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Bittman's new Food Manifesto

Here is his article from the NYT this past week: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/...

I thought it was an interesting and timely article.

But I also found this article very interesting. http://www.consumerfreedom.com/news_d...

It certainly is enlightening. Hypocritical? Maybe. Sometimes I think we are willing dupes.

Before you decide to get rude with me I like Bittman, read Bittman and have a cookbook written by Bittman. I just think it is important to think before accepting what is said.

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  1. Consumer freedom? I noticed there were no weights mentioned in their comparison. That would make a difference.


    1. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?...

      This is a group whose members have a vested interest in people continuing to consume processed food.

      1. The consumer Freedom article somehow misses the entire point of what is considered "healthy" now. It looks like they only compare on calorie count, saturated fat and salt. There is alot more to eating healthy foods and minimizing damage from some foods than those criteria. I almost expect to see a warning about not eating eggs because they might raise cholesterol.

        I would happily take a grass fed, chemical free hamburger, with plenty of organic fixin's- full of calories, fat and salt over a fast food burger with less....and I wouldn't just be choosing it because it tastes better.

        16 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          I would happily take a grass fed, chemical free hamburger, with plenty of organic fixin's- full of calories, fat and salt over a fast food burger with less....and I wouldn't just be choosing it because it tastes better.
          amen :)

            1. re: sedimental

              But is it not misleading to say that fast and convenient is "BAD" and made from scratch "GOOD"? People should be able to just decide for themselves what they will consume, let the market drive what will be offered and stop trying to control folks thru "I know what's good for you" manifestos.

              I think people who have passions for things (like food) sometimes blindly follow people they think of as "Gods" of that thing without critically thinking of what makes actual sense. What is actually good for us in the larger scheme. Instead, some get haughty and defensive at the mere mention that one might not blindly follow.

              Give me a homemade hamburger, unless I am at work and cannot do it, then thank goodness for my healthy choice. So glad I have the freedom to opt in and out of each.

              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                You are correct. Free market is a good thing. People are choosing fast food and prepared food in record numbers. The market is deciding, especially poor people that enjoy the "dollar menus". They are also the most sickly and costly among us with diet related problems at the root of much of it. Also the market contains the "too busy" populace that is easily duped into thinking they are eating healthy when they are not.

                I am all for free market, but I also think that there is a place for health concerns that don't mislead those folks. I am not convinced that the "healthy eating" bandwagon folks have as much money, time and determination to upsell healthier food...as corporate food pushers have money, time, and motivation to upsell crap food.

                It is probably too much to ask McDonalds to run a continual tape of the movie "Supersize Me"..... so a little Bittman air time doesnt hurt IMO. LOL

                1. re: sedimental

                  I am not convinced that the "healthy eating" bandwagon folks have as much money, time and determination to upsell healthier food...as corporate food pushers have money, time, and motivation to upsell crap food.
                  we don't. well, at least not the time & money...otherwise i'd just get myself a trailer with a decent kitchen and spend my life driving around the country teaching people how to prepare and enjoy nutritious, delicious food!

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Yes, I suspect your motivation would not be based on making huge profits. Well, unless it was a food truck (not a trailer) and you charged for the lessons, then they could eat the lessons...hmmm....maybe we should talk ;)

                    1. re: sedimental

                      right after i posted that i realized that i actually *could* do it if i just found a few nutrition/healthy food companies that were willing to sponsor it.

                      i've actually been toying with the idea of starting a gluten-free food truck here in LA...but perhaps i should be dreaming a little bigger ;)

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        I think that could be HUGELY successful. If you don't do it, someone else will.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          so apparently Jamie Oliver beat me to it! grrr.


                          i personally would have chosen different wallpaper ;)

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            oh my gosh please do start a gluten-free food truck, that would be absolutely amazing

                            1. re: edgarallanho

                              yeah, i liked the idea a lot more before everyone and their brother started a food truck...


