Sometimes I think most of our daily actions and interactions are a lot like headshots. Headshots give partial information. They are not too revealing and you don’t get to see the whole person. You get a glimpse but not the whole picture. They provide good screening information that is usually positive. You cannot tell a whole lot about a personality from a person’s headshot. Hopefully, most of us want for more content before making a decision based on a headshot.
When you apply the concept of a headshot to processed food it is usually the front of the package that the decision is based. “I thought that it would be ok” is what I often hear of such selections made using the front of the package. An example could be “bacon flavoring” or “beet chips”. They seem pretty benign. But why would we want bacon flavoring? Perhaps it is because we are trying to give up a known carcinogen and want something that tastes like it to help? How about nicotine flavor? That is exactly how vaping companies have sold liquid nicotine. Vaping is reasoned as an acceptable change, but we all realize nicotine is a harmful, addicting chemical. Bacon is a highly processed meat that has an obvious taste so just finding a “bacon flavor” seems ok. Why do we want to simulate a flavor that makes us crave something harmful? The first step is to look up the ingredients. Nothing is as it seems. The first ingredient usually has the highest concentration in a product. In the case of bacon flavor that I researched, it was maltodextrin. It is produced from vegetable starch to provide texture and sweetness. It is a polysaccharide or complex carbohydrate that eventually break down into glucose. What about natural flavoring versus artificial flavoring? Both are synthesized. Natural is from chemicals that can be sourced from the environment and artificial flavors are made using synthetic chemicals. Natural has nothing to do with from nature. The bottom line is that if there is a paragraph of ingredients concocted to taste like something else, it would be best left on the shelf. Some things just don’t serve us and are best eliminated and not substituted.
Head shots are to direct attention where we want it. Packaging of processed foods are meant to direct us towards the attributes we need to justify the purchase. Beets, organic, non GMO, colorful packaging, natural and healthy are all gimmicks to direct us away from the ingredients on the back. Even the location of the product is used to sway our subconscious to reason that the product is more healthy than other similar processed foods. Chips and crackers in the produce department or in a health food store are a good example. If you pay more for “natural” non GMO ingredients in a health food store, it must be a reasonable alternative? Not so fast.
The most important question to ask is if this product was unhealthy in the SAD diet, why would an alternative made to taste like the unhealthy choice be a reasonable alternative. Beet chips are not more healthy than corn chips. Bacon flavoring will not help you not to crave bacon. Butter made from oil is still 100% fat. Nuts butters are still butter and are 85% fat. Almond flour is still almonds ground into flour. Taking the gluten out of bread and substituting multiple fillers will not make it less calorie dense or healthier. But, they are all packaged to make us believe that we are choosing wisely.
Become a wise consumer in 2020. Try to decrease justifications for poor choices. It is a process, but we need to realize what deals we are making and how they affect our health. Take the head shot for what it is; partial information.