I Read Food Labels…Carefully.
Out of sheer necessity, I am becoming an expert label reader. Nutritional information is easy. I mastered that decades ago. Now I am tackling the ingredient lists. The effort it takes to read through a paragraph of multi-syllabic jargon in tiny type is unbelievable, exhausting even.
Why do I do it?
At the age of 30 I managed to acquire a host of food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances. These cause anything from migraines to a runny nose to gas to… I will leave it at that. Obvious things to avoid are the ones I am allergic to or that wreak havoc on my digestive system – wheat, barley, sesame, coconut, etc.
Recently, I have decided to eliminate as many additives as possible – this includes anything unnatural, most dyes, flavor enhancers, salt, nitrites. The list goes on. Why do this? I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I am sick and tired of taking pills all day – 14 prescriptions and a handful of vitamins and supplements. This is no way to live.
I think changing my diet will help me feel better. Why?
While many people do fine eating whatever they want in moderation, or even in excess, some do not. Evidence suggests that some people are very sensitive to the sorts of ingredients I mentioned above. Plus, I know folks that have stopped eating them and feel happier and healthier. If there is a chance it is going to make me feel better, then why not try it?
I decided to start with MSG and Red 40 simply because I am most familiar with those two. I was shocked by what I learned about each of the. MSG was the first to make my head spin.
If you live in the United States and have ordered Chinese takeout, you have undoubtedly seen “No MSG” written on the menu. Why?
As far as I can tell, it is due to at least one famous account of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” where a person fell ill after eating Chinese food cooked with MSG. This led to the general public belief that MSG is bad, especially in Chinese food. I am sure Chinese restaurant owners did not want to take a risk of getting anyone sick, or losing any business, so they stopped using MSG and advertised the change.
After I started reading labels more carefully, I noticed MSG popping up in ingredients lists more than I expected. Why is this stuff that is so supposedly bad for you in so many other foods?
I guarantee there are those of you out there dosing yourselves with MSG on a regular basis without even knowing it. I know I was. It is in my favorite chips (that I no longer eat) and a host of yummy salty snacks and packaged prepared foods.
Either MSG is not bad for you, or a certain manufacturer of yummy tortilla chips and other well known companies are trying to poison us! So, which is it?
Is MSG safe, or are we being poisoned?
From what my preliminary research tells me (gotta love Google), it is a little of both.
Monosodium glutamate, MSG, is a flavor enhancer.
In plain terms, it makes food taste better. If you want to know how, you can read up on it here. Makes sense why snack food companies would want to use it. They want you to love the taste of their food so much that you keep eating it, and eating it, and buying more of it. They want to do this as cheaply and easily as possible. Enter the MSG.
The American Food and Drug Administration does not consider MSG to be unsafe, or at least not harmful enough to be banned. I do not blame them.
Monosodium glutamate , or similar substances, have been used for over 100 years. MSG is used in many foods on supermarket shelves in America and consumed by millions of people every day. There are no studies to show that MSG directly causes any diseases. As far as I have found, there are no studies that show it causes illness in healthy adults (I will be researching this further).
Even if there is no concrete evidence that MSG is harmful to the general public, it does not mean it is 100% safe for everyone. There is evidence that some people are particularly sensitive to MSG and these people can suffer ill effects. MSG is one of those “eat at your own risk” foods. You will be just fine, unless you are one of the people it makes sick. If you are one of those people, you should avoid it. I am sure this is the reason the FDA requires it to be listed on ingredient labels. Good for the FDA.
Personally, I appreciate being alerted that there is something in my food that might be making me sick, even mildly. And even if the FDA says it is fine to eat MSG, I think I will do my best to avoid it.
I have never met someone that can definitely say MSG makes them sick, but I believe they are out there. I do know plenty of people that have felt better after they stopped eating junk food. Junk food (packaged snacks, boxed and prepared foods) seem to be the ones that most often contain MSG. These foods also contain plenty of other unhealthy things (fat, salt, artificial color and flavor). Makes sense that you would feel better eating none or less of them. I think most people would agree on this. additionally, some people with ADHD, migraines, and similar conditions have decreased symptoms after eliminating foods with additives. I do know of actual cases of this.