                    2. re: Sal Vanilla

                      "People should be able to just decide for themselves what they will consume, let the market drive what will be offered and stop trying to control folks thru "I know what's good for you" manifestos."
                      The 'free market' isn't really doing the deciding when your competition is subsidized and you are not. Look more closely into how large food producers operate in America and you'll see that many of Bittman's points are right on. You might still take issue with him asking for subsidies for producers that sell whole foods directly to consumers and supermarkets, but you can't ignore the fact that in today's America processed food has the full backing of subsidy and legislation whereas growers of varied and ready to eat crops by and large do not.

                      The idea that consumerfreedom.com is actually pushing for a free and fair market (at least in the food industry) is ludicrous. They're a propaganda and lobbying organization backed by the large corporations whose interests they represent.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        "The 'free market' isn't really doing the deciding when your competition is subsidized and you are not."

                        Yes, this exactly. Subsidized out the wazoo.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Hear hear!

                          People also have their own choice in whether or not they choose to acknowledge these manifestos -- nobody is trying to shove advice down your throat and "control" you. Likewise, most people already have the choice to buy whatever they want, particularly towards the foodmakers that are backing the group, so this "consumer freedom" organization is excessive and pretty pointless. It seems pretty immature to me -- like kids who just want to plug their ears and say "nananananana" when anybody says anything counter to their beliefs. But I suppose that's just politics.

                          Anyway, if the health of the consumer populace declines despite all this knowledge of what is generally accepted as healthy, and they want to have their "consumer freedom" and buy whatever they want despite this knowledge, then let them do that. Isn't it just general common sense that whole foods are good for you and processed ones are bad?

                      2. re: sedimental

                        oh my god, yes! it's insane for the CF people to say that a Stouffer's ANYTHING -with chemicals, preservatives, and who-knows-from-where food sourcing - could be near the realm of healthy, not to mention healthier than Bittman's version (or than what you can produce at home by being even moderately concerned about what you buy). I am by no means a health food fanatic and I don't go to extremes in either direction, but it's absolutely misleading to tell people that processed foods are healthier than what you can make at home if you are even a little bit aware of what you buy. that's really just egregious. and no surprise, really, in view of MeIMM's link above!

                        ETA: and SalVanilla - I'm really not trying to be rude to you - just completely disagreeing with what CF is trying to say.

                        1. re: sedimental

                          I SO endorse this message. We keep getting advice to eat more of what's completely non essential to human health, and less of what we will die without enough of.

                          I don't think replacing environmental stress with pancreatic stress and a a diabetes epidemic is the way too go, either. BTDT, when under the thrall of the idiotic CSPI reccos years ago.

                        2. The second article fails to address the overwhelming majority of the points raised in the NYtimes Bittman piece. And those it does address, it doesn't address particularly well, using arbitrarily selected recipes (one might say conveniently selected recipes... with less than standardized portion sizes, BTW - how much does a Bittman burger weigh in comparison to a Big Mac?) and making the false implication that 'healthy' can be measured solely as a function of fat, calories and sodium.

                          I won't hide that I'm sympathetic to many of Bittman's views. You can object to his points by waxing poetic about the free market, but doing so betrays that you've understood little of what Bittman is talking about, little about the political and financial realities of the food industry. Still, I'm willing to hear or read a thoughtful counter argument. The Consumerfreedom article isn't one. It is mostly ad hominem. And it doesn't even make a strong case at that.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            I also in the Bittman camp, but am very uncomfortable with any legislation that would tell any restaurant what it can and can't serve. Just as I'm bothered by the FDA's stance on raw milk products. Education, honest science and an even playing field. Isnt that what the free market should be based on?


                            1. re: JuniorBalloon

                              Right there with ya. I don't want to legislate what people can and can't choose to eat. I just don't want that used as a strawman every time someone talks about ending subsidy for manufacturers of processed foods, loosening that industry's grip on our legislators, and writing legislation that is less punitive and damaging for smaller growers of ready to eat produce. They're two completely different issues and you don't have to support one to support the other.

