Omnivore's Dilemma Final Project

My Day of Being a Food Detective

By: Srinidhi Venkatesh

The Start of my Day Long Journey

This journey was an experiment to see how the choices I make about my food affect me and follow some expert advice on eating real food. You see, food really isn't what we think. The industrial organic food chains from which we get most of our foods can be inhumane, toxic, and unhealthy. Hidden corn and cruelty to animals are just part of them. I started with four main tips from "The Omnivore's Dilemma" I decided I would choose to follow for a day and reflect on.

They were:

- Avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup

- Cook

- Eat at the table

- Don't eat anything with more than five ingredients or ingredients you can't pronounce

I then reflected on each meal I had throughout the day including snacks.

**Note: I use HFCS in places to represent High- fructose corn syrup.

A Few Setbacks & Notifications...

I really don't buy my food since I am not old enough and mom does most of the shopping while I'm at school. Therefore, what is bought really isn't within my grasp though my parents mostly stick to these rules without really thinking about it. I don't cook my own food, but I do get a say in what I eat.

Also, my family eats ethnic food which means that we mostly eat food that has been part of the custom and culture in our family for many years. In my case, it mostly is Indian food that my mom makes at home.

What's for Breakfast?

My family in starting the day with a good dose of fruits. This meant an assortment of oranges, mangoes, and kiwis which were all in . The "main course" of breakfast was idly or in other words rice and lentils ground into a paste and is pressure cooked. This is basically rice cake like circles that can be eaten a side dish. To go with the rice cakes, my mom had made sambar, another traditional food that is just another type of a soup with a variety of vegetables and lentils. A cup of local organic milk topped off this meal.

While eating this, I thought about what all this food was and if it was under the rules that I had made. I ran through my mental checklist


- High fructose corn syrup- My meal consisted of no possible sources of high fructose corn syrup since everything was made from fresh fruit, grains, or raw food and drinks as well as a majority of them being home cooked and ground.

- Cook- This was well satisfied since the main part of the meal was cooked as well as the side for it. The rest of the foods were fresh fruit and milk.

- Try to eat at the table- Breakfast is served nowhere except at the table. It is rule that is unbreakable.

- 5 ingredient rule- Well, for my entire meal except for the milk and fruit, they all had more than five ingredients. But, in this case, I allowed the rule break since all the ingredients were fresh, grains, or homemade. There were no processed foods involved, so I deemed my meal as okay.

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Sticking to these rules is not too hard for breakfast, and a few breaches in the rules did occur, yet they were acceptable. Whole and healthy foods really start a good successful day.

A Hungry Part of School... Lunch!!!

For a big part of the population, lunch is not at home. School-aged children usually bring lunch or buy from school. In my case, I never buy lunch because food from home is always the safest and best for you.

That day, for lunch, I had whole wheat pasta with organic tomato sauce. I have a long afternoon with after school activities until 4:30. Therefore, my mom sends me some snack to keep me running just before track practice. With my lunch, I had an orange and for my after school snack, I had a cereal bar.


- Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup- Not in my lunch. The pasta has one ingredient, whole wheat, and the sauce doesn't have HFCS either. The orange... is an orange.

- Cook- Cooked pasta and sauce cover that though the basic ingredients were bought.

- Eat at the table- At school, lunch is eaten at tables with friends of your choice. This leads to fun lunches with chatting and eating.

- 5 ingredient rule- The pasta had one ingredient, whole wheat. The sauce, tomato garlic herb sauce, contained 14 though. I didn't really have much choice on whether I could eat it or not, but I accepted it. I understood that it really wasn't the best choice, but the ingredients were mainly a variety of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs all pureed, diced, and chopped. They were the same foods in many different forms, all combined.

Snack before and after Track...

After a long day of school, I need some sort of snack to keep me running during track. A Kind bar was my solution. It tastes good and is healthy. Sure, it breaks some of the rules, but a little snack with less sugar once in a while can't hurt.

For the tips, it violates the five ingredient rule, cook, and eat at the table. I know it wasn't a good choice, but I needed an on the go snack that would give me some energy. It had no HFCS though.

I realized that this was probably the worst choice of what to eat and that I should have avoided it.

Temptations & Hard Choices

In between meals, almost everyone craves the occasional junk food. A few cookies were what I wanted. But they broke every rule from HFCS, cook, and five ingredients to snacking without eating at the table. Therefore, I made the harder choice. I put away the cookies. Sorry... Not today.

The Power Drink

After track practice, I had a 2 hour Hindi class which meant more work. In between, I had a quick smoothie. Now, when I say smoothie, I don't mean the cream and sugar sweetened ones you buy at a store. The smoothies made in my house are a mix of fresh fruits and milk blended together. Today specifically, it was berries and bananas. I understood that it didn't satisfy many of the restrictions, but it is all fresh, so it makes the cut.

The Final Meal of the Day

Dinner is yet again ethnic food in my house. Roti and a tofu side were on the menu. Roti is a traditional flat bread that is eaten with sides. In most cases, paneer is the side, but in my case, my family prefers tofu. So, my mom makes a mixture of cooked vegetables and gravy into which she puts the tofu.

The Checklist:

- Cook- All the food is home-cooked from scratch

- Eat at the Table- Dinner is yet again a family meal similar to breakfast in my house.

- High Fructose Corn Syrup- The meal is all home-cooked from scratch and has no HFCS.

- Five Ingredient Rule-Though this meal breaks this rule, it is fully homemade and I know all the ingredients in it.

I agree that this was a pretty good meal to have for dinner since it isn't too heavy for the night, follows most of the rules, and is very delicious.

My final thoughts on today are that I did a pretty good job of sticking to the rules.I know that in some places, I broke a couple of the rules and can work towards more perfectipn. I feel that these rules really helped me understand what I eat and think about my food more. This concludes food study for the day.