I hope that everyone takes the time to read Bittman's column because he does a great job pointing out what exactly is wrong with the USDA's new food recommendations ( attempts to avoid offending the food lobby led to a "contorted message" and "imprecision").
He also notes that Wal-Mart's new "healthy" initiative still relies too heavily on processed foods.
Here's Bittman's bottom line:
"The truly healthy alternative to that chip is not a fake chip; it’s a carrot. Likewise, the alternative to sausage is not vegan sausage; it’s less sausage. This is really all pretty simple, and pretty clear. But the messages we’ve heard recently are as clear as . . . well, a SOFA.
You want an acronym? Let’s try ERF: Eat Real Food."
I am 100% with Bittman. In my weight-loss/road to healthy eating journey, I have left behind ultra-processed foods. I did not replace one set of junk processed foods with a supposedly "healthier" set of junk processed foods.
There is nothing "healthier" about a food that's been processed to the point that it's barely food, no matter what the claims are on the package of being "organic," "natural" or "vegan." Junk food is still junk food even if the box it comes in is made of recycled paper.
If I go vegan for a week, I'm eating an exclusively plant based diet of fruits and vegetables. I'm not going to a store and getting boxes of processed"vegan" treats.
In fact, it's my determination to stay away from processed foods that keeps me on an omnivore diet. I think that eating less meat, dairy, fish, eggs, refined carbs is the goal, but to eliminate any of these would lead to me seeking substitutes and those substitutes would probably be more processed, and thus more unhealthy, then just eating smaller quantities of the real thing.
Here's my bottom line. It's always better to eat the real thing in limited quantities, then any fake processed stuff trying to imitate it. If you want sausage, eat a sausage. Just limit yourself to one, and make eating it a special occasion. Real butter is better for you then any supposedly unnatural "healthier" version, and learning to snack on nuts, dried fruit or fresh fruit is better then any 100 calorie, organic vegan "health" bar.
Eating real foods and learning to control frequency and portions is a diet that's sustainable in the long run, because, you don't deprive myself of anything. You just can't eat everything you want, in huge quantities all of the time.
Eating real foods is the road to losing weight for real and keeping it off. You won't, however, lose anything for real by switching from one set of processed junk food to another set of processed junk food that's just marketed to be better for you.