Desi Visitor To The US – Part 2

I hope you are doing fabulously. 

The strange thing my aunt noticed about the States is how every gas station doubles up as a mini food shop. She soon changed her stand and said how e-v-e-r-y shop carries food items here in this country – hardware shops, home improvement shops, even laundromats! She says she got tired fighting her temptation for chocolates, my poor aunt.

Food scientists have pointed out that there is a food ad every five minutes or so on the television at any given time. And needless to say, they are NOT advertising the goodness of eating veggies! It is important to realize that you will be bombarded with food cues to the point that it will wear your resistance down and push you towards making some choices that may not be typical of you. So, please be aware.

The second point to observe about the food scene here is the size. A regular cookie in a coffee shop will look like the size of homemade poori. Coffee or tea bought outside is given black, and you are free to take as much milk or cream as you desire. Less said the better, about the cold beverages – they come mostly in super large bottles and smaller ones cost you disproportionately more in price. The desserts such as cakes and pastries are just frosting more than two-thirds of the way. Single-serve portions of anything are huge for one person.

Then, you will also find that foods tend to err on the sweeter side, actually cloyingly so. Even the supposedly savory ones like ketchup or salsa! Some call out to you as “health foods” – for example, granola and yogurt – granola usually has a lot of oil, and yogurt has a ton of fat. The convenience of pocket foods can be tempting too – for example, granola bars. With misleading names and deceptive descriptions like ‘all-natural’, ‘honest goodness,’ the best of us can fall hook line and sinker for these things.

Please also keep an eye for the sneaky salt in foods where you least expect to see, in really ridiculous amounts. The breads, pizza bases, dinner rolls, ready to eat soups, even soda has it! Look for salt in the sauces, ketchup, canned rajma, chana, and other cooked beans. All these above factors can cause you to gain weight if you are not watchful.

Did you say, “enough already, this is depressing?” Oh, nooo – I only meant to alert you, that’s all. When I see my relatives when they visit here, I find them erring on the extremes of too much trust or too wary. But knowing these things can help you navigate much more confidently.

So, what do you do differently? Number one thing to do is,

1. Do not shop or even step out to these stores when hungry.

2. Make sure to carry a little food in your bag all the time. This way, you’re never at the mercy of a poorly stocked shop for food, ever.

3. In a Departmental Store, all the safe foods are in the periphery, usually near the entrance – colorful fruit, veggies, and so on. The aisles are where the junk is.

4. This one is the most important – if you have to go to the aisle and buy packaged food, DO NOT pay any attention to what the front of the package says.

5. Always turn it around to read the ingredient list and the nutrition label.

I will stop at this, and we’ll go into detail about these two things – the ingredient list and the nutrition label in the next post.




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