Taco Bell’s Beef Problem: Convenience and the Value of Knowing What You’re Consuming

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Over the past week, the fast food restaurant chain Taco Bell was sued for claiming that the taco mixture used in their products was actually beef. According to USDA standards, a beef mixture served by businesses must contain at least 40% beef in ordered to be labeled as such, and the lawsuit alleges (with some evidence) that their taco mixture only contains 36% beef., not the 88% beef that they claim.

Taco Bell themselves list ingredients in their “meat filling products” that include “water, isolated oat product, wheat oats, maltodrextrin, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch, sodium phosphate and silicon dioxide.”

Silicon dioxide?

We made a lot!
Our homemade grilled chicken-salsa burritos, costing $0.30 apiece

Here’s the thing: the lawsuit itself isn’t really all that important. It’s the broader issue that scares me. Consider that the USDA only requires that something contain 40% meat to be called “meat,” whether at Taco Bell or anywhere else you might buy a “meat product.”

If you start digging into the standards for what can be labeled as particular foods, the issues get quite disturbing. Check out this article in which it’s revealed that the standards for meat in school lunches are lower than the standards for meat in fast food.

The point of all of this is that whenever we buy a product, we’re relying on both the company being honest with us about its contents as well as government regulations that do not always have the best interest of the consumer in mind. This goes for not just food, but for all manner of things from toothpaste to makeup to even product placements in television and film.

Prepping the burritos
Our homemade bean burritos, costing about $0.20 apiece

The most common arguments in favor of such products revolve around convenience and cost. All right, let’s look at those.

For comparison’s sake, I took a look at Taco Bell’s value menu. An $0.89 value menu five layer burrito there – which you’ll also have to pay tax on – weighs 248 grams.

In the picture above, you can see my homemade bean burritos. I weighed one of these out of the freezer (because I have several frozen). The weight? 340 grams. It costs $0.20, while you’re dropping $0.95 at Taco Bell.

What about something “better”? I compared Taco Bell’s Chicken Ranch Taco Salad with our own burrito bowls, pictured below. The Taco Bell salad weighs 420 grams, while my homemade one weighs about 470 grams (excluding the bowl). The homemade one costs $2.25, while the Taco Bell version costs $5.69 plus tax, carrying the price up to $6.

And think of the “meat” you’re getting in that “bargain”!

(Yes, I’ve made similar comparisons in the past with McDonalds in my sights.)

The best solution for this problem is to stick with the most basic ingredients possible and exert the most control you can over those ingredients. Be picky about the ingredients you buy for your food – don’t just settle for whatever prepackaged meal has a tasty picture on the box. Be picky about what you watch on television – don’t just settle for channel surfing (or, better yet, read a book from the library).

Finished burrito bowl - enjoyed with a Dos Equis XX
Our huge vegetarian burrito bowls, costing $2.25 apiece

I think it’s fairly clear at this point that there are huge cost savings that can be found from being more involved in the things you consume.

The biggest challenge facing everyone is the issue of time and convenience. People eat at fast food restaurants because it’s convenient and it takes time to prepare your own food. People channel surf because it’s convenient and it takes time to prepare other entertainments.

The phenomenon of convenience, from my experience, comes down to time and energy bottlenecks. I see this in my own life. Weekdays are often very tight, with both Sarah and I needing to get professional work done, three young children to attend to, and regular household upkeep as well. The convenience of simply eating a premade meal or watching whatever television program happens to be on is very tempting simply because it allows us to conserve energy and time for other purposes.

At other times, though, we have large windows of time – and it’s in those time windows that there’s a lot of value in improving the options during those time bottlenecks.

I’ll find good programming to watch and add it to the Netflix queue so I don’t have to think when I’m bottlenecked – just click and go.

I’ll prepare healthy food with good ingredients in advance so I don’t have to exert a ton of energy or thought when we need a meal – just toss it in the oven and go.

Such actions enable me to enjoy convenience without losing quality. I can have food quickly without having to eat “meat.” I can watch something worthwhile without having to surf.

This spreads throughout life. The same philosophy explains why it’s worthwhile to install a programmable thermostat (it saves you money whether you’re pinched for time and energy or not) or air seal your home.