                          2. I like and agree with the majority of what Bittman writes here and also with what he has written in the past.

                            I also found the "dish-to-dish" comparision in the CCF article to be ridiculous. There is way too much infomation left out to even believe it was a valid comparison :white or dark meat?, 1 serving vs 1 piece?, weights?, ingredients, etc, etc. I became curious about who is behind the CCF organisation and found that it was created in 1995 with money from the Phillip Morris tobacco company and is currently funded by the food and restaurant industry. CCF defines it's mission as fighting against "a growing cabal of food cops, health care enforcers, militant activists, meddling bureaucrats, and violent radicals who think they know what's best for you, [who] are pushing against our basic freedoms.".

                            1. I have no problem with Bittman, others sharing opinions. Where I draw the line is when legislation is used to shape and enforce public behavior.

                              Choice is good: The wind powered my boat, our one car is an "ultra low emission vehicle" that averages 2000 miles per year, we grow many of our own veggies, grind our own meats and drink a lot of wine. These are all personal choices. I would never dream of inflicting my preferences, through legislation, on the public. It just wouldn't be fair.

                              18 Replies
                              1. re: steve h.

                                I gotta say, as someone who grew up in a country where the market is much more regulated by the government (communism!!) than here, where chips bags are generally half the size because of that, and fast foods and processed food aren't nearly as subsidized as here, I have zero problems with more regulations.

                                Clearly, what the 'free' market has done here is given large food corps free reign over selling shitty food at cheap prices to the most vulnerable members of this society = the poor and less educated. Who happen to be the ones struggling with the resulting health issues.

                                But that won't change. Ever. Without enforcing policies that support healthier choices.

                                Off to my red army camp, now '-D

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  I agree with your quotes around "free" market. We have not just given them free rein to do some scary things with food...we have actually unwittingly supported it. Undoing all of that might take a different effort.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    Anyone who thinks we have a free market economy is fooling themselves. Or at least, they didn't grow up in a region where the government sent old-money landowners big fat checks every month NOT to farm. Unfortunately for everyone, ag subsidies and CRP are not particularly sexy campaign issues and seem to resist being sound-byted... so the nonsense continues unabated.

                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      Deb and I spend the better part of every March in Rome, been doing it for years. I love the people, the city, the culture. Having said that, I stand by my comments. I cavil at the thought of legislators deciding what's best.

                                      1. re: steve h.

                                        Well, most people tend to be relatively happy with the way they grew up / their economical and political culture - save, perhaps, for dictatorships.

                                        I'd take the German system over the American one any time. See how that works? '-)

                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          I like Germany. I'm sure they will take the lead in moving the EU to a more sustainable economic future. Would I trade systems? No, but that's a personal preference.

                                              1. re: steve h.

                                                You have to factor govt subsidies into the equation. It is not legislated, but is still determining what is available to be chosen. And that's not free.


                                                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                  To a modest degree I do. On the whole, I'm not a fan of subsidies. More transparency is intrinsically good.

                                    2. re: steve h.

                                      "Where I draw the line is when legislation is used to shape and enforce public behavior."

                                      While I agree with many of your points. Isn't the whole point of legislation is to shape the society and to enforce/push public behavior? Lower certain taxes, increases certain taxes, increase spending in certain government programs, tariffs on certain countries, subsidies on certain industries, educational programs for certain products... all of these are means to persuade/enforce public behaviors.

                                      Taxes on tobacco, future taxes on fast foods,... aren't they exactly meant for changing public behaviors?

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Less legislation, much less, is good. I trust my neighbors.

                                        I'm not a big believer in government but that's just me.

                                        1. re: steve h.