Now that I am giving up junk food and prepared foods does this mean I am free of MSG?
Close but not quite.
I found MSG hiding in a few places I did not expect:
Salad dressings (not a big surprise) and seasoning mixes (huge surprise). I foolishly thought that maybe the better brands, the kinds that encourage you to feed them to families and children, would be wholesome and devoid of MSG. Not so. That kid with the rosy chubby cheeks is slurping up a bowl of chicken noodle MSG.
Foods that do not contain MSG can still be sources of glutamic acid, the part of MSG that acts as a flavor enhancer. These include ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein. I see that one a lot. I never knew it was a flavor enhancer. That makes these foods troublesome for some people as well. So much so that the FDA does not allow “No MSG” or “No Added MSG” on food labels if the food contains ingredients that are sources of free glutamate (glutamic acid). Great. A new list of words to memorize!
The only way to be 100% sure to avoid MSG and other sources of glutamic acid is to restrict your diet to fresh foods, whole foods, organic foods. A great idea in theory. Anyone that knows me knows that is just not gonna happen for me now. Maybe some day. For now I will have the occasional jarred sauce or frozen dinner. But you can belive I am going to read that label before I put it in my cart.
What do you think?
Is MSG safe?
How much MSG have you been eating? Are you surprised?
Will you consider cutting back on MSG in your diet? Your child’s?
At my recent trip to the supermarket I witnessed something that renewed my faith in young dads. (Before you think I am some sort of weird creeper. I was not spying on this family. The whole episode happened rather quickly AND they were in the way of my cereal!)
The supermarket is not a place we see many parents at their best – especially the cereal aisle.
Bored children are tempted with an onslaught of bright-colored boxes sporting fun characters. What child wouldn’t want to take one home? The youngest ones want to play with them; the older ones know they are full of sugary goodness. The cereal aisle can really test a parent’s mettle.
As I scanned the lower shelves for the gluten-free Rice Krispies an adorable little girl caught my eye. She was maybe three years old. The perfect height to look those cheery cartoon characters right in the eye. Nearly old enough to walk and talk like a little adult, but not nearly old enough to reason like one.
She was with who I assume was her father. An average looking young man, probably in his twenties. By the way she was acting, I could tell she was recently denied the joy of adding one of these magical boxes to the cart. Little Miss was in a mood! She was about to stomp off in a huff.
Daddy was having none of that.
He very calmly asked his daughter to hold his hand. Yeah, right! She did what every defiant little girl does. Little Miss pulled away and began to stomp off, albeit very slowly. Daddy calmly informed her that if she did not hold his hand, he would have to pick her up.
One more try at the hand.
No deal. Little Miss was fit to throw a fit at this point. You could see it coming. Fists clenching, brow furrowing.
Daddy made good on his word.
He scooped up his daughter and held her to his chest. Little Miss, of course, was now throwing her fit. You know how it goes. The tantrum. Parents you have dealt with it a hundred thousand times. Fellow grocery shoppers you have walked by it, probably rolled your eyes at it too. Legs kicking, crying just to make noise.
It was adorable.
Little Miss was having a crying fit on Daddy’s shoulder and he didn’t bat an eye. I doubt his pulse increased even a beat per minute.
As they exited the cereal aisle, finally allowing me to access the yummy goodness I craved, he leaned his head to look at his daughter. She picked up her teary-eyed head. Daddy very simply asked her “Are you done yet?” She stopped crying just long enough to shake her head and moan “No”. Daddy said, “ok”, gently guided her head back onto his shoulder, and kept walking.
Little Miss continued her crying. And why not? Her world was ending! She was denied a box of colorful friends. She was snagged up from her grocery aisle romp. The horror!
I saw them shortly after.
Little Miss still in Daddy’s arms. Smile on her face. No cereal in the cart.
I loved seeing this. It turned me to mush.
What a great dad.
What makes me so gushy over this?
It is as much about what I didn’t see as what I did. Anyone can gush over a young dad holding his daughter. That’s a no brainer.