Assembling a burrito 2
Our homemade breakfast burritos, costing $0.72 apiece

In the end, if everything else evens out, the long term factors win out. If you consistently consume healthier food, you increase your chances for good health throughout life. If you consistently entertain yourself with things that challenge your mind (at least gently), you increase your ability to think through situations as well as having a warehouse of knowledge that can help in many situations.

You’re rewarded with lower health care costs and greater long term earning opportunities.

Convenience can be a very good thing. It can help us survive some of the time and energy bottlenecks that modern life foists upon us. The problem with convenience, though, is that it can often lead us into overcosted and questionable choices like Taco Bell’s “meat product” featuring silicon dioxide. Yum.

We can combat this by simply planning ahead a little bit. Turn on some music this Saturday and make a batch of burritos for the freezer so you’re not left with a fast food stop this week. Install a programmable thermostat so you don’t have to remember to adjust the thermostat every time you go to bed, get up, or leave for work (and you’re not paying for it if you forget in a bottlenecked period). Seek out some documentaries or other programming on topics that really excite you and record them so that the next time you flop on the couch, you can just hit a buttion and watch something fulfilling instead of channel surfing through a wasteland.

You save money. You eat healthier. You don’t lose convenience. And you’re not left eating “meat product.” It’s a win all around.

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66 thoughts on “Taco Bell’s Beef Problem: Convenience and the Value of Knowing What You’re Consuming

  1. Great post! I try hard, although I don’t succeed 100% of the time, to stay away from fast food, for many of the reasons you mention. I find home cooking more and more rewarding these days, and even enjoyable!

    I do have a question: I am NEVER able to roll a burrito or sandwich wrap so that it doesn’t fall apart after two bites. Any way you can include step-by-step photos on the how-to of rolling?

  2. I agree wholeheartedly! Convenience and quality do not have to be mutually exclusive.

    @ Amy…Google and Youtube can surely help you in that regard.

  3. I’m always astounded by those around me that believe that any fast food is all that good or has quality ingredients.

    Preparing meals such as you’ve displayed here takes little time. It’s just a matter of making it a priority. The end results are always worth it!

  4. @Amy – I always found the most important thing is to make sure you have a very supple tortilla, to do this we usually put the tortillas on a plate covered by a damp paper towel for about 15 seconds. This makes them much easier to wrap nice and tight. That picture of the breakfast burrito is a great start, then just start rolling from the side closest to the filling and wrap as tight as possible.

  5. I’m totally on board in theory, but when our life gets busy we don’t have time to even heat up premade burritos. The “bottleneck” times in our life are when we get off work at 6 and have to go to a class/meeting/whatever at 6:30, get home at 10 and still have 2 more hours of work to follow up on before crashing and doing it again the next day. Weekends are equally hectic. We are out of the house from 7am to 10pm, and we don’t have a fridge and microwave in the car to keep/reheat healthy premade food. Taco Bell is our lifeline in those times.

    Right now we are fixing up our old house to rent out. Every day that we don’t have renters is $30 we eat. We can go home and cook dinner, or we can go straight to the old house and work till we drop. We must do the latter, even though I would prefer not to.

    The fact is, if you have time to come home after work and heat up a meal (even a pre-frozen one), your life isn’t the kind of busy that requires fast food.

  6. I really enjoyed this post–I’ve been planning more and more during my “downtime” for my “time bottlenecks” and life is much smoother. I completely agree with cooking ahead. My eating out budget is minimal now; I just select from the “menu” in my freezer.

    And Taco Bell “meat” is just scary (along with all the other fast food restaurants). As for the school lunches, the standards could not be lower most places. It’s disgraceful (and certainly contributes to why kids underachieve in school).

  7. FYI to those who frequent fast food burger joints… less than 14% is actually meat.

    Realistically, the fillers that are in these Taco Bell tacos or Burger King burgers are far better for you than the meat they are putting into it anyways. Consider yourselves lucky!

