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  #1   ^
Old Mon, May-15-17, 01:03
Demi's Avatar
Demi Demi is offline
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Default TV dinners: The hidden cost of the processed food revolution

Not low carb per se, but an interesting read nevertheless


Quote:
From The BBC
London, UK
15 May, 2017

TV dinners: The hidden cost of the processed food revolution

It is a typical November Tuesday for Mary, who lives in the north-east of the United States.

She is 44, has a degree, and her family is prosperous - in the top quarter of American households by income. So what has she done today? Is she a lawyer or a teacher?

No. Mary spent an hour knitting and sewing, two hours setting the table and doing the dishes and well over two hours preparing and cooking food.

She is not unusual, because it is 1965 and at that time, many married American women - even those with an excellent education - spent large chunks of their day catering for their families.

We know about Mary's day - and those of many others - because of time-use surveys conducted around the world. These diaries reveal precisely how different people use their time.

For educated women, the way time is spent in the US and other rich countries has changed radically over the past half a century.

Women in America now spend around 45 minutes per day in total cooking and cleaning up. That's still much more than men, who spend only 15 minutes a day doing such tasks. But it is a vast reduction from Mary's four hours.

Behind this shift is a radical change to the way the food we eat is prepared, as seen by the introduction of the TV dinner in 1954.

Presented in a space-age aluminium tray, and prepared so that everything would require the same cooking time, the "frozen turkey tray TV dinner" was developed by a bacteriologist called Betty Cronin.

She worked for the Swanson food processing company, keen to find ways to keep busy after the business of supplying rations to US troops had dried up.

But of course the TV dinner was only part of a panoply of changes, wrought by the availability of freezers, microwaves, preservatives and production lines.

Food had been perhaps the last cottage industry: something that would overwhelmingly be produced in the home.

Profound shift

But food preparation has been industrialised - outsourced to restaurants and takeaways and to factories that prepare ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook meals.

And the invention of the industrial meal - in all its forms - has led to a profound shift in the modern economy.

How we spend on food is changing.

American families spend increasingly more outside the home - on fast food, restaurant meals, sandwiches and snacks. Only a quarter of food spending was outside the home in the 1960s.

That has steadily risen over time and in 2015 a landmark was reached: for the first time, Americans spent more on food and drink outside the home than at grocery stores. The British passed that particular milestone more than a decade earlier.

Even within the home, food is increasingly processed to save the chef time and effort: bagged chopped salad, pre-grated cheese, jars of pasta sauce, individual permeable tea bags, meatballs doused in sauce and chicken that comes plucked and gutted.

Each new innovation would seem bizarre to the older generation.

I have never plucked a chicken and perhaps my children will never chop salad. All this saves time - serious amounts of time.

Such innovation is a modern phenomenon.

When the economist Valerie Ramey compared time-use diaries in the US between the 1920s and the 1960s, she found that surprisingly little had changed.

Whether women were uneducated and married to farmers, or highly educated and married to urban professionals, they still spent similar amounts of time on housework across those 50 years.

Lemon fresh

It was only in the 1960s that this pattern began to shift.

But surely the innovation responsible for emancipating women was not the TV dinner, but the washing machine?

The idea is widely believed and is appealing. A frozen TV dinner does not really feel like progress, compared to home-cooked food.

But a washing machine is clean and efficient and replaces work that was always drudgery. How could it not have been revolutionary?

Well it was, of course.

However, the revolution wasn't in the lives of women, it was in how lemon fresh we all started to smell.

As Alison Wolf argues in her book The XX Factor, the evidence is clear that the washing machine did not save a lot of time, because before washing machines, we did not wash clothes very often. When it took all day to wash and dry a few shirts, people used replaceable collars and cuffs or dark outer layers to hide the grime.

In contrast, when it took two or three hours to prepare a meal, someone had to take that time. There was not an alternative. The washing machine did not save much time, and the ready meal did, because we were not willing to starve, but we were willing to stink.

The availability of ready meals has had some regrettable side-effects.

Obesity rates rose sharply in developed countries between the 1970s and the early 21st Century, at much the same time as these culinary innovations were being developed. This is no coincidence, say health economists. The cost of calories has fallen dramatically, not just in financial terms but also in terms of time.

