Friday, February 18, 2011

Derailed by a Chip

I did everything right. I made a list. I stayed away from the packaged food isles. I ate before I shopped. I even went to the farmer’s market FIRST so that I could get as many local items as possible. But yet, once I spied the bag it was all over. Game over.

I was derailed. By a tortilla chip.

I stopped buying potato chips when I learned that polyunsaturated fats can degrade into trans fats and free radicals when heated to high temperatures. Since our government subsidies such oils they are by far the cheapest oils for commercial companies to use to fry. Since I haven’t found a company frying chips in coconut oil or beef tallow, I have just stopped buying them. We only really ate chips during lunch on the weekend anyway. They were always a treat. Now we have a salad or a homemade soup with our sandwiches for lunch. That is far more nutritious anyhow.

Last weekend I took both Things to the grocery store and farmer’s market to give DH the morning off. I don’t know if my weakness came from having both kids or something else. But when I walked by a display of store made tortilla chips it was all over. The bag was plastic lined paper. Probably BPA was in the liner. Fairway had taken the time to actually take corn tortillas and fry them. This was no Tostitos corn mash commercial chip. The chips were thick and sprinkled with what looked like kosher salt. Likely an over processed salt. The label indicated that these golden triangles had been fried in vegetable oil, which is code for soybean oil. As I have done more digging I have realized that because corn oil can be turned into ethanol, it is no longer profitable to sell that as food. I originally thought ethanol would be a great solution to our domestic oil problem. Though now that I have learned that it takes as much if not more fossil fuels to MAKE ethanol, I am left at square one. Think about, the machinery that is used to make ethanol has to be powered by something… Ethanol is now, thanks to government regulations and subsidies, a huge source of profits to corn processors (not corn farmers). So don’t expect it in your veggie oil anymore.

Add to that the bleached over processed salt and the overwhelming likelihood that the corn was genetically modified, and you start to see the drama that played out in my head over this seemingly 3 ingredient food. Lookie Ma! It passes the 5 ingredient rule.

But there are moments of weakness in every life. I bought the chips because I had a particularly good batch of leftover farmer’s market turkey chili back at the house. How good would these politically problematic chips on my sustainably made chili? Is anyone catching all the irony here?

Well they were delicious. They were thick and salty and crunchy. My mouth is watering even a week later describing it. The Things had some too. And they acted like they had hit the jackpot. I think Thing 2 has had less than 15 chips in his short life. And it has been so long since I kept chips in the house that Thing 1 has forgotten than we ever did. It has been long enough now that even DH doesn’t whine for them any longer. But everyone enjoyed the results of my moment of weakness.

It’d be great if that was where the story ended. If that was the whole story, it probably wouldn’t be blog worthy. Big Whoop. I broke down and fell off the wagon. That first day we all enjoyed A FEW chips at lunch. Then later, thinking no one was looking I snuck some more. But I got caught. Because he saw me eating chips in between meals, Thing 1 asked for some. I can’t be a hypocrite. So I had to share. So now I was eating a food I didn’t approve of, feeding it to my kids, and now gorging on it. And yet again, after dinner when the kids were in bed, I snuck some more. What am I? A closet chip-a-holic?

We ate a few more on Sunday. And fortunately I didn’t think about them again until Tuesday night. After dinner Tuesday I was feeling munchy again and my thoughts turned to the nefarious chips. I went to the pantry where I expected a half a bag to still be located. And to my amazement!!!! There were 6 chips left!! What? I hadn’t eaten any of them in two days! I hadn’t used them with any meals for the kids. But it seems that my babysitter had! For two days it is likely that my kids were eating conventionally processed chips with lunch but also as a snack. Awesome right?

It was one bag of chips. It was an itch that I had to scratch. Sometimes you gotta scratch. But what I became more concerned over in the end was my inability to regulate my eating of the chips. They were there and they were talking to me, pleading with me, begging me to eat them. Moderation? *Fail* People in general have issues sticking with moderation. Which is why I get frustrated when anyone says that any food should be eaten in moderation. What does that mean? Is moderation eating such a food once a month? Once a week? Once a day? Moderation may mean something different to all of us. For me, in the case of chips, it means going overboard once every six months or once a year. Everyone deals with being deprived of a favorite something differently. Overall I know I eat well, so I am not sweating this occurrence. It will not likely make a huge dent in our health. But if I was less able to manage my unhealthy food desires, it might make a difference.

So I have a neat checklist to banish temptation. People love lists, and I imagine my blog readers are no different. If you have trouble with moderation in food related manners, here are some guidelines that have worked for me.

* Eat more at home. I have much trouble controlling my choices when I am at a restaurant.
* Eat a healthy meal before going to the grocery store. Feeling both full and good about what you have just eaten will help you make better choices when you are at the point of sale.
* Make a list. Duh.
* Don’t waste time crying over a transgression. You will need to eat again in 4-5 hours (or maybe less). Focus on doing better next time rather than beating yourself up over a bad choice.
* If you make it from scratch even ‘bad for you food’ is not as bad as most prepared versions. But that goes back to the first point—Eat more at home.
* Enjoy your food. Good food fills us up and makes us whole. Enjoy it. Life is too short.

May you control your food cravings better than me!


  1. This is, hands-down, one of my favorite posts on your blog! It rings so true. I took in white bread, Smuckers jelly, and sugary peanut-butter to school yesterday for a lesson with my students on giving directions. In order for the lesson to work, I had to provide them with conventional products that come in familiar packaging, rather than my homemade bread I slice one piece at a time, and my homemade jelly in a jar with a two-part lid. What did my husband and I eat for dinner last night? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on soft white bread. He went for his favorite grape jelly, while I stuck with my childhood favorite home-made strawberry, but it was a preservative-filled night for us. Fortunately, my husband is really supportive of my efforts to turn us into 100% real food eaters. He sarcastically pointed out how good this bread was for us because it is Enriched!! with Vitamins!!! and Minerals!!!!
    (On a sad note, one of my students claimed she had never eaten jelly before, because her parents could not afford it. So I have to take the blame for introducing her to a corporate concoction of grapes, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (one type of corn syrup clearly was not enough),fruit pectin, citric acid and sodium citrate.)

  2. I think we all have times like that. Just this weekend I was lured by kids to the cinnamon rolls at ikea. Those kids know how to give mom those big puppy dog eyes so I gave in. To my horror I read the ingredients when we got home and they contain HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP BLECH! I told the kids these would be the last ikea cinnamon rolls we ever buy!