    Personally, I’m glad to be thriving on a plant-based diet that doesn’t include processed burgers. :)

  8. Hippie! J/k. It’s like I’ve always said…you can eat bacon and hamsteak every day but stay away from engineered foods.

  9. The Taco Bell situation is gross and that’s a big reason I don’t eat there. I didn’t know it wasn’t as much beef as they said, but anythign that cheap is going to use cheap ingredients.

    However, I’m not going to get upset because the government allows meat fillings to be less than 100% meat because that’s reasonable. The “meat filling” they are talking about has more than just meat and seasonings in it so it can’t be 100% meat.

    Or look at it this way – your bean burritos are 100% beans, but when I make bean burritos they aren’t 100% beans. It’s beans, onions, garlic, peppers, zucchini, spices etc. Not full of gross stuff just more than beans.

  10. To me, your post was more about “planning ahead” than it was about the specifics of making a burrito, but like the person who wrote the first comment, I could use that advice as well!
    I think a big part of planning ahead means exercising good impulse control. It’s getting to be a lost art. For more interesting stories about impulse control, check out the Nov 24 and Nov 27 posts on my website, http://www.pocketchangebook.com. Thanks for an insightful blogpost!!

  11. FYI, The percentage of water in the average cut of beef from the butcher is greater than 50%. This lawsuit is nothing but sensationalist bs. Anyone that has ever cooked anything should realize how much water is contained in raw foods.

  12. Should anyone be surprised because the underpriced goop that no longer resembles muscle tissue is around 60% filler? Taco Bell ‘meat’ is no different than the slaughterhouse scraps and by-products combined with various fillers to create hot dogs, sausage, bologna, pickle loaf, Spam and other such products passed off as meat.

  13. @Des, I’m pretty sure it takes less time to heat up a burrito (especially if you move one from the freezer to the fridge in the morning or the night before) than it does to go to a fast-food place, even if it’s right on the way. Or are you not having any dinner at all?

    Sadly, I like the flavor of meat-flavored fillers with a dash of sand in it.

  14. Even if you do all your own cooking, you still have to rely on regulators. When you buy ground beef at the grocery store, how do you know that *that’s* really beef? How do you know that the ingredients in your salsa, or your tortillas, are what the package says they are? Unless you do all your own farming in addition to all your own cooking, you need to put some amount of trust in the system.

  15. You know, Trent, I saw on Taco Bell’s web site, and another article, that their “meat” mixture contains 85% actual beef. Silicon dioxide is a naturally-occurring element in many foods (mostly plant based), and is added as an anti-caking agent in many processed foods. I, myself, have added rice or oats to “extend” beef – especially in meatloaf.

    My family likes Taco Bell. I usually eat there for lunch on Tuesdays, when I take my 12 y/o to a couple of classes at a homeschool co-op. It’s nice not to have to wash a dish, and I’m not around a microwave so I could heat something up myself. I sit in the car and listen to the radio or read and have a break. So, I’m not just paying for the food.

    Also, when the kids and I get fast food, we are usually coming home from being out somewhere with friends, and will often eat in the restaurant with the friends. It’s relaxing. It’s convenient. It’s a nice occasional treat that we don’t do every week.

    The food industry is – like everything else in this country – regulated out the wazoo. My main concerns with fast food are eating too much of it, and the salt/sugar content. But, those are problems with all convenience foods, whether they come from a store shelf or from a drive-thru.

  16. @Amy – As a followup to #2, I like to heat my shells for a few seconds to make them easier to work with. A cast iron skillet or griddle works great for this, but applying any kind of heat seems to do the trick. Just don’t let them start to crisp, otherwise they are likely to tear when you start folding.

  17. silicon dioxide sounds scary doesn’t it. But its in a lot of stuff and chemically sounding names don’t mean something is bad for you. Fruits have it naturally. Its also often used in table salt.

  18. @Debbie – I took Des’ point to mean that he’s not actually going home. I know that for me, there are nights where going home between work and evening activities would cost more in gas money (and time) than stopping at fast food (or a grocery store deli section). Something warm is usually also more appealing than something that can sit all day not needing refrigeration or heating.

    The best I can come up with in that situation is pb&j. Anyone have better alternative suggestions?

    @Des – If you’re fixing up an old house to rent, can you heat and eat foods there? Frozen foods (like the burritos mentioned) in a cooler with a microwave kept at the house could work. Even better if you already have a fridge/freezer there and can keep easy/quick to prepare foods.

