of Roasted & Salted In-The-Shell Virginia peanuts that I bought at TJs to the typical jar of Skippy peanut butter. Don't get me wrong I love bright orange and teal together as a color combo, just maybe not on my food. My TJs peanuts are in a clear bag with a pretty dark blue painting of the sun rising over a river next to a field where I assume that peanuts are grown (are peanuts nuts from trees? grown in a field? who knows they are so delicious, sorry to mock your peanut allergy, Nancy).
But really if you buy the main argument that most food is marketed to kids (and to the kid in all of us) then it makes sense that our foods are packaged in cheery bright fake colors. I never feel good about bringing home all that fake happy packaging because I know that most of it I shouldn't be eating. Yes I'll admit that this weekend Paul and I had an accidental overdose of El Monterey Taquitos in a happy red package that if I had really read closely I would have seen that my taquitos were now 50% LARGER which seriously when you factor in the fact that we didn't even need to overdose on taquitos in the first place did we really need taquitos that were 50% larger?
Well the taquitos just went in the trash, the happy red packaging just went in the recycling and I'm going to renew my pledge to eat only foods that come packaged in muted earth tones.