Empty Foods


So few days back I read about this study which correlates diet soda and a host of health problems. The soda doesn’t cause the health problems, mind you, but it’s considered likely that heavy consumption of diet soda indicates poor eating habits.

Which is just totally unfair.

I switched to you to be healthier, Diet Dr. Pepper! I believed in you! You’re a doctor! And this is where you take me, down a road that ends in heart attacks?

Here’s the thing: diet foods creep me out. It took dating a Diet Coke-obsessed woman to turn me on to diet soda, and even then only because waking up at 7:30 each day (life is hard, I know) necessitates cheap caffeine. I chew sugarless gum without trepidation, but the rest of those calorie-free, nutrient-free, everything-free monstrosities science hath wrought set off some kind of warning bells in my brain.

We all know now that saccharin’s cancer link was based on faulty test procedures. We dismiss the critics of newer wonder-sweeteners like aspartame and Splenda as crackpots. They’re generally recognized as safe, and thus we’re all fine, right?

Maybe so. But honestly, I wish I had the self-restraint to eat the real sweet stuff less often instead of tricking myself every time my belly demands tribute. But, judging by how fast a week’s worth of cookies vanishes from my house, it seems I don’t. And by constantly nurturing those urges for confections with faux-food instead of gaining the discipline to only eat the real goodies, say, once a week, maybe I’m holding myself back from true healthy eating. As long as I eat something sweet–even synthetically sweet–whenever I want something sweet, maybe I’m telling my body “keep craving junk; maybe eventually I’ll give you the good stuff” rather than teaching it to just hold the damn cravings off ’til the weekend.

What do you think? Do any of you feel ill at ease when you crack open your third Diet Coke or bake cookies with Splenda?

-Jim, amazed xylitol tastes so lousy

  • melissa

    hey there! I’m new around these parts, but wanted to comment on this one…

    I flat out don’t buy artificial products. that way there’s no way I’ll eat them either. I DO feel uncomfortable eating synthetic foods and chemical/man-made ingredients. something about that just doesn’t sit right with me. like I think soda is bad for you in any form because, again, where is there anything natural in there?

    and just to say it, I am by NO means a puritan or a hard ass when it comes to food. I enjoy a little bit of absolutely everything. as far as indulgences, I’m a big meat eater, a sushi fanatic, and I love greasy tacos and eat way too many loaded sub sandwiches. but I think we should make an effort as food lovers to love *real* food and beverages and not processed ones.

    sorry, rather ineloquent, but you get my drift.

  • Caley

    Hear Hear Melissa! I’ve always been an advocate of “real” food, despite occasionally becoming addicted to Coke. (I do prefer tea, but sometimes a cold coke is too appealing, blast).

  • http://clumsycook.com robin

    Artificial stuff usually weirds me out, and though I DEFINITELY wouldn’t bake with splenda, I’d probably opt for Diet vs Reg Coke. When I first started eating healthy I gave up any soda altogether and lowered my sugar, so now when I try soda (even diet) it tastes too sweet—so I guess I can see where they are coming from about drinking diet soda correlating with bad habits.

    I really want to make my own root beer though!!! There was a recipe in some magazine recently (though I can’t think of it now).

  • http://theoriesofstring.blogspot.com Sarah

    I love Diet Coke. I will hear no objections there. You can make them, but I just won’t hear them.
    But, when it comes to the fake food, the “low-fat” version often have more calories and fewer nutrients than the real version. And according to Dr. Oz, butter is much better for you than margarine. I think it’s much more sensible to eat the 100 calorie packs of things like Cheetos when you just need Cheetos (and we all do sometimes).
    The good news is that red wine and very dark chocolate still have some health benefits, and are extremely satisfying.

  • http://crankyfitness.blogspot.com Crabby McSlacker

    I try to do real over fake generally, but I also think that some people oversimplify when they consider all “real’ food good and all “fake” stuff bad. Butter, for example, may be better than transfats, but it’s not “good “for you. Canola oil may be a more recent invention but it seems to be healthier.

    And I don’t think a little Splenda is all that evil. They tested the hell out of it. (Equal I’m less sure about). And I’m just not one of those people who is never going to want to eliminate sweets from my diet. I like sweets! LIfe is short! If I can occasionally find a product that actually has significantly fewer calories that the full sugar, full fat verison, and it tastes as good–this is extremely rare, by the way–I’m going to go ahead and enjoy it.

    But as I recall there was some other creepy recent news about diet sodas too, something to do with benzene or something? Can’t remember exactly, but it made me want to be cautious about having them only occasionally.

  • http://thebakerwhocooks.blogspot.com cheryl

    am definitely with melissa on this!

    seriously, i cannot imagine eating something that’s supposed to taste like the real thing but not do the actual damage the real thing does.

    to me, it’s not about whether is it fake or not, but rather that part about lying. lying to yourself. because for me, it wouldn’t work. for example if i use splenda or any other substitute product, my mind tells me that hey this is ‘healthier’ and has less calories so you can eat more of it or eat more of the sinful stuff. hahaa it’ll completely backfire!

    anyways i can’t stand diet-stuff, low-fat products etc. i think they’re mostly bull! i say go for the real thing and simply keep a healthy, balanced lifestyle! think you’ve put on a few pounds? take out your running shoes and get out of your house! run a marathon! it won’t hurt… trust me. am simply an advocate for a balanced lifestyle that includes proper REAL eating and exercise.

  • http://sososimple.blogspot.com gilli

    Hi Jim
    Never put a diet anything in my mouth as you have probably seen from the food I cook my blog.
    I hate diet drinks they taste horrid even…and if I am really trying to cut down on sugar I limit myself to 1 gin and tonic and then change to soda water with a squeeze of lemon and I don’t count alcohol as a problem!!! and to be honest I have lost the battle with the bulge over the years but c’est la vie.
    But Jim go back to Coke it’s the real thing of course. Get rid of the guilt and enjoy.

  • http://www.sisterskinny.com katieo

    Hi Jim, I found you through Crabby.
    Concerning the “real” stuff versus “diet;” I grew up using substitutes with a mother who was perpetually on a diet. Now I am married to a man who loves to bake, won’t let splenda in the house and who likes to say, “Cream and bacon make everything better!” Now that I’ve had enough of the real stuff, I’d take a small bit of it anyday over the diet; splenda just never satisfies those cravings.

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