I’ve been trying to eat healthier lately. Nothing too drastic, just making smarter choices like whole grain bread over plain white, getting my five fruits and veggies in every day (ok, most days), eliminating soda, and cutting down on snacks. So far I’ve been pretty successful, but I won’t lie – there are days when I look at my dinner plate of grilled chicken, brown rice, and broccoli and wish it was a heaping bowl of ice cream. It’s not like I’m making a huge lifestyle change and becoming a vegan or something, but I am trying to make more sensible decisions that could help me maintain my health in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, though, I still enjoy junk food as much as the next person. Try taking chocolate away from me and you risk losing a finger or two.
Every once in a while I question some of these healthier choices I’ve started making. Example No. 1: Greek yogurt. I kept reading and hearing about this “super food” and how much better it is for you than regular “Americanized” yogurt. It has more protein, less sugar, and fewer carbohydrates plus all the standard benefits of any yogurt like being high in calcium and having the “good” bacteria that helps with digestion. (I still get a little creeped out at the thought of intentionally eating bacteria, and sometimes I have to convince my inner germophobe that it really is good for me before I start squirting hand sanitizer down my throat.) But here’s my problem with Greek yogurt: It’s gross. Lots of people would disagree with me and say that it’s delicious, and cheers to them, but it’s not. It’s sour. Sometimes it has a weird bitter taste to it, depending on the flavor. And if you don’t stir it really, really well, it’s dotted with gelatinous white blobs that look more like Elmer’s glue than food. The worst part for me, though, is the bizarre aftertaste that lingers in my mouth. If I were to shove a dirty, sweaty sock in my mouth and suck on it for a while, I imagine it would taste much the same as the Greek yogurt aftertaste. For whatever reason, I keep eating it, usually for breakfast. I manage to make myself choke it down because it fills me up for several hours and I convince myself that it’s good for me. If I wasn’t concerned about the healthy aspects of eating it, I’d just eat chocolate pudding for breakfast and be done with it. Still, that first spoonful always makes me screw my face into a sourpuss scowl much like a little kid would make when forced to eat brussel sprouts. I keep trying different brands and different flavors, but they’ve all had the same result so far – initial revulsion, reluctant acceptance, quick swallowing, and sweat sock mouth.
Example No. 2: Turkey bacon. I don’t eat bacon often. I might buy a package once or twice a year, but every now and then I get a craving for its salty, tasty goodness, even though I know it’s awful for me. A while back when I was in the grocery store, I got that craving but decided to give turkey bacon a try in an attempt to find a healthier option. I’ve always heard that turkey bacon is better for you because it's lower in fat. This makes sense because turkey in general is a much leaner meat than pork. I’d had turkey bacon many years ago, and I didn’t remember it tasting all that different from regular bacon. So I bought a pack of turkey bacon thinking I was making a smart choice. Now that I’ve seen it, cooked it, and eaten it, I’m not convinced. First of all, this stuff looks like it was squished into a Play-Doh mold or punched out of a die-cut machine. It has scalloped edges and looks more like “Beggin’ Strips” dog treats than real meat. Scalloped edges. That was my first indication that this might not have been my best purchase at the grocery store. The second was the color. It has this weird purplish hue to it that again immediately made me think of Play-Doh. I poked it a couple times to make sure I wasn’t going to be ingesting some kind of clay, and my fingertip didn’t leave an indentation on the scallop-edged, purple mystery meat so I ignored my hesitation and went ahead and cooked it.
The third indication this might have been a bad idea was the taste. When I cautiously took that first bite, I felt like I had stuck my tongue onto a meat-flavored salt lick. Come to find out, most turkey bacon has a higher sodium content than regular bacon. Hmmm, maybe I really should start reading food labels before I buy something. The final bad indication was my cat’s reaction to the small piece of turkey bacon I offered to her. My cat is a feline garbage disposal. She doesn’t have that normal cat finicky-ness that makes her picky about food. If you show just about any kind of food to her, she’s going to snap at it like Jaws trying to bite someone’s leg off. Don’t even try to eat a PB&J sandwich around her – it’s one of her favorites. So, anyway, I offered her a very small bite of turkey bacon and initially, she snarfed it out of my hand like she usually does. It didn’t take long, though, before she decided it was too weird even for her, shook her head a little bit in protest, and shot it out of her mouth like a projectile. Turkey bacon does not pass the Libby test. Good to know. I still have the turkey bacon in my fridge, mostly because I can’t stand to throw perfectly non-expired food in the trash. Now the question is do I force feed it to myself so I’m not wasting the $4 I spent on it, or do I just forget about it and chuck it in the garbage? Maybe I’ll just wait until it expires and I don’t have a choice anymore.
I’ll keep trying to find healthy alternatives to unhealthy foods I enjoy, but the better choice is just never as good as the bad stuff. Is this a sign that I’ve actually grown up into a responsible adult who makes good, responsible decisions? I’m not so sure about that, but maybe it’s at least a step in the right direction, even if it does leave a horrible taste in my mouth!