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Editor's Note: Falling victim to food wars

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 12:00 p.m. CDT

Research is great. In theory, doing research about a topic, particularly before making a decision, allows you to evaluate the options and make the best-informed, and thus, best, decision for you.

But there is a flaw. Researching a topic can also make you aware of things you didn’t even know you were supposed to be concerned about, and you can become so paralyzed by information that you feel unable to make any decision, much less the best one. Or you make a decision, but instead of making you feel confident, your research causes you to second guess yourself.

This all started simply enough. I wanted to eat better, and I wanted my family to do the same. With two working parents who work sometimes weird schedules and two kids, one of whom has school and activities to schedule around, we were becoming too dependent on restaurant meals and the heavily-processed convenience foods we all know are not so good for us.

So in addition to eating more “real” meals, I began reading labels in the grocery store. I started some light research, just to identify which ingredients I should try to avoid.

That’s when I got sucked in.

If you are researching food options, particularly on the Internet, there are only a few clicks between “what preservatives should I avoid” and “how GMO/non-organic/artificially-colored/artificially-preserved/processed-in-any-way food is going to kill you.”

Before I knew it, I was sucked into a vortex of organic advocates vs. defenders of conventionally-grown crops; of impassioned promoters of vegetarian – no, wait, vegan – no, no, paleo – diets shouting against one another.

I read terrifying accounts of the long-term effects of pesticides and preservatives, countered by terse insistence that the research was faulty, and noticed companies standing to gain quietly funding scientists on both sides of the argument.

Look, all I wanted to do was eat healthy. Without having to take out a loan to go to the grocery store.

And then, somewhere in the mix, someone threw sustainability at me – how this crop is decimating rain forests, how Third World farm workers responsible for that product are working under horrible conditions so I can have a cheap snack.

I finally had to stop. Any more information, and I think my head may explode. Just thinking about it makes me feel like I need to lie down.

I’ve worked out a plan for my family that I’m comfortable with. It’s a sort of cafeteria plan – a little from this school of thought, a little from that one – that makes sense to me. I’m informed enough that the counter arguments still sometimes create a sneaking doubt in the back of my mind, but in the interests of mental health, I’ve pushed it aside.

Hey, at some point, I just have to get dinner on the table.

Enjoy your MidWeek.

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