                                          I am not disagreeing with you. In fact, I have not made up my mind on this particular issues. I also agree with you that less behavior legislation is probably more ideal. All I wanted to say is that most of the legislation laws are about changing people's behaviors. The "Cash for Clunkers" program clearly is meant to encourage people to spend money and to spend it on a particular sub-automobile industry. Agree with that policy or not is one thing, but there is very little room to debate that it was meant to change consumer behavior at least for the short term.

                                          I may have overstated that ALL legislation bills are to enforce behavior, but I still think that large majority of them are.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            No worries.
                                            I appreciate your thoughts/comments/criticisms.

                                            1. re: steve h.

                                              Definitely not criticisms. I just thought it is a thought exercise. Aren't you British, if I remember correctly? Don't you guys have a more proactive government over the pond? Best.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Born in NYC, school in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Worked in Asia for my Uncle in the early '70s. I'm a big fan of Lady Thatcher. Not a fan of bureaucrats.

                                                Edited to add: it's always good to agree/disagree. It's wrong when folk stifle dissent.

                                                1. re: steve h.

                                                  "it's always good to agree/disagree"

                                                  I haven't made up my mind on this one. I will let you know later, then we can agree/disagree. :P

                                                  Talk to you later.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    I always look forward to your thoughts/comments.

                                    3. Just thought it would be interesting to see a list of ingredients for one of the Stouffer's dishes listed in the "consumer freedom" article. Have a look:

                                      MADE ON EQUIPMENT THAT ALSO PROCESSES PEANUTS/NUTS.

                                      There are several ingredients listed that I don't use in my kitchen. Also, I can't help noticing that the first ingredient, "cooked white rice" isn't even enriched rice. Also, we don't know the cut of beef the beef strips are, nor whether the beef is prime or choice, or less than that. But the ingredient list isn't as bad as some lists from other processed food.

                                      Still, not something I'd make at home. And I counted sugar in at leasts three places: dextrose once and sugar twice. If you combined all of the sugars into one ingredient, I wonder where it would rank in the ingredient list?

                                      How can anyone in their right mind think that eating this dish is healthier than eating a Bittman recipe? (rhetorical question)

                                      20 Replies
                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                        "How can anyone in their right mind think that eating this dish is healthier than eating a Bittman recipe? (rhetorical question)"

                                        I just looked at ConsumerFreedom article. Yes, maybe the sugars are listed three times, but at the end, the total calories is listed. If you like, you can look at total carbohydrates. Stouffer's ones have less calories, less fat and less salt than Bittman's. Of course, I am sure ConsumerFreedom highlights the ones favor its argument. We also know calories, fat and salt are not everything, but they do account much of what we considered as potential problems. They are not something to be overlooked. Some of the Stouffer's ingredients acutally look good. For example, it uses potassium chloride to substitute some of the table salt (sodium chloride). This really kills two birds with one stone, maybe even three birds. First, it reduces sodium. Second, it increases potassium. Third, it maintains the savory taste. Most Americans consume more than enough sodium and short on potassium.


                                        So while most home cooks do not chose to use potassium chloride, this alone does not mean Stouffer's decision to use potassium chloride is a bad thing. As far as I know, it is a good thing.

                                        "we don't know the cut of beef the beef strips are, nor whether the beef is prime or choice, or less than that"

                                        Yes, Stouffer probably didn't use high grade beef for cost management. Yet again, this has very little to do with our bodies. The grade of beef does not have any effect on health. It isn't like USDA prime beef is healthier than USDA select beef. Expensive meats do not translated into healthier people.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          "Expensive meat does not mean healthier meat."

                                          Except when it does. Meat crammed with hormones and antibiotics, from cattle fed appetite stimulants, with stress hormones, adrenaline, and lactic acid pumping through them in the months leading up to their inhumane slaughter may not, on a strictly *legal* level be deemed "less healthy" but it seems like common sense that animals fed a natural (i.e. what their digestive systems evolved to eat) diet raised in a natural way would yield healthier meat, and the latter is typically much more expensive than the former.

