Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kale Chips, Styrofoam and Michael Pollan: The Problem with Processed Health Foods

I thought I'd hit a healthy-food bonanza in a Big Lots store... crunchy, salty, yummy kale chips, Low in calories and guilt, yet still chips. Luscious chips.

After all, every aspiring foodie knows that unique, good-quality gourmet treats are found in nooks and small corners of certain bargain stores... Ross, Big Lots, Marshall's. (Oh, the Italian-made artisan pastas in Big Lots!) 

The chips were a steal at $2. Goldbaum's multigrain Kale Chips with a Touch of Salt sell for $5 a 3-oz pack on Amazon, and you're forced to buy a case of 12 for $60.  

I snatched up a bag of these guilt-free chips, and rushed home to savor a snack that's:
  • Certified gluten-free
  • GMO free
  • Preservative free
  • Trans-fat free
  • MSG free 
  • Additive free
  • Kosher certified
  • Baked
  • All natural
  • Low in sugar
At last! The perfect snack for those who won't sacrifice noshing while trodding the road to better health. 

Problem is... these chips are tasteless. Beyond bland. They have the texture and taste of cheap styrofoam. Or a much-used cardboard box. (These chips are salted? Really?)  

I suppose slathered with heaps of guacamole or a high-calorie dip, the unfortunate mouth-feel of these processed kale chips would disappear.  But that misses the whole point of buying guilt-free chips for snacking. 

Which brings me back to the two premises of author Michael Pollan's seminal "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual."  
  • Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.
  • Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
Whether intended as "healthy" or who-gives-a-damn delicious, processed food are processed, and not Real Food. Not produce nor meat nor dairy.  Fake foods. 

I was the fool, taken in by the "health halo" effect of pretty, window-free packaging with promises of guilt-free eating pleasure.  And like most supposedly super-healthy processed foods, it tasted horrible. 

"Kale powder" is listed as the 7th of 8 ingredients in these sallow-yellow chips.  No actual kale is shown as used. 

Homemade kale chips are green, made from kale leaves sprinkled with olive oil and salt, then baked until crunchy.  

At least I only paid $2, a small price to relearn Michael Pollan's smart lessons for eating.

As for the chips, I threw them into our rose planters to mix with the aging redwood bark cover. Might do some good there. And I have a hunch the bugs won't eat them, either.