Told to Eat Its Vegetables, The New York Times Wrings Its Hands

Indulge me for a moment while I rant about the fundamental bias of this well-intentioned article from the other day's New York Times:

Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries

The underlying bias--the very framework beneath this article--is that eating veggies (or more generally, eating healthy) is too hard to do. And that is demonstrably false. It is not too hard to do.

But when the Times frames up a debate about eating vegetables in terms of "us vs. Doritos" or "helpless consumers vs. an evil and omnipotent food industry" it simply encourages readers to give their power away to the food industry, rather than take action on their own behalf. After all, what can you possibly do against a delicious, "flavor-blasted" Dorito sold to you by an all-powerful food industry?

Worse, when the Times manufactures generalized and unsubstantiated opinions disguised as facts in order to fit this bias (e.g., "And compared with a lot of food at the supermarket, [vegetables] are a relatively expensive way to fill a belly," an arrogant and false trope I've repeatedly read in the Times), people will once again just wring their hands--and again, not take action.

What should be a discussion about ideas and solutions becomes an enervating and circular "yes, but" argument.

I doubt the reporter who wrote this article has any idea of the enormous disservice she's doing to her readers. But the most pernicious biases are the ones that we have but don't know we have.

I'd like to gratefully thank readers Melissa Ortiz and Eurica Chang for spurring the ideas behind this post.

Related Posts:
Don't Fall Victim to False Logic With the Food Industry
Let Them Eat Cake! Thoughts About Wealth, Power and the Food Industry
Who Really Holds the Power in Our Food Industry?

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Joanne said...

I read that article and it made me mind numbingly angry. Especially after I bought winter squash at the Union Square farmer's market for 75 cents a pound. Way cheaper and way more filling than Doritos. Seriously.

chacha1 said...

I'm glad I didn't read the article, it just would have made me mad too!

My "expensive" side dish for Friday's dinner ... yams mashed with pineapple. Served four, about $1 each, everybody loves it, leftovers for days.


Cynthia said...

The only reason my stepson will eat veggies, is because we do. His mother will not bring vegetables in her house because and I quote;"they're gross and yucky!" At our house veggies show up at every meal in some form or another. He will also eat any number of ethnic foods because we do. It not the Americans won't eat their veggies, it because they don't know what to do with them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I thought the best, and most hopeful, line in the article was this: “We have to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Dr. Foltz said. I agree with Cynthia that it all starts at home; if we can show people how to buy and cook healthy options that taste great, then things can change. e.g., I never buy Doritos (or anything like them), and the rare processed foods I buy are things like soy sauce and miso, because my mother never bought processed foods and cooked most things from scratch (while also working outside the home).