Will they ever make fat-free stuff that really tastes like the fatty stuff?

Published 1:56 pm Friday, October 5, 2007

Fat-free bleu-cheese dressing, sugarless pecan pies, no-sugar-added ice cream — the list goes on and on of the foods I have tried to develop a taste for in recent years to try to lose weight and improve my general health.

I am constantly running into a major problem, though. The fat-free, sugarless, no-sugar-added and salt-free stuff doesn’t taste even remotely like their fatty, sugary and salty counterparts. In fact, most of them really don’t even taste good.

Still, I buy them and eat them, though, only occasionally back-sliding. I’m even trying to develop a taste for chicken that isn’t fried. Fortunately, Genie is a superb cook and has several chicken recipes that taste good even without being fried.

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I still have to sneak in an occasional steak, though.

Have you ever wondered why people look so glum when they are grocery shopping? Well, think on my experience.

I go in the store, walk down the food aisles looking for the stuff that is supposed to be more healthful than what I would prefer. I have to use great will power to avert my eyes when I walk by the real thing.

I suspect I am not alone in this. As I wander through the store loading up with the salt-free, fat-free, sugarless and non-sugar-added products I see other glum faces. The natural thinking is that the people behind those faces are glum simply because they are shopping.

When I take a closer look, though, I notice that some faces are much more glum than others. A quick glance at their grocery baskets reveals the reason — generally it is filled with fat-free, salt-free, sugarless and no-sugar-added products. I recognize them because my own basket is filled with the same things.

I don’t think I want to run into a mirror when I’m grocery shopping, because I would hate to get a peek at my own face if it reflects my unhappiness with the products I’m having to buy to try to stay a little more healthy.

How did we get this way, I wonder, as I load the car with my purchases and drive a short distance to the house. I’m still trying to figure it out as I sit on the sofa, turn on the television and munch on some tasteless salt-free peanuts or raw vegetables instead of the potato chips I would prefer.

Actually, probably driving even short distances and watching all that television instead of walking, running and exercising probably has something to do with it.

Still, even the folks who regularly exercise are expected to avoid all the stuff that really tastes good, and, in fact, from my limited observation, they do an even better job of avoiding the fatty, sugary and salty stuff that really is so scrumptious.

Over the years, as I have sunk deeper and deeper into the pit of tasteless food, I have come to the conclusion that if something tastes good, it must be bad for me.

That frightening thought has me even wondering about those tasty chicken dinners that Genie fixes that taste so good. If I didn’t watch her, I would swear she was sneaking in some fat, or sugar, or salt, but having always been a kitchen observer, since I also like to cook, I know that isn’t the case.

She’s actually using skinless chicken, fat-free cheese, when cheese is called for, fat-free ham when ham is called for, olive oil and corn starch for gravies and sauces, brown rice instead of white rice. In other words, all the better-for-you stuff.

With her personal aversion to salt on anything, there is no salt present when Genie’s cooking. I must have at least a little salt on rice and on beans, so I have to add that when I put those foods on my plate. I use so little salt when I do use it, though, that the last box of salt we bought is more than half full after more than five years. In fact, it’s way more than half full.

My real question is that after all these years of producing processed food that is fat-free, sugarless, etc., why can’t the food scientists and chemists come up with stuff that tastes just as good as the stuff they are trying to replace?

If any company meets that test — and the products aren’t bad for you in some other way — I think it will put everybody else out of business. That is, if they can’t suddenly come up with their own products that meet the test.

I suspect, though, that our human taste buds are programmed to prefer the fatty, salty, sugary stuff and not that other — yuck! — stuff.

If that’s true, then I guess that I’ll have to continue filling my grocery basket with stuff I really don’t like so that I will live long enough to come back and fill it with that same stuff again and again.