What didn’t I see?
– There was no yelling at the child. What good would it do to yell at a three-year old?
-There was no reasoning with the child. Why should there be? She doesn’t understand why she wants it let alone your adult reasons why she can’t have it.
– There was no dragging the defiant child down the aisle by her tiny hand. This is always a bad idea, but believe me I still see it.
Maybe there was something in the air that day that allowed this young man to keep his cool so beautifully. I have to say, everyone was oddly cheery and chatty. Or maybe he is just a good dad that does not believe in yelling at, arguing with, or dragging his daughter.
I am going to be optimistic and go with the Good Dad Theory.
I wonder how patient he will be when she is a teenager!
I am a writer
I do not mean it is my profession. I mean it is who I am. It is part of my very being. I have no more choice in the matter than I have in being a woman.
I am sure I have always been a writer, but it has only been recently that I realized it, and dared to say it.
I still feel at times like I have no idea what I am doing. Like a toddler learning to walk. This blog for instance. I have no idea what to write or how to write it. It is an experiment in self-discovery. I am grateful to anyone that is kind enough to make the journey with me.
So if I am not a writer by profession and if I don’t know the first thing about being a writer, how do I know that I am one? How does a person know anything? How do you know you are in love with someone? It’s like that.
The more comfortable I get with being a writer, the more I develop this part of myself, the more I notice it. Annoying things keep happening that remind me I am a writer.
The way I look at things has changed. The way I think is different. It might even be affecting the way I speak! Sometimes I think I must finally have gone completely insane. Then I realize, no, I am a writer.
The Movie Trailer
I was recently at the movies when it really hit me. I have developed a writer’s brain.
I have this inner desire to write something really great. I have no idea why. I have never cared about things like that before. Now all of a sudden I want to create some amazing work of fiction. Where the heck did that come from?
It happened during the trailers. I love movie trailers! As one of them played, I found myself thinking “Boy, I wish I wrote that! I wonder if I can think of something as good.”
I was impressed with the originality of the story line, the suspense. There were a few things I personally might have done differently. But I only got to see snippets. Maybe they work in the context of the film as a whole. I would like to find out.
Seriously?! You have got to be kidding me! I am suddenly envying screenwriters. This is not like jealousy over things like the invention of post-it notes or some other cool thing that would make me millions. This is real honest to goodness envy. I really do want to write a great thriller.
Sitting there in the theater, I found myself thinking: How does a person come up with an idea like that? Can I do it? I need to do it! How am I gonna make it happen? I started taking mental notes for the remainder of the trailers. What I liked or didn’t, was it just a rehash or was it original….
After the movie, I was thinking about that trailer more than the movie I just saw. I could not get these thoughts out of my head. Granted, it wasn’t the greatest movie, but I am willing to bet these are not the kinds of thoughts that go through the average person’s head as they leave the theater. I know they never used to go through mine before.
Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe I won’t have the same weird reaction to the next batch of trailers. My movie date for this Valentine’s Day might settle the matter. I have a feeling movie trailers will never be the same again.
As odd and confusing as it is to be obsessing over a glorified commercial for a movie I wish I wrote, I also sort of like it. It means that there is a writer alive and well in me that is dying to get out. This writer is also determined to do something great. That is exciting.
My crazy writer brain did not doubt my ability to write that fabulous film script. It went into autopilot studying and strategizing. That is sort of an awesome feeling.
Now I need to keep that alive. How does one do that? Watching movies maybe? Just like novelists improve themselves by reading, maybe screenwriters watch movies.
I will still read of course. Every writer should. It is essential. What will I be reading? A little of everything. Why? I also want to write the next great novel, and collection of short stories, and poems, and…. I did say I am still settling into this writer thing.
I watch the Super Bowl every year. I don’t remember ever missing one. Do I necessarily remember who won them, or who even played? No. Do I care? No. Still every year come playoff time I await the Super Bowl like a kids waits for Christmas!
