Reader’s Digest Passes Judgment on 27 Foods

I came across this link during my daily surfing. It’s a Reader’s Digest article imperiously titled, “27 Foods You Should Never Buy Again”. You know that got my attention. I offer you my rebuttal.

1. Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese: Way to start off strong, Reader’s Digest. Claiming there are other less expensive cheeses that have the same flavor as Parmigiano Reggiano is ridiculous; it simply isn’t true. It lasts in the refrigerator for weeks, and a little goes such a long way, the seemingly high price of this wondrous food is more than worth it. Don’t pinch your pennies here.

2. Smoked and Cured Meats: Strike Two. While they are high in fat and sodium, and some are high in preservatives, they are also full of flavor, and in small amounts, can add smoky depth to a dish. It seems extreme to me to simply banish them from your pantry. Be choosy, and practice moderation.

3. “Blueberry” items: Here I have to agree. Almost any food that claims it’s “blueberry-flavored” has not been any closer to a blueberry than a bear in New Hampshire in the winter. If you want blueberries in your food, buy blueberries.

4. Multi-Grain Bread: First of all, calling bread “junk food” (in the article) just chaps my hide. Granted, not all multigrain bread is created equally, but you can easily tell what you’re getting by one simple test; if the bread is soft like a pillow, it’s probably got a lot of air and preservatives in it. If the multigrain bread you like is sturdy and crusty, it is most certainly not junk, and if you’re getting it at a local bakery, it is something truly special.

5. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter: If you are buying this, do stop. Truly. Just stop. The fat is being replaced with sugar. While I have nothing against sugar (obviously), peanut butter is so chockful of protein and good fats, it’s worth eating in its natural form. Check the label of your PB carefully, though; it may have sugar in it anyway. Try switching to a natural peanut butter. The flavor is more peanutty, and there’s no sugar added. Sugar has its uses, and peanut butter isn’t one of them.

6. Bottled Tea: Why not save yourself a few bucks and brew your own tea? You can flavor it exactly as you please, and you aren’t paying for all that water (and sugar again). I’m not on the “sugar is the new devil” bandwagon, but there is an issue, in our packaged foods, with hidden forms of sugar. If you don’t know the sugar’s in there, you can’t keep track of your own intake.

7. Tomato-Based Pasta Sauces: Totally agree here. This is soooo easy to make at home; and contrary to conventional wisdom, it doesn’t have to be cooked all day in a great big pot your Nana brought over from the Old Country.

8. Swordfish: Here I don’t want to agree, but I must. The science is in, and so is the mercury. I suppose one small portion of swordfish a year wouldn’t overload your body with heavy metal, but mercury is not a good thing to eat in any quantity, particularly for pregnant women and children.

9. Energy Drinks: Agreed. What a waste of time, money, packaging, and brain cells.

10. Gluten-Free Baked Goods: Reader’s Digest makes a good point; “gluten-free” has become synonymous for “healthy” in the popular culture, but if you are not diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance for gluten, there is no reason for you to spend the extra cash to buy these, unless you actually prefer the taste of them. No one I know says that.

11. Flavored Non-Dairy Milks: Again, those with allergies or intolerance for dairy products now have another option. They are more expensive than milk, but I think the point here is buy the plain variety, and flavor and sweeten it yourself. Reader’s Digest falls back on the old advice to drink skim milk, even after more recent evidence has shown that low-fat dairy products are a fine choice for most people. No one ever said RD is cutting edge and modern, I suppose.

12. Foods made of Wood: Wow. Straight out of the 90’s. Yes, there is cellulose in high-fiber processed foods. Yes, cellulose is another name for wood pulp. Yes, Reader’s Digest thinks its readers have been living under rocks for a decade. Come on. My advice to you: fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, have all the fiber you need, if you will just eat them.

