10 Reasons to NEVER Eat Free Food
Most people's eyes light up if FREE FOOD is mentioned. Typically this free stuff is junk food. So for clarification here, that's what I'm talking about. Right now neighbors are offering lots of free food, but it's whole food from their gardens. Whole free food is not the issue.
So with that cleared up, back to FREE FOOD: Using "free" as an excuse to eat junk food is nothing to feel smug about. The attraction of free food is linked to the word FOOD. We somehow perceive it as having value, since it's FOOD. But cheap, mass-produced food isn't worth much in health, taste or even satisfaction.
Foods typically offered as free don't fulfill most basic nutritional (or emotional) needs. Thus one of the most important lessons I've learned regarding food is: Just because it's free doesn't mean we have to, or ought to eat it.
On occasion someone may offer high quality food at no cost, but these times are few and far between. More often we'll be wading through a sea of donuts, pizza, cookies and other junk food.
A good example is our monthly New Student Orientation at the college where I used to teach. There was always a table in the back of the auditorium decked out in bakery cookies and cheese cake. My knee-jerk reaction was, "OH my heck! I LOVE cheesecake (and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, and...)!" But after a few bites, I felt like crap (can I say that here?).
So I've learned the hard way, that the best bet is skipping the empty calories all together when attending meetings, seminars, and other public events (our Because-It's-Friday office break room extravaganzas, for instance).
With all this said, here are the 10 REASONS TO NEVER EAT FREE FOOD according to Darya Rose, neuroscientist scientist (from her site, www.summertomato.com):
1. It's cheap: Cheap food means we are getting low quality, mass-produced calories made from industrial processes. Isn't that the stuff we want to avoid?
2. It's flavorless: The right combinations of sugar, fat and salt, pretty easily deceive your brain, as these ingredients can strongly activate your neural reward pathways. But if we try to focus on the true flavor of food and eat mindfully, we quickly notice the lack-luster taste of industrial food.
3. It's bad for us: The evidence is in: Processed foods are the cause of most "diseases of western civilization" (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.). When we wolf down a few of those Costco brownie bites at happy hour, we are contributing directly to the likelihood of developing these chronic diseases. Is that value?
4. We aren't saving money: We think that this free stuff will keep us from eating later, but there's a good chance we'll eat again anyway. Processed foods don't satisfy--they actually stimulate the appetite and strengthen future cravings. Also, if we factor in future health care costs, what is saved by eating that $2 slice of pizza starts to seem rather trivial.
5. We'll feel gross later (amen to that): Junk food makes us feel bad, both physically and mentally. If someone offered you a free headache, would you take it?
6. It screws up the metabolism: Highly refined foods create rapid insulin spikes that induce insulin resistance over the next few hours, making the next meal more fattening. If we make a habit of eating cheap abundant food, this condition will become chronic and may develop into Type 2 diabetes. What a bargain!
7. We'll gain weight: With insulin resistance comes weight gain, and with time we will gain more weight eating fewer calories. Unfortunately, people aren't often giving away free plus-sized jeans.
8. We're eating empty calories: When we submit to eating cheap food, we are also choosing not to eat nutritious food. Choosing a diet rich in vitamins and other essential nutrients may be the single biggest factor in determining risk for disease and overall longevity. Luckily, local, seasonal foods taste way better than anything our co-workers can pour out of a plastic bag.
9. You don't need it: Chances are we get plenty of calories in a typical day. So why do we feel like we need to eat junk food just because it is free? Healthy food isn't "expensive," after all.
10. It isn't worth it: The truth is, free junk food isn't really "free." Even if processed foods don't cost us money, they still cost us our health, happiness and sense of well-being.
Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
Email the author! email@example.com