Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
From Live Better America
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Why Health Food Gets A Bad Rap

I've been working as a restaurant critic since 1997 and, after all my years, I bear no ill will toward any chef or restaurant. Except this one place, which, for the sake of this story, shall remain nameless. Let's call it Hippie Gruel.

Yes, it was a "health-food" place of the 1970s get-your-wheat-germ-here variety. There was wheat germ on the salads, plus raisins, sunflower seeds and unseasoned shredded cabbage, too, the latter for added crunch. Oh, and there was a lot of crunch -- too much crunch, actually. Beneath the upper layer of crunch, there were squares of iceberg lettuce chopped by one of those industrial kitchen appliances that takes a whole head and guillotines it into squares. Oh, oh, oh, the crunch! Halfway through the bowl you'd set down your fork and start looking around for a talented masseuse to come rub your jaw.

But that wasn't the worst of it!

Next came the tofu stroganoff. A plump pound of tofu, warmed some way or other, covered by an soy-cream sauce loaded with mushrooms: a blob, sauced. Three bites in, you switched to merely eating the mushrooms, and whatever thoughts you had at the outset about eating healthy were replaced by a stark craving for a cheeseburger. But that wasn't the worst of it!

The worst of it, the absolute worst, was that it made such a travesty of healthy eating. A well-meaning travesty, but a travesty nonetheless. Who would ever leave there excited about legitimate healthy eating? Who would feel enthusiastic about little jewels of cherry tomatoes, plump leaves of fresh spinach softened in a pan with a bit of olive oil, or slightly charred slices of squash, smelling of fall bounty? No one.

The world is overflowing with great, healthy food, and unappetizing hippie gruel just makes convincing people to try it unnecessarily difficult. My advice? The next time you find yourself faced with something that's supposed to be healthy but that makes you sad, listen to that instinct and search out something that's really delicious - and leave the hippie gruel in the past.

What hippie gruel has crossed your plate and palate? What healthy food makes you excited about eating?

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