Dr. Oz's 'anti-food-snob diet' criticized by organic advocates

Dr. Oz's 'anti-food-snob diet' criticized by organic advocates

It seems a lot of folks are up in arms about an article that Dr. Oz wrote for the Dec. 3 issue of Time magazine. “What to Eat Now: The anti-food-snob diet” centers around a basic principal that dispelling the myth that “you have to spend a lot to eat well—is critical to improving our nation’s health.”

As an organic advocate, self-proclaimed "foodie" and frequent shopper at both Whole Foods Market and Safeway, I loved this article and whole-heartedly support its message.

I firmly believe that our agricultural and animal husbandry systems in the U.S. are in need of change, but I also believe that when you change the way people eat, those things will change—to borrow a phrase—organically. Choosing healthy foods, cooking and raising healthy kids doesn’t happen spontaneously. You’re taught how to eat by your family, your peers and the media you consume. So bravo to Dr. Oz for trying to teach better-for-you eating strategies, even if the die-hard among us feel like he could have gone further.

In the article, the prolific doctor sings the praises of frozen vegetables, canned foods (particularly beans, tuna, salmon, and chicken), and even that childhood standby, the PB&J. His goal is clearly to encourage cheap, simple, healthy eating to the millions of Americans who see cost and cook time as reasons to eat nutritionally poor, calorically dense foods. He’s fighting obesity and diabetes here, not trying to remake the food industry.

He touches on everything from serving size to simplicity and sorting out the good from the bad at the market by reading labels. He talks about vitamin content in fresh vs. frozen vegetables and different processing methods that are better and worse. He talks about why free-range and grass fed animals make for safer, healthier meats, but admits that in terms of calories and protein and fat content there isn’t a big difference.

I’ve seen a number of comments online berating Dr. Oz for the side-by-side comparison of conventional vs. organic foods in a sidebar titled “Which foods pay off?” Importantly, Dr. Oz did not write that sidebar. There’s a clear byline at the bottom of that page attributing it to Alexandra Sifferlin, so let’s all lay off the good doctor for that one, eh?

That said, it is an interesting comparison, and while Ms. Sifferlin didn’t tell the whole story about conventional vs. organic product choices, she wasn’t comparing production practices. She was comparing nutritional content only. And for millions of Americans this is an important first step. Choosing eggs, tuna and peanut butter over KFC, Trix and Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese has to come first.

Once you’re making good choices about what to eat, then you can start looking into how your food is made. (click to tweet that!)

Those of us up to our eyeballs in the world of organic, non-GMO, local, and humanely raised, all went through that crucial first step; we may just have forgotten it. And Dr. Oz is making a vital connection for people put off by the idea that in order for something to be healthy it has to be the best—better is good, too.

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