5 Foods Your Lying Parents Told You Were Healthy
Depending on your parent’s particular dietary worries and level of exhaustion, a lot of us may have had our food intake as children carefully monitored. Sure, there were the kids whose houses were the top sleepover destination because of a completely unregulated flow of soda, and on the other end, the kids who weren’t allowed to have any snack that didn’t look like a less flavorful alternative to tree bark.
I’d wager most children fell somewhere in the middle, where you weren’t allowed ice cream for breakfast, but didn’t have a proximity sensor latched to the cookie jar either. When possible, though, parents tried to ensure that we took in a complete diet. The problem is, some of the stuff they thought was essential fuel for a growing boy or girl turned out to be well-marketed, but dietarily disastrous.
Here are five foods your lying parents told you were good for you…
Orange juice was an absolute staple of a healthy morning. It was full of vitamin C, after all, and came off a tree, so it couldn’t be anything but healthy. If you posted up in your kitchen and chugged a full carton, orange nectar dripping down your cheeks, your parents would probably applaud your dedication to cold immunity. Vitamin C, though, was realistically playing second fiddle to the most important ingredient: so, so much fucking sugar. We knew juice = good and soda = bad, but they were packing roughly the same sugar content the whole time. Not to mention that, depending on your grocery budget, you probably weren’t drinking 100 percent juice in the first place.
Obviously, health is subject to trends as time goes on. The Big Bad of bodies rotates as more information is discovered and with the whims of whatever smiling, skinny diet-book slinger is in charge. For those of us around in the 1990s and aughts, public enemy number one in the pursuit of looking good at the beach was fat. You can’t really blame people for thinking that, well, fat makes you fat. The reality, of course, is much more complicated, which means generally ignored.
People hate nuance, and “fat-free” looks phenomenal on a label. If the contents are “surprisingly good,” why wouldn’t you make the fat-free choice? Well, that pleasant surprise isn’t surprising at all when you realize that often, the fat is just replaced with heaps of sugar in order to get the snacks to a place where you’d still have any interest in shoving them down your gullet. Not to mention that the fat in food plays a big part in, get this: making you less hungry. Meaning you’re probably going to end up endlessly crushing more fat-free cookies in pursuit of retreating satisfaction, like some ancient Greek curse recipient.
Granola bars have to be healthy, right? Hikers eat them! They were also a fanny-pack and car-center-console staple of parents the nation over, handed off like a sad relay baton on any child’s report of hunger. You closed your eyes and tried to imagine yourself in a McDonald’s as hard as you could while your teeth ground tree dust into a nutty spit-based mortar. Imagining that same parent handing back a Snickers upon stomach grumblings instead feels like low-grade child endangerment.
But again, we find a shitload of stowaway sugar rearing its head. Even stalwarts that sure feel healthy, like the crumb-filled IEDs that are Nature Valley bars, have a lot of sugar and other less-than-ideal ingredients. Another granola-adjacent bar that’s a full serving of bullshit? Nutri-Grain bars, a personal daily driver for lil’ me. They have Nutri in the name! They can’t keep getting away with this!
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
Ever wonder where the once-ubiquitous I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter disappeared to? What was once seen as a better alternative to butter got absolutely kneecapped by the emergence of information on a new fat that was more evil than regular fat: trans fats. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter became Turns Out Butter Was Just Fine After All. Obviously, if you’re melting full sticks into every meal, it’s not going to be great for you, but at least butter has a reliable identity. Margarine, already relying on some unpleasant fill-ins, also had a bit more carte blanche to stuff in whatever it felt like to improve taste, while still painting itself as the toast topper of the modern age.
Staying hydrated is obviously important, as Twitch viewers will incessantly inform you. Your body needs a steady and sufficient supply of water to live and operate all its important bits. What it doesn’t need is a bunch of lead. Unfortunately, if you’re of a certain generation, there’s a non-zero chance that you were chugging heavy metals straight out of your family’s kitchen sink on the regular. Plenty of cities are still filled with lead pipes, meaning that, as my eighth grade science teacher informed us whenever we wanted to go to the water fountain, “That water will make you stupid.”
You were a real one, Mr. Spearmon.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.