Consider the humble potato. It has long been a staple of the American diet, but before World War Two potatoes were usually baked, mashed or boiled. There's a reason for that: roast potatoes need to be peeled, chopped, par-boiled and then roasted. French fries or chips must be finely chopped and then deep fried.

Over time, however, the production of fried sliced potato chips - both French fries and crisps - was centralised. French fries can be peeled, chopped, fried and frozen in a factory and then refried in a fast-food restaurant or microwaved at home.

Between 1977 and 1995, American potato consumption increased by a third, almost entirely because of the rise of fried potatoes.

Even simpler, crisps can be fried, salted, flavoured and packaged to last for many weeks on the shelf. But this convenience comes at a cost.

In the US, calorie intake by adults rose by about 10% between the 1970s and the 1990s. Not as a result of more calorific regular meals but because of increased snacking - usually of processed convenience food.

Psychology - and common sense - suggest this should not be a surprise.

Experiments by behavioural scientists show that we make very different decisions about what to eat depending on how far away the meal is. A long-planned meal is likely to be nutritious, but when we make more impulsive decisions, our snacks are more likely to be junk food than something nourishing.

The industrialisation of food - symbolised by the TV dinner - changed our economy in two important ways. It freed women from hours of domestic chores, removing a large obstacle to them adopting serious professional careers.

But by making empty calories ever more convenient to acquire, it also freed our waistlines to expand.

The challenge now - as with so many inventions - is to enjoy the benefit without also suffering the cost.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39490182

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  #2   ^
Old Mon, May-15-17, 02:23
JEY100's Avatar
JEY100 JEY100 is offline
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Plan: IF Fung/LC Westman/Primal
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I heard this podcast a few weeks ago, Tim Hartford's 50 things that made the modern economy. Each podcast is only about ten minutes. Fun when when he picks surprising ones like this one...I would have gone with the washing machine also.
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  #3   ^
Old Mon, May-15-17, 05:10
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WereBear WereBear is offline
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In a recent post in the General Low Carb section, I shared my own realization that a single serving of meat I like is about the same price as a frozen meal. By thinking of such purchases as my "frozen meals," I was able to break a mental barrier, and eat better.

Grilling something while microwaving frozen vegetables is not quite as convenient, but I get far more satisfying food that way. This, at least, is a good compromise between food and convenience.
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  #4   ^
Old Mon, May-15-17, 07:17
tess9132 tess9132 is offline
 
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Not trying to be contrary, but did most Marys really spend two hours each day just cooking? I know my mother (degreed) and my grandmas (un-degreed) didn't. Most of their cooking efforts were expended peeling and chopping potatoes. And because they did that every night, they were fast. And then the potatoes, chicken, and the vegetable du jour each got thrown into its respective pot of boiling water. And that boiled food sat in those pots until people gathered around the table to eat it. Even Sunday dinners, which were usually a little more elaborate, didn't take a lot more effort. Maybe some carrots and onions were chopped along side the potatoes for a pot roast. Now it could be that I was surrounded by Irish cooks and so my view is skewed, but there was no way most of the moms I knew were spending two hours on food prep each day. I do know some Italian families in our neighborhood had moms who at least once a week spent a lot more than 2 hours cooking, but I really don't think most people did that most days, regardless of what they may have reported to researchers.

So I suppose I've come to quite the opposite conclusion - for me, a big part of the low carb lifestyle is simplicity and getting back to eating more like how I was raised and how most people used to eat, minus the potatoes, of course. Turns out, I don't need to have a side of garlic bread or an elaborate sauce or breading with my meat or vegetables. Meat with salt tastes GOOD! Vegetables with butter and salt - not bad! Mercifully, I've moved beyond the boiling pots of food my Irish mother favored, but roasting and grilling - while perhaps a little more time consuming and labor intensive than boiling - are a lot easier than the elaborate breading and chopping that I spent my obese years thinking were part of a decently prepared homemade meal.
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  #5   ^
Old Mon, May-15-17, 16:19
Zei Zei is offline
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Who ever spent 2 hours setting the table and doing dishes? Sound like if that was true the automatic dishwasher was what saved the day! Either that or paper plates.
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  #6   ^
Old Mon, May-15-17, 18:09
Bonnie OFS Bonnie OFS is offline
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Quote:
These diaries reveal precisely how different people use their time.


