First things first, can we all agree that tomatos are a fruit? Great.
However, even if we decided that tomatos are a vegetable for the sake of this discussion, we very clearly have another problem.
As of late Monday night, Congress released a spending bill that will reverse, or at least put on hold, an earlier proposal by the Agriculture Department that was set to limit the use of potatoes and sodium in school lunch lines, as well as increase the use of whole grains. In addition, the spending bill will allow 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to count as a serving of vegetables. Read more.
Now, I’m no rocket scientist, in fact, I’m no kind of scientist. Actually, the last time I took a class related to science of any kind was in 1997, my senior year of high school. I think it was physics. However, I’m pretty sure that 2 tablespoons of tomato paste does not constitute a serving of vegetables. And, while I appreciate the efforts of the Agriculture Department to make some adjustments to the current regulations regarding school lunches, the increased use of “whole grains” as a healthier option might be a little bit misguided as well. Remember, the Agriculture Department, or USDA, are the same people that brought you this misinformation and have done a marvelous job of marketing and convincing the increasingly obese American public that 6-11 servings of Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta are the base of healthy diet. So, of course, more “healthy, whole grains” seems like the logical conclusion at which they would arrive.
The main issue here, in my opinion, is that all of these bills and suggestions and discussions on Capitol Hill are not necessarily being driven by a need to make the public, and especially school aged children, any healthier. They are, more than likely, being driven by money and lobbyists and agendas. From the above linked article, a little snippet, if you will indulge me:
Food companies who have fought the USDA standards say they were too strict and neglected the nutrients that potatoes, other starchy vegetables and tomato paste do offer.
“This agreement ensures that nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas will remain part of a balanced, healthy diet in federally funded school meals and recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta,” said Kraig Naasz, president of the American Frozen Food Institute.
Healthy meals such as pizza and pasta. So, what you’re telling me is that when you, Kraig, decide it’s time to lose a few extra pounds for swimsuit season, the first thing you do is stock up on pizza and pasta and tomato paste so that you can stay healthy and keep the metabolism stoked. Because if it’s good enough for the students, then certainly it’s good enough for you. Somehow I just don’t believe it. And as far as the “significant amounts of potassium, fiber, and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste”, please do better than that. There are plenty of other foods that will achieve the same or better. You know, broccoli, spinach, kale, peppers, carrots, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, oranges, strawberries, avocados, any number of nuts and seeds, and just about any fresh or dried herb or spice you can think of. Sure, 1 cup of tomato paste has a lot of potassium, but nobody is eating tomato paste by the cupful. Most people don’t even eat a whole tomato in one sitting. The most paste I’ve ever used, at one time, is part of one of those small cans from the grocery. The whole can is 6oz. I used 4 or 5 ounces. And even if I did use the whole can, it was in a fairly large pot of chili that provided upwards of 6 dinner servings.
At this point, if you’ve made it this far, I will step off my soapbox. My point wasn’t to vilify tomato paste. My point was, and is, that both Congress and the USDA do not have your best interests in mind when it comes to your diet. They have the best interest of themselves and those who line their pockets in mind. Lobbyists, special interest groups, Big Agra, Big Pharma. You know all those commercials that you see for pills to cure what ails you. Acid Reflux, Obesity, High Blood Pressure, Heartburn, ED, Elevated Cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes, ADD. Most of those things can be corrected through proper modification of diet and exercise. The commercials always like to say “when diet and exercise aren’t enough…”, but in truth, diet and exercise are more than enough. You just have to actually do them. Both of them. Stop shopping in the aisles and instead stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. Buy food instead of food products. Buy items that don’t have ingredient lists on the package. Plant a garden and grow some foods that you really enjoy. Go find out when and where your local farmers’ market is, or, if you’re really ambitious, go find out where your local farmer is. Skip the middle man and go to the source. Your local farmer doesn’t have an ad campaign and a lobbyist. There just isn’t enough money in it for Capitol Hill. And don’t forget to pack a lunch for yourself and your child. Save some money, skip the afternoon lethargy, learn to cook something new, try a new food, and please, please, don’t rely on tomato paste as a serving of vegetables.