  19. Home made doesn’t mean it doesn’t include scary sounding ingredients. Read the package of the stuff you buy at the grocery store sometime.

    In a previous article on burritos Trent showed a picture of ingredients including Mission brand tortillas.

    The ingredients in Mission brand of flour tortillas includes:

    Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil), Contains 2% or Less of: Sugar, Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Calcium Sulfate), Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid, Potassium Sorbate and/or Citric Acid), Distilled Monoglycerides, Wheat Starch, Amylase, Tricalcium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Dough Conditioners (Fumaric Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite and/or Mono- and Diglycerides).

  20. I’m fairly confident that silicon dioxide won’t hurt you. I’m also fairly confident that taco bell’s burrito filling cannot be described as more than 80% beef (even if that includes the fat and connective tissue). There are many companies out there that take pride in their beef. Taco bell isn’t one of them. Eat as close to the source as is reasonable for you, its the best way to be sure.

  21. @Debbie M (#9): True, in that I guess it’d be pretty hard to fake things like fresh fruits and vegetables. But milk and flour are also pretty basic ingredients, and they both have histories of being adulterated.

  22. For someone who encourages people to eat less meat, why is meat that includes fillers and less meat a problem? I get what you are saying about consuming food with less chemicals and preservatives, but I still don’t see how meat with either soy or other fillers like oats is problematic. I guess the point of the lawsuit is that their advertising is not truthful, but I listened to a story on NPR about this. My impression (not necessarily NPR’s take on it) was that this is a frivolous lawsuit that will line the pockets of the lawyers. I can’t imagine that actual consumers will get much from it, and really why should they? If you really are offended by Taco Bell’s meat, just don’t eat it!
    I personally like it and also enjoy their burritos on occasion. And like someone else said, stretching meat is not a new concept. Meatballs, meatloaf etc. – they all do it.

    And unless you know silicon dioxide to be harmful, why does it scare you so much? Would you also be afraid of water in foods if they labeled it dihydrogen monoxide?

  23. #1 Amy – don’t fill them too full. We warm up the tortillas till soft, put 1/4 c or so of filling just above the center, fold down the top over the filling, then both ends, then the other side (which would be larger & therefore wrap farther around.

    #5 Des – If you have no way of working out a more sane schedule, then you could rely on sandwiches, cold packs & thermoses for brown-bag type meals. You fix the meals ahead of time & then just grab & go. Many sandwiches can be frozen & then are thawed by the time you eat. You could keep a cooler or two in the car (to stash either hot or cold items). Still more time-saving than waiting in a drive-thru.

  24. I think one of the biggest problems facing people when it comes to this idea that it’s more expensive to eat healthy is that when we buy groceries, we aren’t buying them a couple of dollars at a time. We get sticker shock! The bill might be $40, $50 or maybe more.

    I wonder how many people take the time to break down the costs/meal like you’ve done here and actually compared them to the “cheap” alternatives. My guess is not many. Personally, I don’t take it down to the individual food item but I do tell myself, “Hey, these groceries will feed us X amount of times, for a cost of $$ per meal.” And guess what, it’s ALWAYS cheaper than going out to eat.

    I hadn’t heard about these USDA requirements before, so thank-you for bringing them to our attention. It’s really gross when you think about it. Silicon dioxide is sand…why would I want that in my food? Answer: I don’t.

  25. #25 – I agree. The other factor is that people buy a lot of nonfood items as part of their grocery store bill.

    Even if you spend $100 on food items per week, that’s about $14/day, for all three meals & snacks.

  26. People need to recognize that you can’t take the allegations in a complaint as true. The suit sounds like BS plaintiff’s attorney sensationalism.

  27. @LurkerCarl – #12. My fiance bought a can of spam and I was grossed out. However, after reading your post, I found info on the Straight Dope about Spam. It’s not yucky scrap meat as you describe. Instead: “The common assumption is that Spam is made of stuff even pigs don’t like to admit they’ve got. Not so, says a spokeswoman for Hormel Foods, which manufactures Spam. It contains a mixture of ham and chopped pork shoulder. (Ham is the pig’s thigh; pork is everything else.) Ham is Hormel’s top-of-the-line product, and Spam was created in 1937 partly to use up what was left of the pig after the ham had been removed. But only the wholesome parts.”