                                          1. re: LauraGrace

                                            Yes, I agree. All I want to say is that USDA beef grade does not translate into healthiness. Sometime expensive meats are better, sometime they are not.

                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Biggest thing missing from the analysis is weight of the main ingredients. Makes it hard to compare.


                                            1. re: JuniorBalloon


                                              I agree. There is also the total weight, total portion too. Is it possible that Bittman portion is larger than Stouffer's? So pound for pound, the difference may be the same, but Bittman's serving size is just larger. Or could it be the other way around. I don't know, but these are interesting questions. Love your icon picture, man.

                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              So, you are OK eating food with these chemical ingredients?

                                              There are 58 g of carbs in this dish and 16 g of protein. I don't think the protein number is bad, but that is too many carbs for 8.818 oz of a main dish. If you are desperate for something and that something is available and nothing else is, then you'd have to eat it. But virtually anything fresh is bound to be better for you than this! You can't just count the calories, the fat and the protein and assume it is OK. I don't care about the crummy beef so much; I can't afford to eat grass fed beef, and I don't think the target customer of Stouffer's can either. But the sugar, which is bound to reflect in the high carb count, and the non nutritive nature of the rice, and all the chemical stuff will not be a good dinner. (It isn't a generous serving either.)

                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                "you are OK eating food with these chemical ingredients"

                                                Sometime we get too carried away regarding the phrase "chemical ingredients". Table salt is sodium chloride, so how is sodium chloride any less chemical than potassium chloride? Granted they are different chemicals, they are both chemicals. We should view these ingredients as they are, not natural vs chemicals. Let's look at a few other "chemicals" in your list: potassium phosphate and sodium phosphate are fairly benign. I don't hear people protest against using baking soda and baking powder which are chemicals. Are we less scared of baking soda because we call it baking soda as opposed to its real identity: sodium bicarbonate? While at it, let's put these in perspective. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is probably slightly more acute toxic than sodium phosphate. As for acetic acid, well, that is just a main ingredient of vinegar which gives vinegar that sour taste and smell.

                                                I understand we cannot just count calories and fat and salt -- a point I made above. At the same time, they are not to be overlooked. We also cannot automatically judge meal A must be worse than meal B just because meal A has some potassium chloride, and meal B has only sodium chloride (table salt). Please understand that I am not saying adding chemicals is a good thing, but I am not going to solely determine the healthiness of a meal because it has some potassium chloride or sodium phosphate.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  If you are happy adding baking soda and sugar to a stir fry, far be it from me to persuade you that the Stouffer meal is not good for you. I remain unconvinced.

                                                  If you think eating a simple carb with no nutrition (the non-enriched rice) is acceptable, then go for it my friend. If subpar beef that has to be colored with caramel color to make it look palatable floats your boat, then I accept that you and I have differing culinary standards.

                                                  I realize that my objections to this sort of food fall outside of the points made by the original article which compared the Stouffer's to Bitman's cooking. However, that is just the point. The dishes were compared on certain selected characteristics, not on the quality of the entire dish.

                                                  I would not be able to eat Bitman's cooking either, to tell the truth. I eat very low carb.

                                                  On this issue we simply disagree,.

                                                  1. re: sueatmo


                                                    You have more than once put words in my mouth which I have never said. If anything, I have stated my position more than a few times. In my very first reply on Mar 06, 2011 12:27AM, I wrote "We also know calories, fat and salt are not everything, but they do account much of what we considered as potential problems.", then you wrote: "You can't just count the calories, the fat and the protein and assume it is OK". That is opposite from what I wrote.

                                                    Then you wrote "So, you are OK eating food with these chemical ingredients?" That is distorting my words. If you are going to use that kind of logic, can I not ask "So, you are OK eating excessive calories, fat and salt"?", but I didn't do that because I know these are not your points. You clearly know my points, so why painted them into something else?