13. White Rice: Never buy white rice? Ever again? Does that sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? The reason they give is an increased risk for diabetes in people who eat white rice 5 or more times a week. That’s like almost every day. So don’t eat white rice every day. But to stop buying and eating it flat out? Not everyone has a problem with white rice, and not everyone likes brown rice. In addition, brown rice is more expensive, and can turn rancid if you don’t eat it fast enough. Not helpful advice.

14. Gourmet Frozen Vegetables: Totally with them here. They are silly expensive, compared to their lowly, plain frozen brethren, and you can easily replicate the sauces and seasonings with items you already have in your pantry, if you have even the most basic dried herbs, salt, pepper, and butter.

15. Microwave Sandwiches: Dudes, I just finished living out of my microwave for two months. Don’t even make me talk about microwave sandwiches. Spend a little time getting to know what you like on a sandwich, and save yourself lots of money by making your own sandwiches.

16. Premium Frozen Fruit Bars: Remember those little Tupperware/Rubbermaid ice pop makers for the freezer? For the price of one box of bars, you can buy the totally unnecessary tool to make them at home. You could also buy little paper cups and popcicle sticks. The recipe Reader’s Digest offers to make these sounds pretty good, and the little sippy-cup/ice pop combo gizmo they show is pretty cool too. I don’t know who sells them. That might have been useful information, RD.

17. Boxed Rice “Entree” or Side Dish Mixes: Okay, so we’re never to buy white rice again, but then we’re supposed to buy white rice to replicate these processed products? I agree with the sentiment, though; it’s the same as the gourmet vegetables. You have all you need to make these things at home, or you can buy them and make several batches for the cost of one box.

18. Energy or Protein Bars: Yeah, don’t buy these. They really are just glorified candy bars, and they are no more satisfying than candy bars. Have a cup of yogurt, or a handful of nuts, or a banana. You’ll be happier longer, and save money.

19. Spice Mixes: Have to disagree here, as long as you buy with discretion. Do check the label; if the first ingredient is salt, don’t buy it. However, there are spice mixes available that do not rely on salt for most of their flavor, and are a gateway to new ethnic flavor profiles. I heartily recommend Penzey’s Spices for any spice blend, until you decide you’d like to try blending spices yourself.

20. Powdered or Prepared Flavored Iced Tea Mixes: Not sure why these couldn’t be included in the bottled tea category; the advice is the same. They aren’t a smart way to spend your money.

21. Bottled Water: I’m not going to bother you with all the problems with bottled water. This is old news, too.

22. Salad Kits: Strictly a convenience, and pretty expensive for what’s included. I’d skip them, too.

23. Individual Servings of Anything: From an economic standpoint, definitely stay away from these. For the cost of a few plastic bags and your time, you can package your own individual servings and save a lot of money.

24. Trail Mix: Yes, it’s cheaper to make it yourself. Reader’s Digest complains that some varieties are $10 a pound! So don’t buy a pound. This is obviously a convenience snack, a quick grab for something better than chips or a candy bar. If you gotta, you gotta, I say. If you buy it every day, then you might want to consider making it at home.

25. Snack or Lunch Packs: Don’t. I beg you. So much packaging , so little food. There are some really cute little bento-type lunch boxes out now, that make it easy to pack your own “lunchable” items. Do that instead.

26. Gourmet Ice Cream: Geez, live a little, RD. Now you’re just crushing people’s dreams.

27. Pre-formed Meat Patties: One more decade-old piece of advice from Reader’s Digest. Stop buying pre-formed patties. Is it really so difficult to make your own?

This is a longer post than usual, but I had to get to the end of the list. I detest sensational headlines about food, and this list of foods has been tarred with too broad a brush. I suppose someone had to fill some space. I just wish they’d filled it with something worthwhile and wholesome, and not this journalistic “junk food”.

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3 comments

  1. Just finished writing my huge rant about food science and poked nose to catch up on my blog reading – thank you for this! More sane level-headed no-woo advice about food is what people need, not the authoritative writing by some journalist who doesn’t know a fatty acid from a hole in the fence! :)

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