Friday, September 07, 2007

The 2 percent rule

Feeding my family the best food possible is important to me. I'm an avid label reader. I know the ingredients and their purpose for every food item in my pantry. It's about nutrition, but also about quality and economics. Okay, admittedly, I'm a bit of a control freak. Nonetheless, cheap ingredients make nutritionally questionable foods. Why would I pay for, let alone ingest, a product whose main ingredients add up to water, three different kinds of sugar, some preservatives and little if any nutritional value?

A book called Nourishing Traditions is one I turn to once in a while for nutritional guidance. The book contains dire warnings on every unnatural, better-living-through-chemistry ingredient concocted in the past half century. I agree that most of these chemicals have no place in our food. I've banned certain substances from our diets -high fructose corn syrup, white flour, trans fats, food dyes and additives. However, if you follow the book's every suggestion you'd be eating nothing but backyard chickens and their eggs, churning your own butter, and using only glass, ceramic and cast iron cookware over an open flame to prepare food. And if you don't follow all the guidelines, well, then your kid will likely be diagnosed with cancer in his forties and it'll be all your fault.

To prevent either of those scenarios, I've found a nice middle ground. It's called the 2 percent rule. The first ingredient listed is the dominant one and so on. Then there are the ingredients that add up to less than 2 percent of the whole. If the ingredients up to the "Contains 2 percent or less" are natural and whole, it's acceptable. If not, it doesn't go on our table or in our bodies. And, of course, none of the banned substances are allowed, even in the 2 percent.

This way, Dan can snack on Cheerios, bread or goldfish crackers and I don't feel guilty. The way I see it, 2 percent of something won't kill you, today or 40 years from now.

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