Take my favorite Subway sandwich, for instance: Subway's Sweet Onion Teriyaki sandwich.
Filled to overflowing with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other veggies, which are dressed with "our own fat-free sweet onion sauce." Topped (not as generously as shown above) with "tender teriyaki glazed chicken strips" that are not breaded.
Subway's Sweet Onion Teriyaki sandwich boasts only 370 calories, and 6 grams of fat. More important to me, it tastes fresh, and has crunch and a pleasing sweetness. I genuinely like it, and I like believing that I'm eating healthy, simple, straight-forward food that just happens to be served by the world's largest fast-food purveyor.
Well, I feel duped. I've been fooled by the appearance of freshness, and lulled into thinking that the presence of veggies and chicken strips meant this was the rare fast-food that's largely free of industrial chemicals.
Writes author Melanie Warner in her insightful new book "Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal" (click title to link to book):
"You probably don't think of your lunch as being constructed from powders, but consider the ingredients of a Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich. Of the 105 ingredients, 55 are dry, dusty substances that are added to the sandwich for a variety of reasons.
"The chicken contains thirteen: potassium chloride, maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, gum Arabic, salt, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, fructose, dextrose, thiamine hydrochloride, soy protein concentrate, modified potato starch, sodium phosphates.
"The teriyaki glaze has twelve: sodum benzoate, modified food starch, salt, sugar, acetic acid, maltodextrin, corn starch, spice, what, natural flavoring, garlic powder, yeast extract.
"In the fat-free sweet onion sauce, you get another eight: sugar, corn starch, modified food starch, spices, salt, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and calcium disodium EDTA.
"And finally, the Italian white bread has twenty-two: wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, sugar yeast, wheat gluten, clacium carbonate, vitamin D2, salt, ammonium sulfate, calcium sulfate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, potassium iodate, amylase, wheat protein isolate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, yeast extract, and natural flavors."So much for simple and straightforward. So much for a sandwich largely free of industrial fake-food chemicals.
Seduced by the easiness of ordering and enjoying complex food on a whim, I've opted to buy Subway's Sweet Onion Teriyaki sandwich rather than invest time in shopping and home cooking. Ms. Warner is absolutely correct when she continues:
"If you were to make this sandwich at home with a basic chicken breast and fresh bread made with minimal ingredients. it would contain only a handful of these things.
"Mass-scale food processing, however, requires an entirely different system of assembly, one fraught with often conflicting expectations. Manufactured food needs not only to taste good, for instance, but also to withstand the wear and tear of processing. It has to look and taste exactly the same very time. It also has to have a long shelf life, be produced cheaply and efficiently, and on top of that, it would be nice of it could be marketed as healthy."Eating heavily chemical-laced industrial foods is deemed to be far less healthy than consuming homemade versions that greatly minimize chemical additives, fillers, emulsifiers, flavor boosters, and similar.
Don't be fooled as I was: fast food is nearly always heavily laced with industrial chemicals. Even if it's touted as healthy. Even if it looks, feels, smells, and tastes incredibly fresh.
I'll never again look the same way at Subway's Sweet Onion Teriyaki sandwich. From now on to me, it'll be a delicious sandwich of 105 industrial ingredients, 55 of them dry, dusty powders.
No thanks! I prefer my food sans as many industrial chemicals as possible.