    Now,I still don’t plan to eat Spam, but I don’t eat bologna or hot dogs either. But, Spam is certainly not slop.
    ~~
    I’m 44, and loved the burgers in school when I was growing up. We kids knew even then that they were made with a lot of soy. I happen to like Taco Bell for fast food. The whole filler information is not disgusting, since I definitely grew up with fillers.

  28. @28 JuliB: You beat me to it: Spam isn’t filler, it is scraps of ham/pork that can’t be made into larger cuts. I’m sure there is some sort of filler involved, just as there are clearly some sort of preservatives involved, but it is real, actual pig meat. It also isn’t bad – a little salty, and I wouldn’t eat it on a daily basis, but of all the things I’ve eaten in my life, Spam doesn’t even come close to being the worst, either in terms of taste or in terms of health. I have a soft spot in my heart for Spam :)

  29. I am so used to being in the minority with my viewpoint that these comments are very refreshing. It is nice to see that there are other posters that realize that just because something has a chemical sounding name doesn’t mean that it is bad for you. My company distributes most of the food “ingredients” included in the Taco Bell “meat” and most are plant based and not harmful at all. And as poster #16 states, the food industry is regulated to the extreme. It is the vitamin and supplement industry you need be to leary of. It amazes me how the same people that will complain about chemical sounding names in their food and cosmetics will take a vitamin, supplement or diet pill without batting an eye.

  30. JuliB – Why did Spam gross you out? Perhaps because the shoulder is primarily fat and the ham trimmings are otherwise unsaleable. Two ounces is 174 calories, with 137 calories coming from fat, provides 1/3 of your daily dose of sodium yet only 7 grams of protein. Nutritionally, even the cheapest canned dog food is better for you than Spam. Yummy.

  31. @Julie: I think the “problem” with the chemical sounding names is that by using them, people don’t really *know* what they’re eating. Okay, sure, we know that our food contains silicon dioxide and sodium phosphate…but what does that mean? To the majority of people, it means absolutely nothing. We just assume that it’s okay to eat because the food company says it’s okay and our government is supposed to protect us from harm.

    The same can be said of the benign plant-based chemical names. They sound like a chemistry experiment and the general public doesn’t know what any of it is. I’m working on a minor in chemistry and even I don’t know what the purpose of a lot of these ingredients are in food production.

    As far as the food industry is concerned, regulation isn’t any comfort to me. It might be to you and others but I’m not convinced. You might have already read books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and watched documentaries like Food, Inc and Earthlings but if you haven’t, I’d suggest you check them out. Not to change your mind about the industry but to see why some people might be hesitant to accept industry regulation at face value.

  32. @Jim: I have a chemistry degree and can promise you that none of that is *too* scary :)

    Sometimes stuff that is good for you – or at least benign – sounds terrible, while truly nasty stuff can sound “not so bad” or truly terrible. It’s tough to gauge that without some knowledge of chemistry and nutrition.

  33. Taco Bell started out with everything so inexpensive on the menu to hook people in. Now they have become pretty expensive for the quality you are getting. And because they have a somewhat younger customer base, they barely even offer coupon promotions like Burger king, McDonalds etc. Or maybe they just need some stiff competition to improve on things.

  34. To readers hankering for burritos but too lazy to make them (like me), try Amy’s Bean and Cheese Burritos (www.amys.com) and other products in the frozen food section. Amy’s supports small businesses, local organic farmers and many other great causes. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to love their food!

  35. With all this talk about Taco Bell beef, fillers and chemicals, I’m surprised no one has mentioned “natural” chicken that has been infused with up to 15% “chicken broth” a.k.a. salt water. While it’s natural and not necessarily going to hurt you, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you either. Take a look at a package of Tyson chicken the next time you are at the grocery store. (Raw chicken, not chicken fingers)

  36. @Dan

    “FYI to those who frequent fast food burger joints… less than 14% is actually meat.”

