Last night I was on my own for dinner and I was craving one of the concoctions that I tend to whip up when it's just me at home. Most foods that I love, Doug loves. Most foods that he loves, I love.
There are, however, a few things in my 'love' department that fall in to his 'I'm not home for dinner tonight so if you want to do one of your kale-quinoa dinners, go ahead' department.
So I do. And I make enough for about four lunches so it keeps me going for days.
Last night I whipped up a warm salad with quinoa, edamame, chick peas, roasted portobellos, red pepper and zucchini. I steamed some kale and tossed that in a bowl. I piled the salad on top and, voilà, delicious dinner.
In order to make said dinner, I needed to go to the grocery store. I grabbed my veggies and then headed to the health food section for the frozen edamame. Since I was on my own and had plenty of time, I strolled up and down the aisles. I looked at the healthy cereals. The gluten-free crackers. The rice pasta. Just holding these items in my hand made me feel healthier and more virtuous.
I looked at the rice pasta. I know that people who eat a gluten-free diet eat rice pasta. What I didn't know was - is it good for me? Or does it just not have gluten in it? I checked the nutritional label. Yep, there are carbs and fibre and a few nutrients in there. I looked at a box of white pasta. There are carbs, fibre and a few nutrients in there too.
I know that there are strict regulations on what can and cannot be printed on food items. And that nutrition labels are made to be simple(ish) to read. But do you know what I wish? I wish that, when I read a bag of rice pasta, it said something like:
"Hi there! I'm rice pasta. I'm made from brown rice rather than wheat so I am safe for those who need a gluten free diet. I'm also good for you because I have the following things (insert correct information here) that white pasta does not have. Unfortunately, white pasta has (insert correct information here) that I don't. And in terms of (insert info), we're pretty much even so it doesn't really matter which you choose. It's up to you to decide which product is right for you but at least you have all the correct information so you can make the best decision."
Or it would be nice to have some sort of info guide available in all stores where we could look up two items we are comparing and see everything there is to know rather than just the basic nutritional information based on a serving size that makes little sense. It could tell us the differences between the two products, the similarities, which one is a better choice and why.
Better yet, I want highly trained people in each food section who can answer my questions about each and every product. It might take me three hours to do my groceries but I'd learn a lot and come home with things that might make a bit more sense to have in the cupboard.
Because really, just because a food is in the 'health food section' doesn't mean it is the most nutritionally sound choice. It could also be there because it looks like something healthy people would buy and it sells better when it's next to the rice puffs cereal and apple butter spreads.
A few months ago, when Doug and I were at a B&B, the owner was very nice and very very eager to talk about food. She asked me if I had eaten coconut butter yet. I said no.
"Oh, you have to try it. It's so good for you."
"Really? Why is it good for me?"
"It's just really really good for you health."
"How is it good for my health?"
"It just is really good for you. You should try it. Have you tried it yet?"
"Um, no. But thanks for the information."
That kind of stuff drives me batty. Just enough information to sound good but not enough to tell me anything useful. It's so easy to jump on the bandwagon and start adding tablespoons of coconut butter to my daily diet...until I'm suddenly five pounds heavier and not really any better off.
I'm no nutrition expert. I know that quinoa is good for me and I can spout off a few things about complete proteins. I know that edamame is good for me and I can talk a little bit about the benefit of adding soy products to your diet. I know that kale has lots of iron, that chick peas are a good source of protein and that veggies like zucchini and mushrooms are probably good for me too although I'm not clear on what nutrients they actually provide. I'm guessing my salad, overall, was a pretty healthy meal and that a registered dietician would nod in approval.
But rice pasta? I don't know. Coconut butter? I'm not sold.
So I came home from the store without the coconut butter. I did however bring home a bag of rice pasta. I figure that it's no worse than white pasta and it does taste pretty good so either a) there is a slight health advantage to eating it or b) there is no advantage and it's just another carb option in the cupboard.
I can live with that.