Editor’s Note: A Fresh Look at Junk Food

A busy Saturday leads to a surprisingly complicated lunch for Reader's Digest editor Liz Vaccariello and her young daughters.

By Liz Vaccariello
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine October 2013

Liz VaccarielloPhotograph by Steve Vaccariello; Wardrobe Stylist: Elysha Lenkin

I was a bad mom this weekend: On Saturday, my daughters and I ate lunch at McDonald’s.

I try. I really do. I take pride in eating as close to “nature” as possible.

I do it for myself and for my girls and to set a good example for my readers. I wash and cut fresh fruit daily. I tote snacks of carrots, string cheese, and nuts, and I make a pot of veggie-based soup most Sundays. I have the motivation (and the means) to eat well. Even so, I sometimes fall back on processed convenience food. And then I suffer the guilt.

That’s why I couldn’t put down David Freedman’s essay “How Junk Food Can End Obesity,” in the Atlantic. Freedman questions whether fast food is as evil as the “wholesome foods” movement makes it out to be. He asks whether local farms can ever really supply enough healthy foods, at a realistic price, for the entire population. Maybe, just maybe, Big Food is better positioned to make a dent in the nation’s obesity crisis.

These days, the response to a story becomes part of the story itself. Freedman’s article sparked such outrage from whole-foods advocates that we decided to curate the responses, both pro and con, that appeared in its wake. I’m proud that RD can bring both sides of this issue to you. I hope our package makes you feel like part of the national conversation, no matter what your opinion on the subject.

As for me? Freedman’s perspective was more than provocative. It brought me a sense of validation and relief. At McDonald’s, my girls and I shared the fries, and we ordered yogurt parfaits for dessert. I wasn’t a bad mom this weekend. I was just a busy one.

—Liz, @LizVacc, Liz@rd.com

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  • Your Comments

    • Kathleen Rhome

      I am incredibly disappointed in Liz’s Editor’s Note feeling guilty about taking her kids to Mickey D’s but then feeling
      validated and relieved because someone else told her it was ok.
      Though I believe that eating foods closest to their natural state is better for you by far than anything processed or our government
      can modify, I also understand the reality so I don’t think there should be any guilt about an occasional fast food fix.
      That said, I think people are perfectly capable of providing their own and also providing their world, maybe not the whole world but their local world
      they live in with nutritional, unmodified, pesticide free food. After all, our ancestors did it for hundreds of years.
      The big franchises have bigger scope, can touch more lives more quickly good or bad, the impact is wider spread good or bad, and there’s a huge
      chain of command to climb up to file a complaint.
      I like knowing what I’m eating.
      Best way to do that is either grow it yourself or know what and who you’re buying from.
      Despite all the government regulations… do you really know what’s in that burger you’re buying?
      Can of vegtables? Yogurt parfait? Can you even see the fine print? Decipher the ingredient list?
      Know if there’s something in there you’re allergic to? Or do you depend on someone else to make sure that the
      food you and your family are eating is safe?
      All I can say is that if I depend on someone else to make sure that the food me and mine are eating is safe, I’d
      rather depend on someone that I know grows nutritional, unmodified, hormone, antibiotic, pesticide free products.
      If Mickey D’s can do that, I’ll be first in line.