The Super Bowl is one of my favorite holidays…
Don’t even attempt to argue with me on this one. It is a holiday. It happens around the same time every year. People get together. There is food and alcohol. What about this doesn’t sound like a holiday? I look forward to the Super Bowl way more than a lot “real” holidays. When is the last time you were excited about Columbus Day? Unless maybe you were eying something in Macy’s annual sale.
For those of you that are still doubting my “the Super Bowl is a holiday” theory. I will now briefly list the things that are celebrated on this glorious Sunday…
Lots of beer. Bottles of beer. Cans. If you really have a party going, maybe a keg or two! Me? I just want a bottle or two of frosty beer. More specifically, I want to drink cheap beer. Bud! Bud light! These are a must have. I wait all year for the chance to partake in these most watery of beers without shame. To be honest, I do like Bud Light. I always have.
I also love beer commercials. Who doesn’t like to see girls in bikinis jumping over snow-covered mountains. You better believe the Super Bowl is gonna have a few beer commercials – more on those later.
I love pizza! Cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, pizza with veggies, pizza pizza pizza. I look forward to a Super Bowl pizza like some folks look forward to their Thanksgiving Turkey. Several years ago I developed an intolerance for wheat. Pizza is one of the things that make me the sickest. Well you can be damned if I am going to be deprived of my Super Bowl pizza!
Did you really think I was gonna have pizza and beer and no wings? That is like having a burger and soda with no fries. It just isn’t done! Yes, folks. I look forward to Super Bowl Sunday because I use it as an excuse to eat an embarrassing amount of chicken wings with absolutely no shame. The more the better! For those of you health conscious folks that are cringing at the thought, I do manage to fit in a few carrot sticks. But really, it’s all about the wings.
Beer, Pizza, and Wings. The triple crown of Super Bowl fare. Sure, you can have more. You can even have (gasp) healthy options. But if you don’t have those three, I will be celebrating my holiday elsewhere.
The Super Bowl is the only program I know where people look forward to the commercials. Some people watch solely for the commercials. At least that is how it used to be. The past few years have seen a steady decline in commercial quality. And now companies are putting out pre-game teasers. Really. Commercials for commercials. Leave it to big corporate to ruin a good thing if they think they can make a buck. That being said, I will still be watching. It is tradition. Some people watch It’s a Wonderful Life a certain time every year, I watch Super Bowl Commercials. I can’t help it. I wait impatiently every commercial break hoping to see those Clydesdales. And what about that talking baby! I will suffer through the bombs to see an occasional touchdown. Then there is the simple curiosity to see what companies felt was worth shelling out $4 million.
As I hinted at, I don’t much care who is playing. I do watch football, but really don’t follow teams. I can tell you I am immensely happy that there will not be a Tom Brady or a Tim Tebow on the field. I would be happy if I went the remainder of my sort-of-football-watching life never hearing those nanes again! What I do want to hear are some bone crushing sacks. i want to see some sneaky interceptions. I want to cringe and yell at the TV every time I see a fumble. “It is your job to catch and hold on to a ball. How in _’s sake do you drop it like that?!” I just want to see a good game!
This year I do care a little about the teams too. I have liked the Ravens this season. I have no Idea why. Maybe it has to do with my favorite color. And I do enjoy watching Flacco – not sick of that name yet. I am excited to see them matched up against the 49ers. Why? Due to my craziest football tradition ever. I like to imagine the mascots battling! Yes. I am crazy. Certifiable. But it is fun crazy! I already have images in my mind of clouds of ravens attacking coal miners in the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. The Ravens are totally gonna peck the 49ers eyes out!!!
If I still have any friends left at this point, I would love to watch with you. Just like families gather around the tree Christmas morning, I want to gather aroung the TV with my friends on Super Bowl Sunday. There will be yelling, drinking, eating. People will do dumb things. A huge mess will be made. I will gain tn pounds and it will totally be worth it…. Sounds like a holiday to me!
So, you know what I will be doing this sunday….
Beer, pizza, wings. Commercials. Football. Will the commercials suck? All but a few.
Will this year’s game be exciting to watch? Who knows? Anything happens at the Super Bowl.
That is why I will be watching every second. Except for the halftime show. That is when I finally get to go pee!!!