    And 83% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    When you narrow the scope to the comment section of Internet blogs, that statistic jumps to 99%.

  37. It always amuses me to read people complaining about the content of things like hot dogs and sausauges.

    “Don’t you know what you’re eating? You’re eating the organs, the leftovers, the tendons, and all the gross stuff.”

    So what, we should just throw those parts away? Waste half the animal? Why, because they’re the “gross parts?” Who says they’re gross? What makes them grosser than the muscles, which we devour without a second thought?

    Has anyone anywhere ever gotten sick from a properly cooked hot dog? Is there anything in hot dogs that are inherently dangerous or bad for you (in moderation)? No? Then what’s the problem? Why shouldn’t we eat them? Because they’re made from the “gross” parts of the animal?

    You guys need to get over yourselves.

  38. Organs and “gross” parts of animals have always been eaten, just more as peasant food and then it’s often elevated to fine dining. There’s beef tongue, hearts, liver, sweetbreads, etc and so on.

    On Top Chef All Stars they had a challenge to filet 2 types of fish and then the next challenge was for the top 3 finishers to use all the left over fish parts to make a fine dining dish. We’re talking fins, skins, heads, etc used to make an upscale dish.

  39. Steve,

    My company sells to hundred of food manufacturers. We sell to some of the largest companies in the world (Carnation, Nestle) and many smaller regional companies. Our sales staff (technical food scientists) have visited virtually all of them at one time or another. I would prefer to base my opinions on what my highly educated co-workers tell me based on what they see with their own eyes. I generally avoid documentaries that overly dwell on the negative and contribute to phobia, paranoia and depression in the general public. In my opinion, Americans today have it better than any generation in history…anwhere in the world, and yet we continue to get more fearful, distrustful and depressed.

    I don’t put much trust in the US government or large corporations myself, but I understand that these two institution have more checks and balances than any other institution on earth. I also believe that both of these institutions are (for the most part) staffed by human beings that generally care about the well being of others. These documentataries, just like the evening news, focus on the exceptions…not the rule.

  40. @#38 Kevin – Interesting thoughts. I think a lot of it has to do with perception. How many times have we heard about another culture’s food and gone, “Oh that is absolutely disgusting.” Yet, how many of us have actually tried the offending dish? Fried scorpion might actually be quite delicious. (Though, to be honest, I’d still refuse to touch it)

  41. Kevin,

    Great comments. I would think anyone who truly concerned about waste and the plight of starving people all over the world would agree.

  42. Actually, most people who are concerned about additives and fillers in food are not talking about “gross parts” of meat; we’re talking about chemicals and preservatives that cause longer-term health problems like cancer and heart disease. So, yes, people do get sick from things like hot dogs–but over the longer-term.

  43. In response to Des and others…
    Its not really a matter of time but of priorities. If eating home cooked rather than fast food (whether for health or finances) was the priority there are plenty of ways to get around it even with a busy schedule. A thermos or cooler can keep things warm or cool as needed. Save up some money and get one of those car fridge/heater boxes or use free resources around you. My crew brings tacos and tamales from home that they microwave at gas stations. For those that have to cart kids to church or dance ask if the facility has a microwave you could borrow some nights (most likely the facility has a small kitchen for its employees). If its a priority then be creative in finding resources and tricks you can learn to use to make it work for you.

  44. If you are concerned about silica dioxide then check your powdered milk and creamers…
    Clearly most of us don’t want to go to the beach and eat a handful of sand but the grain size and quantity used in products will likely pass through digestion without much difficulty. I don’t want to eat spiders either but I’m pretty certain there is a portion in the food I eat. Hey, its organic! I try to limit my chemicals and preservitives but there is a point when I just try not to think about it too much. Mommy always said, everything in moderation…

  45. I think one of the points of this article is not how scary or not scary the meat product in Taco Bell’s food is, but how we can get so caught up in our thought patterns that we THINK don’t have time to do anything BUT make a fast food run.

    As the Buddha said, what we think, we become.

    If you literally don’t have time (or it’s too expensive gas-wise) to stop at home to grab a bite before your evening’s activities, you KNOW this ahead of time. You can put food in a small cooler before you leave for work. Yes, you DO have time – it takes less than 5 minutes to put food you prepare ahead of time in a small cooler.

