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In defense of fortified processed food

In defense of fortified processed food

Did you hear the one about the hot dog diet? People desperate to lose weight are told they can drop pounds, virtually overnight, by following a regimented eating program of foods which "stimulate the metabolism."

Naturally, the mysterious hot dog (who really knows what's in them, anyway) plays a key role. Peanut butter, ice cream and eggs are also diet staples.    

If only the hot dog diet truly was a joke. Unfortunately, a close friend of mine fell victim to the eating plan's online success stories and promised claims. In hopes of dropping 10 lbs. before heading to a wedding, she decided to dedicate herself to hot dogs for three days.

Busy at work, my friend accidently missed one of her scheduled hot dog meals. Upon realizing it, she proclaimed, "Now the diet's not going to work!" She seemed to believe this magical combination of foods, eaten at specific times throughout the day, was the key to her weight loss—not eating more vegetables and consuming fewer calories.

The mere fact that the hot dog diet exists shows that she's not the only one confused.

Convenience wins

As a country, we're stressed, tired, and short on time. Figuring out "what's for dinner" is a necessary evil and often the most convenient option wins. My friend is still a regular at Chick-fil-A and can't get through the day without her diet Coke.

When we do make it to the grocery store, we bypass the produce aisle for convenience and prepared foods that will make getting a meal on the table just a little easier. Who has time for boiling grains or peeling vegetables? Unsurprisingly, we're in the top 10 fattest countries in the world.

Because we've lost our connection to real food, when it's time to drop those extra pounds, we'll believe and try almost anything—like, hot dogs. But to get Americans to ditch processed food in favor of produce is not going to happen overnight.

Baby steps to health

That brings me to frozen pizza.

Right now, I'm buried in it. I'm charged with zeroing in on the healthiest, tastiest options for Natural Foods Merchandiser's October issue. When I received the new VitaPizza from the makers of VitaTops, my immediate reaction was disgust. The 190-calorie pizza doesn't stand out for top-notch ingredients or quality standards but it's fortified with a bevy of nutrients in efficacious doses.

This is the problem with America, I thought. We want our vitamin C from a frozen pizza, not broccoli.

Then, I thought of my hot dog-eating friend in Alabama. The produce section in her 'hood is downright depressing. When she does make it to the store to buy "real" food, the frozen section is her go to.   

"It's only 190 calories and it has vitamins in it, sounds great!" she said when I told her about the new pizza.

In Boulder, Colo., where natural food stores on every corner offer raw kale salads and goji bars, it's easy to look down on frozen fortified foods. Take a macro approach though, and for a lot of Americans the VitaPizza is a lot better than the nearest drive thru or... a hot dog.

Do you think fortified processed foods are helping or hurting Americans? Share in the comments.

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