Bull. I doubt anyone spent 4 hours a day setting the table, washing dishes, & cooking. Even in 1965. Mom sure didn't. Tho my grandmother may have spent that much time in her kitchen because her hobby was making sugar roses & Easter eggs. I think the diaries didn't allow for overlap, so the cooking was shown as a separate activity from washing the dishes & setting the table which would have been done while the roast was in the oven.
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  #7   ^
Old Mon, May-15-17, 18:22
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cotonpal cotonpal is online now
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Plan: very low carb real food
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Starting at around 6 years old I set the table for dinner every night. And by 12 years old I was washing the dinner dishes every night. In between those years I was tasked with clearing the table and rinsing and stacking the dishes for my mother to wash. I would then dry them. It really wasn't an onerous task although I am sure I complained about it a lot.

Now I eat all home cooked food. It's all very simply prepared and doesn't take me much time at all.

Jean
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  #8   ^
Old Mon, May-15-17, 18:58
Bonnie OFS Bonnie OFS is offline
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Plan: Dr. Bernstein
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cotonpal
Now I eat all home cooked food. It's all very simply prepared and doesn't take me much time at all.


I've done that most of my life - I do enjoy cooking. Most of the time. But I've noticed that lchf menus take a lot less time to prepare. There aren't all the breads & sauces & desserts. And I'm still able to set a nice table with less food.
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  #9   ^
Old Tue, May-16-17, 04:21
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WereBear WereBear is offline
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Plan: Epi-Paleo/IF
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonnie OFS
I've done that most of my life - I do enjoy cooking. Most of the time. But I've noticed that lchf menus take a lot less time to prepare. There aren't all the breads & sauces & desserts. And I'm still able to set a nice table with less food.


The toughest lchf recipes are the ones which attempt to imitate the high carb versions

I am also surprised at how satisfying grilled meat with a salad or vegetable can be.
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  #10   ^
Old Tue, May-16-17, 07:42
Bonnie OFS Bonnie OFS is offline
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Plan: Dr. Bernstein
Stats: 188/160/135 Female 5 ft 4 inches
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That's why I've mostly stopped trying to make lc desserts - they're a lot more work. More work than they're worth as they don't often taste like the original. The only thing that isn't more work & tastes like the original is sf jello.
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  #11   ^
Old Tue, May-16-17, 07:47
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WereBear WereBear is offline
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Plan: Epi-Paleo/IF
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I am still surprised at how little I care about desserts these days. I poured some heavy cream over frozen cherries and was perfectly satisfied with it as an ice cream substitute. Likewise Greek yogurt, berries, and chopped walnuts as a kind of cream pie.

And sometimes, that's my meal.
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  #12   ^
Old Tue, May-16-17, 07:55
Bonnie OFS Bonnie OFS is offline
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Plan: Dr. Bernstein
Stats: 188/160/135 Female 5 ft 4 inches
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WereBear
I poured some heavy cream over frozen cherries and was perfectly satisfied with it as an ice cream substitute.


I love raspberries with cream. Never did when I used to sugar everything. My new blackberries should bear this year to that will be another nice treat.
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  #13   ^
Old Tue, May-16-17, 10:15
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Ambulo Ambulo is offline
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Defrost some green veggies. Put coconut oil in ceramic pan over a low heat. Add veggies and chicken legs (with skin) or lamb chop, pork chop or beef mince. Cover. Ignore for an hour or two. Turn out onto plate. Eat. End of.
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  #14   ^
Old Tue, May-16-17, 10:35
cotonpal's Avatar
cotonpal cotonpal is online now
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Plan: very low carb real food
Stats: 245/130/135 Female 62
BF:
Progress: 105%
Location: Vermont
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambulo
Defrost some green veggies. Put coconut oil in ceramic pan over a low heat. Add veggies and chicken legs (with skin) or lamb chop, pork chop or beef mince. Cover. Ignore for an hour or two. Turn out onto plate. Eat. End of.


Except that I use fresh veggies that's what I eat. Mostly ground (minced) meat of various kinds sauteed in 2 tbs coconut oil with about 4 ounces chopped veggies (collards, chard or kale usually). I cook it in a glass pan (an old corning ware pan) over low heat. I also often add shirataki noodle to the mix. Quick, easy, tastes good. This probably takes less time to prepare than it takes to go through a drive through.

Jean
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