    You can literally take 30 minutes, once a week, to make breakfast for 6 days a week. Hard-boiled eggs are the easiest breakfast to make, because you can make a half dozen, stick them in the fridge, and eat for a week. One egg not enough? Then boil a dozen – it takes about the same amount of time – and eat two for breakfast. Eat an egg and a piece of fruit – you can do it walking or driving – and you’ve had a healthy breakfast.

    Concerned about cholesterol? Toss the yolk into the dog’s bowl – he’ll love it. The egg white is pure protein.

    For lunch, take 30 minutes one day of the week to make a stack of sandwiches that taste good cold. Put each in a sandwich bag or wrap in foil or plastic wrap, and stack them in the fridge or freezer. Again, grab a sandwich or two, a piece of fruit or two, and a bottle of water or two, and put them in a small cooler.

    You can take one hour a week to prepare, and then eat healthy breakfasts and lunches for a week.

    You can make excuses about why you can’t do something, or you can find a way to do it.

  46. If you didn’t make it yourself with fresh ingredients, don’t trust it. It’s a sad fact that most food manufacturers care so much about making a buck that they will do ANYTHING. They don’t know you and don’t care about what you put in your body. They eat Kashi for breakfast at home while formulating the next batch of “meat” for the restaurants. Make it yourself, or expect to eat something questionable…

  47. Katie #33 said : “Sometimes stuff that is good for you – or at least benign – sounds terrible, while truly nasty stuff can sound “not so bad” or truly terrible. It’s tough to gauge that without some knowledge of chemistry and nutrition.”

    I’m not personally worried about the ‘scary’ sounding chemicals in our foods. But I think a large part of the problem is that our foods nowadays have a long list of ingredients with chemical names and normal people don’t know what any of that is.

    It shouldn’t require a chemistry degree to determine if the ingredients of your food are bad or not. It may as well be in Latin.

    It doesn’t mean the food is bad but the chemical scary sounding ingredients easily lead people to think they may be bad.

    I do think its a little silly for people to revile Taco Bell for their ingredients when most of the foods in their own fridges are probably full of ingredients they don’t even understand.

    I don’t see any easy solution for it. You can’t really change the names of that stuff and most of of it is generally harmless. Of course you don’t want to eat buckets of preservatives and artificial flavoring all day long but I really doubt small amounts of that stuff is going to hurt us any more then the large portions of fat, sugar and salt in the same foods.

  48. Don’t forget that the organic, healthy and fresh food companies/marketers are just as interested in making a buck and they have capitalized by spreading fear and misunderstanding in the marketplace. Why do people consider these corporations to be so altruistic?

    Also don’t assume that the organic fresh food you are preparing for dinner is any safer overall than a non-organic food item. True science doesn’t yet support that conclusion.

  49. I try to eat a lot of organic but Julie’s right there’s not much hard science to support it. And there are companies out there trying to make money.

    It’s like the supplement industry or the whole “Complementery and Alternative Medicine” industry out there making billions of dollars and drumming up business by scaring people about the evil pharmaceutecal companies.

  50. I read that it is better to buy only things from the store with less than 5 ingredients listed on the side, or – at least – no more than 5 ingredients you don’t understand.

    I guess I will eat anything, almost. However, why blame the companies making the fast foods. After all, I am sure they don’t try to fix foods that will make us sick because they would quickly lose all their business.

    About eating strange things, a missionary’s wife I knew decided to try a strange food because she felt it would let the people know she was willing to try their way of life. Her husband wouldn’t and many others wouldn’t also. She ate a handful of flying ants (I think). She said they just tasted like cracklin’s. The only bad part was that they moved in your mouth while you were chewing. I might have a little trouble with that one.

    However, no one can mix foods up more than I can. My favorite sandwich is a PB&J BLT. I say God made thousands of foods and he made them all mix-n-match and I intend to mix-n-match as many as I can before I die. I control my stomach – it doesn’t control me.

