Posted Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011, at 9:45 PM
Here's a typical American experience: I was driving back to New York City from visiting my parents in Massachusetts for New Year's weekend. I pulled off the highway in Fairfield, Conn., to use the restroom, walk my dog, and grab a beverage. I'd finished the water I'd brought from home. Here's what I wanted: orange juice. (I know, you are supposed to choose real fruit over juices, but come on, there was a lot of traffic and I'm starting this eating plan thing tomorrow.)
The offerings included, of course, a McDonald's, a few other fast-food-type places, a coffee place, a newsstand with snacks, etc. I searched. Sure, McDonald's has orange juice, but I didn't know what kind, and the lines were long and I wasn't going to wait to find out it was some from-concentrate nonsense. No juice at the coffee place--smoothies of indeterminate ingredients. No juice at the place that claimed you could "eat right, right away"; the vending machines had nothing more than different-colored versions of sugar water--soda, Snapple, Gatorade--as did the newsstand. Fine, I'll get water, I thought, and some raisins. At least raisins are dried fruit, right? Couldn't even get plain raisins. They all came mixed with stuff--and I'd already had some nuts that I'd brought from home.
This is called the "illusion of choice." It looked like there were so many places to go, so many different things to choose from, but the truth is, they are all the same: sugar, water, high-fructose corn syrup, fat, processed foods. Even when you have the best intentions, life sure makes it hard. " Slate Labs" chronicled this phenomenon with their latest interactive map on food deserts .
I got a bottle of water and some raisins and peanuts--and picked a few raisins out. It was the best I could do under the circumstances.
I am overwhelmed and excited by all of your comments and feedback. I'll start responding tomorrow. You are all great!
Happy New Year, all!