Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thoughts inspired by processed foods in bentos...

First, I wanted to mention that we found out the gender of our little Pinto. It's a girl. The running joke with everyone we've told thus far is that we now have "A Perfect Match". One of each and the oldest being a boy... not what we expected when we talked about having kids (before we had our son), but nice nonetheless.

Now on to the main point of this post.

I've been looking at a number of really nifty bento blogs. One of my favorites is E-Obento, which is run by a woman in Japan who is apparently very well known over there for her creative meals. The webpage is written completely in Japanese, but I've learned a lot from her blog by simply looking at the photos she posts (both of completed meals and of the prepping pictures). Heck, the broccoli "flower" I made recently was inspired by her carnations. Granted, mine was a "quickie" flower, but I still like how it turned out and owe the credit for the idea to her.

However...

After a while, a few things have become more and more clear, the more I look at most bentos...
1. There is a disturbing amount of highly processed foods used, especially processed meats.
2. A goodly number are unbalanced in their food choices (like providing mostly proteins, bread and cheese in a given meal, especially noticable on E-Obento).

For many parents, the processed foods aren't that big a concern, but unfortunately for my family it is. We seriously monitor how much processed foods we buy/eat and are slowly cutting out more and more, the main ones we avoid being most junk foods and processed meats. This isn't hard to do since we have to avoid so many foods due to my husband's issues with gluten. Sandwiches and wraps are nice treat for us, which means the need for sandwich/wrap fillers are far less. Add to that my limitted intake of red meats and poutry, and you cut out many deli meats. Bacon, sausage, and hotdogs are rare for us as well. (And I do see the irony that my banner here features octi-dogs.) Even before I started cutting back on meats, we were careful with these items when we purchased them, buying ones that didn't contain sulfites, nitrates, and other particular chemicals.

I'm not saying we don't eat any processed foods. We definitely do! We just try to limit them and we definitely read the labels to try to make informed decisions. We rarely eat ketchup or salad dressings, but I use a decent amount of soy sauce and red pepper paste. We avoid buying potato chips, but do buy tortilla chips (which I love to melt cheddar cheese on them with salsa... delish but I rarely do this now). We don't have a lot of condiments compared to most people I know, but I do try to always have one (and usually only one) container of icecream in the freezer and have been buying cereals more often rather than making oatmeal (cold breakfast is nice in warm weather). Donuts, cakes, breads, pastas, and the like are also considered treats (either being very time consuming to make from scratch, semi-expensive as a pre-made mix, or darned expensive as ready-made).

There have been many times that my typical diet (ie. the foods I eat regularly, not "diet" to lose weight) has been described to me as very healthy. I tend to agree. At the same time, I'm not sure how one doesn't eat healthy because I'm not sure what people usually eat. My family doesn't eat out often, and when we do eat out, we typically choose healthier places or make more balanced choices (substituting fries for a side of veggies and so on). It's just second nature to us because of years of avoiding gluten. Currently, I've been eating gluten because of this pregnancy, but still try to limit it and will continue decreasing the amounts more and more.

I'm not passing judgement on people who choose to each the items my family doesn't. It's not my place to... though I will if the parents are only offering their children junk food. We all have our pet-peeves. I really do feel that each family's dynamic is different and accept that mind is different. After all, how many middle-class caucasian families serve their children a diverse menu of foods, which regularly include Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Tex-Mex, Italian, French, and more? How many kids in a standard American family rarely has burgers, meatloaf, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni and cheese and so forth, and never even had fish sticks? We also tend to allow our son sips of our coffee (which is normally decaf but sometimes "caffeine-lite") rather than allow him to have sodas. Like I said, I know my family is not the typical when it comes to food. I also understand that you really can't get a real idea of the family's diet by just looking at one meal or one meal per day. How many people eat cereal, yogurt, a bagel, or oatmeal for breakfast without anything else but then eats full meals the rest of the day?

So back to bentos... I've just been noticing that so many people seem design their bentos with processed meats and the like and it's been making me think...

1 comment:

einfachbento said...

You're so right! I see the same issue. Sometimes one have to use processed food - but sometimes only. We try to make our own - by ourselfes. Often times other people wonder about us and spending that much time and money into our food.