September 19, 2012

Shades of Grey

No, no, no...this post isn't about the Fifty Shades of Grey series (although I have read the trilogy and enjoyed it).  I know that the title of this post might have gotten your hopes up, but today's post isn't a book review.

Nope, today's post is about food choices.  


I don't know about you, but most of my food choices aren't black and white (Figuratively speaking, that is.  I'm not talking about black figs vs. white rice here).  Instead, the vast majority of my food choices come in various shades of grey (thus, the title of this post).  For instance:
Recently, Bo and I were craving rice crispy treats.  Since I'm not a huge fan of packaged foods, I decided to make my own at home.  Luckily, I found organic puffed rice (cocoa flavored, no less!) at the commissary, and I keep Earth Balance (sometimes Smart Balance) at home.  However, the challenge came with the marshmallows.  Now, I know that Whole Foods carries vegan-friendly marshmallows, but a single bag costs between $5.00-6.00, not to mention the thirty minutes it would take me to drive across town.  In the end, I bought a package of Jet-Puffed Marshmallows that contain gelatin...and I felt a little guilty.

In situations like that I feel really conflicted about my food choices.  On the one hand, I feel good about choosing an organic rice cereal and Earth Balance (or even organic butter); but on the other hand, I feel a little ashamed of myself for buying the Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.  In general, I'm not a fan of the use of gelatin (if you're interested in knowing what's in it - and how it is made - read here).  I also try to steer clear of any products that are made with dairy products that are not organic (you would be SHOCKED at how many packaged products contain dried egg whites, dried milk, etc.).

But sometimes
- OK, a lot of the time -
it is really difficult to steer clear of every product with which I have an ethical dilemma.

Sure, pretty much all produce is a safe bet (although, there again, you have to be careful about pesticides and the whole organic vs. conventional debate), and we buy organic eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk (although that's for Bo, I drink almond milk), and cottage cheese.  In general, our grocery cart consists of LOTS of fresh fruits and vegetables, organic dairy products, whole grains, meat (for Bo), and weekly odds and ends that aren't food related.  (And yes - to answer your question - buying organic dairy products and some produce costs us significantly more money than if we simply bought conventional (see dark, but relatively true, comic strip below).)


But even then I frequently feel conflicted about things.  

For instance:
  • What about the whole wheat bread that we buy - is it sprayed with harmful pesticides?  Is it grown on land that could be used for grazing happy cows?
  • What about the tortilla chips that we buy?  Is the corn produced in a way that is sustainable for our environment over a long period of time?
  • What about the jelly that I spread on our PB&J sandwiches - does it contain pectin?
  • and on...and on...and on...


After reading things like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and watching movies such as Food, Inc. and Polycultures: Food Where We Live, I want to be a responsible (and educated) consumer.  I want to be the type of consumer that makes the earth a stronger, healthier, and more balanced ecosystem.  And I suppose that, sometimes, I feel a little paralyzed by the fear of making an uninformed - or simply a lazy - decision that will negatively impact the earth, all the animals in it, the atmosphere, etc.

And then I think that - perhaps - I am being a little too dramatic.

Maybe what the world needs is a little more balance.

Maybe I am being too hard on myself.

Maybe the fact that I am writing this blog post is a sign that I really care, and that I am really trying to be a good steward of what I have been given.

And maybe
- just maybe -
the world
- along with all of its multi-legged inhabitants -
will cut me some slack when I buy Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.

Question of the Day:

Do you ever face an "ethical dilemma" related to the foods you purchase?  Do you try to buy organic for certain foods (or food groups)?  

I would LOVE to hear your comments and feedback on this topic!

Ally and Bo


  1. You know I have always grown up as a vegetarian, but that doesn't mean there isn't crap food. I began changing my diet a few years ago, which greatly benefited my health, and I try to continue to improve step-by-step. I went through a phase last year of only vegan and raw food, but I ended up being underweight and overly concerned. This year I started to relax about what I eat, but it does cause me to feel conflicted. In general, I eat very well at home (organic veggies, gluten-free locally-made bread, grains, vegan) but I do allow myself breaks when I go out to eat. I think you're right -we all need balance. However, your cartoon definitely points out one of the major flaws in the Standard American Diet. The more educated I become, the fewer options I seem to create myself for my diet. Oh well - it's always good to think outside the box!

    1. I miss Santa Fe so much...especially when it comes to food! The local food is unbeatable (not to mention they have green chile), and almost all of the restaurants have vegan/vegetarian options and organic ingredients. What I wouldn't give to live there - or in a like-minded city - again!

      I can dream, can't I?!