in the "baffling on a fundamental level" category

I realized the other day, as I was trying to grocery shop in preparation for my parents' post-baby visit, that our approaches to food choices are in a sense completely opposite, even though both are in the name of cultivating long-term health.

I choose foods based primarily on their positive attributes ("Ooh, artichokes! Yummy, plus they're good sources of folic acid, zinc, and vitamin C."), while my parents choose them based on their deficits ("Ooh, sugar-free ice cream! Fat-free cream cheese!"); my dad's primary dietary adjustment in the face of his diabetes is to eat fake versions of real junk food.

This isn't true across the board, of course-- my parents practically live on fresh tomatoes, which their garden produces by the tone and which are one of the most nutrient-packed foods you can eat. And I tend to make sure that any food entering my home contains neither trans-fats nor high-fructose corn syrups, so I do pay some attention to what a food does not contain.

It's just interesting how much American consumers can achieve in the way of feeling virtuous by what they buy rather than what they do. There's a whole line of organic foods at Wegman's called "If You Care." No joke. That is an actual brand name. Buy this five dollar box of cereal, and you can feel good about contributing to world peace. Feeling concerned about the environment, but don't want to make any lifestyle changes? Now you can pay your way to a clean conscience!

Virtue-- it's the ultimate consumer good.


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