                                                    "If you are happy adding baking soda and sugar to a stir fry, far be it from me to persuade you that the Stouffer meal.." Hey, I can also write "If you are happy adding excessive calories, fat and salt to a meal, far be it from me to persuade you that the Bittman meal... ".

                                                    If you want to debate, then debate on the merits. I really have no problem people disagree, but let's not distort people's words and positions.

                                                    If this is not clear already, I will state this again. My position is far from defending adding excessive chemicals, yet I am not going to defend excessive fat, calories and salt simply there are less "chemicals". When one meal has more additives and the other meal has more fat and calories, I do not believe it is an easy call. You asked a health rhetorical question. You wrote ""How can anyone in their right mind think that eating this dish is healthier than eating a Bittman recipe? (rhetorical question)"" What you said is that this is a crystal clear situation that any thinking person knows a high calories, high fat and high salt meal is SIMPLY HEALTHIER than a meal with additives like potassium chloride, potassium phosphate and caramel. I just don't think it is as clear cut as you have stated. I think it is up for discussion and not a case-closed situation. That was my point. Potassium chlordie is a good example. In this case, it was added to reduce sodium chloride. Are we sure that this subsitution clearly is a bad and unhealthy thing? It may be and may be not, but it is certainly far from clear.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      For the record, I have just recently written about how much I love natural peanut butters like Crazy Richard's:


                                                      and non-additives soy sauce like Koon Chun:


                                                2. re: sueatmo

                                                  At the risk of sounding obsessed, where did you get that weight for the dish? :o)


                                                  1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                    the weight is easy - if you click the link on the Consumer Freedom comparison it takes you to the Livestrong listing for the item's nutrition info - including serving size, which is 230 grams or approximately 8 oz. HOWEVER, the other numbers *don't* match up to what sueatmo listed, so i'm curious as to where that disparity comes from...

                                                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                        go to the CF article - the side-by-side comparison chart contains hyperlinks for all the products. just click on the name of the one you want to see.

                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                          Hmm, it may seem obvious to you, but I don't see the same info when I click on any of the links. Here is the link for Bittmans fried chicken. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/r... Not saying it's not there, but I didn't see any single serving size info. I must be clicking on the wrong link.


                                                          1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                            not for Bittman's, for Stouffers! that was what sueatmo was "quoting." but it would still be sipe to calculate Bittman's serving sizes - take the total weight (which *is* listed in the NutritionData links), and divide by the number of servings the recipe says it makes.

                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              Let's see how my rudimentary math skills work today. Calculating Bittmans fried chicken recipe for 100 grams it contains 133 calories. CF claims the single serving of Bittmans recipe has 470 calories, that works out to about 365 grams per serving as portion weight. The Stoufers fried chicken breast appears to weigh 196 grams.

                                                              Now that's what I call an apples to crap comparison. Someone with better math skills should check my work.

                                                              To be clear ghg, this is not aimed at you. Just trying to assemble the facts.


                                                              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                no worries, i didn't take it as a personal attack :) but a serving wouldn't be 100 grams - to keep it fair, we should calculate the info for a weight that's *equivalent* to the Stouffers serving.

                                                                196 grams (or roughly 7 oz) of the Bittman recipe clocks in at 260 calories. those Consumer Freedom folks are full of crap.

                                                    1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                      I googled the Stouffer's site, and found one of the referenced products, and chose it as an example. The weight is shown on the package in grams, and I just asked Google for the equivalent in oz. I did this when I felt I had to defend myself from CK! Earlier I checked the ingredients the same way. When you are eating low carb, you find yourself checking all sorts of products this way.

                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                        FYI, it appears that you used the info for Stouffers Thai Ginger Beef...not one of the products discussed in the article. the Oriental Beef Stir Fry in the Consumer Freedom piece is a different product, and actually a Lean Cuisine (which Stouffers owns). i'm *not* suggesting it's a good choice - you couldn't pay me to eat that stuff - but if we're going to defend our guy Bittman here we should at least get our facts straight.