  51. With a two-year-old and a nursing newborn, and a husband who is usually away 60 hours of the week… a “large” block of time for me is 20 minutes. Some days I just don’t get the time to make dinner before we’re all starving – and I don’t necessarily know when those days will happen. Spending less than $10 at Taco Bell to feed 3 people (me, husband, toddler) is mighty appealing on those days.

    I suppose you’re right, I should try to take time to make up ready-to-heat-and-eat meals… but right now, I’d rather sleep than spend more time cooking.

  52. Anitra, try at first just doing ONE thing in one of those 20 minute blocks of time: say:

    throw a pot of rice on the stove or get an electric rice cooker.

    Freeze some of the cooked rice in ziplocs.

    Do the same with some beans.

    Make a BIG batch of hummus and freeze half of it.

    Make a batch of dough and store in in a plastic bag in the fridge so you can roll out and cook a flour tortilla at any time of the day or night in 2 minutes. Dough will keep in the fridge for one to even 2 weeks.

    If it starts to get past 1 week I’d throw it in the freezer though until I’m ready to use it again.

    With a few of these things on hand,”banked” in your fridge/freezer during a 20 minute block of time, you have stuff ready to assemble a meal on moment’s notice.

  53. I’m just going to throw this out there but what about the increase in cancer rates? Might this no coincide with the increased consumption of “convenience” foods?

    From the book “Affluenza” by John de Graaf:

    “As Japan and China adopt a Western diet, previously rare Western diseases like arterioschlerosis and coronary heart disease come with it…’Japanese women on traditional diets have one of the lowest rates of breast cancer in the world, but when they come to America and eat like Americans, their breast cancer risk quickly rises.’

    High-quality food delivers satisfaction and contentedness, but low-quality food delivers poor health, irritability, pesticide residues, cancer…”

    I don’t think business has our health in interest and there are plenty of examples to support that. They’re in business to make money, not be our friends.

  54. @Steve
    I’m in the exact same position as Anitra with a toddler and an infant, and I wish I could be as organized as you describe. But even if I do that, I have to honest and admit that I hate the way most foods taste out of the freezer. Maybe it is the way I am freezing things, but other than spaghetti sauce (which I make in bulk and freeze in smaller quantities), meat, and fruit, I rarely freeze anything. I’m impressed with people who freeze grains and other items, but they have always gone to waste when I have attempted it.

    Also, there is something to be said about getting out of the house as well. And with small kids, eating out is one way to do this. Of course, sometimes it is more trouble than it is worth, but if you are going to fast food where there is less expectation for perfectly behaved children, it can be a nice change of scenery. Oh, and no dishes! If I pre-prepare things, I still have dishes and tupperware to clean.

  55. Stalin credited spam as one of the top 2 things that won World War 2, it basically kept the Red army from starving to death. We shipped ships full of that stuff over there.

  56. We dropped pop tarts Afghanistan, because they are hard to break, and have a shelf life of 2 years.

    Pringles. Ew.

  57. David, depends on who you ask. Many credit the Red army bogging down the German army for so long. Other people say Britain not falling during the Blitz. Americans often say a) pearl harbor, because it got us involved in the war, or b) dropping the A bomb, though many feel at this point it was not necessary. My Dad would be a better person to ask.

  58. Yeah everyone is saying we should eat a less meat-based diet, and when the fast food companies comply, we all complain! ; )

  59. @ #60 David

    The other thing Stalin credited with winning the war was the Heavy truck, I can’t remember the name, but it is the one with 2 sets of dual wheels in the back. Basically it’s ability to quickly move men and materials to where they were needed and keep them supplied.

  60. If you want to make taco salad bowls that you
    don’t fry do this: Take a flat tortia shell and
    spray each side with cooking spray, I lay it on wax paper, less mess. Ball up some cheap foil and
    drape on top of foil. Bake 350 to 400 (adjust for
    what you like). When its done it holds its shape

  61. Hi Trent,

    I have read about your journey or about 2 years now, and this is the first time I have felt the need to speak up. regarding your recent change in diet (yay for pounds lost!), you are not truly Vegan, but vegetarian (or what most refer to as a plant-BASED diet). True veganism (and I only lasted one week) is a lifestyle, and eliminates all animal products, including leather.
    Keep up the good work!

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