First things first so let’s start with my name which is Linn. That’s me and in the background you see the kitchen of the little apartment we stayed in on a recent trip to Paris.
I’m a California girl. I grew up in the east bay area so I’m used to sun, warm weather, a growing season, and as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I can fit on the plate along with avocadoes, nuts, whole grains. I am also used to estate bottled California wine and California extra virgin olive oil.
Now I live in New York so I’ve learned to live with variable sun, hot and humid summers, cold sometimes nasty winters, limited growing season, but access to this city’s vibrant food scene, greenmarkets, and some of the best Italian regional cooking outside of Italy.
I never realized my food choices were unhealthy until I went back to school to study nutrition in the early 1990s. That decade marks the pinnacle of reductionist nutrition thinking. So you could say with my Californian rooted French inspired approach to Mediterranean cooking, I couldn’t have picked a more unfavorable time. I learned a lot about nutrition for which I am grateful. I also learned that healthy eating was counted in grams of fat and milligrams of sodium and my usual pattern which averages between 35-40% calories from fat was off the chart unhealthy.
It’s taken me many years and much frustration and anger, but I’m finally comfortable with this explanation of why reductionist nutrition does not work. Simply put, reducing something as radiantly complex as food down to a couple of nutrients is insane.
To their credit, the government has finally acknowledged there’s a problem. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines officially acknowledged the value of dietary patterns. And the FDA agreed to review and revise the criteria for using the word healthy on the food label in 2017. But turning around a behemoth takes time. Especially if the seas are choppy and full of icebergs.
Change is coming. But change will happen slowly. If one of my clients were to ask my advice on labeling a product or recipe healthy, I would recommend holding off a bit until the government decides official guidance, hopefully sometime during 2018.
As an experienced recipe analyst, I’ve run nutrition numbers now on thousands of recipes since I started my business in 2015 and have developed a deep understanding of how to convert a complex list of ingredients into a set of nutrition facts. I do good work for my clients and have no plans to stop. My clients follow the analytic nutrition facts format because they are required to follow the government regulations.
If you are interesting in explore alternative labeling approaches, please follow my Facebook page.
As an accomplished home cook and food blogger, however, I find myself in a privileged position. I have both nutrition and culinary background to explore and test available options for interpretive labels. We benefit from a label that synthesizes nutrient analytics and food into a single intuitive easy to use and understandable format. And we benefit if that single algorithm works as well on recipes and restaurant menus as it does on consumer packaged goods.
Trying to reduce something as radiantly complex as food down to a couple of nutrients is insane, but gathering that data was a necessary first step. The whole is greater than the same of its parts. Food is so much greater than the sum of its nutrient parts.