Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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Bread that doesn’t mold after weeks on the shelf, milk that can set in the refrigerator for weeks without spoiling, ice cream that doesn’t melt and the list goes on. A hundred years ago, milk came from cows, meat came from animals and meals came from the kitchen stove and not from a box. Sadly, today much of our food appears on the grocer’s shelves in pre-packaged containers ready to eat or heat. Where has our real food gone?

Have we really traded wholesome food that is good for us for convenience and opportunities for the producers to make an extra dollar? It seems so.

I had nearly a half-gallon of milk left in the fridge when I went on vacation and forgot to dispose of it. Guess what? Nearly two and a half weeks later it was still good. I have had a loaf of bread in the cabinet for over two weeks with no sign of mold. Now, when I was a kid, both the milk and the bread would have been spoiled.

There is a video that has gone viral that depicts a dish of Breyer’s ice cream, one of the brands that is touted as being made from all-natural ingredients, that sets on the counter for hours and does not melt. Now, I am not saying that this is 100% correct, but Breyer’s does not taste the same as it used to.

If you check the list of ingredients on a Breyer’s box, instead of the five or six it used to list, now it lists ingredients that I know I can’t pronounce. On many of their boxes, it does not say “ice cream” anymore, but rather, it reads “frozen dairy dessert.” The company says they changed their recipe because of commodity prices, competition and marketing trends and that most of the people polled actually preferred the new blend. Really? How can something unnatural taste better than all-natural? It is pretty sad that the population’s taste buds are so used to packaged foods with preservatives that many prefer that taste over real food.

I experienced this fact first-hand a few years ago when my grandson Wade stayed over and we were going to have waffles and sausage for breakfast. I got my mixing bowl out to make the waffles from scratch and Wade earnestly told me that was not how you do waffles, but rather you get them out of the package in the freezer and pop them in the toaster. If this is how our generation of kids is growing up, how will they ever learn to cook for themselves or will it become a lost art among the general population?

Our breads and grains have sadly gone downhill also. An American company says it has developed a technique that will make bread stay mold-free for 60 days. Can you imagine a loaf of bread being good on the counter for two months!

Apparently, what they are proposing is zapping bread in a huge microwave that will kill all mold spores. The technique was originally developed to kill bacteria such as MRSA and salmonella and is now being used with a wider range of foods such as fresh turkeys and many fruits and vegetables. The trouble with this method is that it not only kills the bacteria, but it also kills everything of nutritional value. Aren’t there safer ways to preserve our food than to radiate it?

Bread and other products have also gotten a bad rap lately because of the gluten in them. Even if you are not gluten-intolerant, sometimes eating grains these days leaves us feeling bloated and with some other unpleasant symptoms. America grew up eating grains, so why are they all of a sudden the bad guys?

Wheat crops, like other plant and animal products have been through some serious genetic manipulation which makes them more profitable for the food industry and less healthy for us consumers. Thus, the grain itself is harder for our bodies to process which leads to our digestive problems stemming from the gluten in grains.

I have actually been going back to a heritage wheat called red fife and using flour made from that strain for breads and other baked goods. It is not gluten-free, but those with gluten intolerances, do tolerate it much better than other grains. It has exceptional flavor and baking properties while remaining un-altered by modern genetic modifications. It is a heritage grain that our grandparents ate, when grains were still some of the good guys.

Well, all the blame does not fall squarely on the shoulders of the grains either. Producers of commercially available grain-based products chock them full of unhealthy ingredients like azodicarbonamide (the same chemical that is found in yoga mats and rubber) and added sugar, colorings and GMO’s.

In addition, flour can be treated with any of 60 different chemicals approved by the FDA, including bleach, before it ends up on grocers’ shelves. It makes you wonder why a loaf of bread needs all these unidentifiable ingredients when it takes only flour, yeast, water and salt to make bread. No, I really don’t want my bread to be good for two months.

When we look at our food supply, it is apparent that we have sacrificed our health for the sake of convenience. Everyone gets in a pinch once in a while and needs to get a meal on the table in a hurry. However, there is no excuse for making this the norm. Neisa, a friend of mine who is a mother of two co-owns a business with her husband, finds the time to cook for her family from scratch as well as making her own dog food. “It’s just better for us and our overall health,” she says. “It may take a little time, but isn’t our health and longevity worth it?”

As with anything else, change is hard but if you start by making even a few small changes, you will notice a significant difference. Eat minimally processed foods, buy and bake with unrefined grains, incorporate more unprocessed meats and foods into your diet and buy hormone-free dairy and meat. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest ways to get back to basics. Eat lean protein and complex carbohydrates and two to three servings of healthy fats every day. Warning though, one of the side effects of this new eating plan is possible weight loss!

Buying from local producers is also a big plus. It is hard to ship milk across the globe and not have it spoil without preservatives. However, locally grown and produced requires less additives to retain freshness.

In the name of convenience and in our rushed society we have traded value and healthy for quick and easy. Our food chain is spoiling faster than our actual food. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics, especially in what we eat.

Photos Courtesy of Getty Images

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