Free pancakes

IHOP’s free pancake day was yesterday, and while I cheer and applaud their raising money for charity, I was horrified to see what people were eating in exchange for their generosity.

IHOP kindly has their nutritional information listed on their website, but leaves out the (admittedly old and questionable) RDA/RDI percentages, which we’re all used to seeing on packaged food. Adding those, you can see why they were left out:

RDA... Short Stack (3)% of RDA
Calories200049025%
Fat Caloriesn/a160
Total Fat (g)701826%
Saturated Fat (g)20840%
Trans Fat (g)n/a1
Cholesterol (mg)3008027%
Sodium (mg)2400161067%
Total Carbohydrates (g)3006923%
Fiber (g)25416%
Sugar (g)361336%
Protein (g)501326%

*note: The RDA doesn’t have a sugar recommendation, so I used the American Heart Association‘s.

Wow! Nearly half your saturated fat for the day, a third of your sugar, and a whopping 67% of your sodium, the max for which is often disputed as being too high already. And that’s just with the short stack of 3 pancakes. The regular serving of 5 pancakes is, of course, even more heinous.

What really upsets me, though, is that gram of Trans Fat, a substance that has been banned in several countries, and has multiple possible, and several confirmed, very very bad effects on health, most notably as a contributor to coronary heart disease. As one study states it: “from a nutritional standpoint, the consumption of trans fatty acids results in considerable potential harm but no apparent benefit.” It tastes good and gives food a longer shelf life, but it will MESS YOU UP.

Of course, so will alcohol in large quantities, candy, tobacco, narcotics, etc etc. There’s two big differences, though:

  1. Those items are all very well known to be bad for you. It’s common knowledge. People who choose to indulge these days know they do so at their own risk.
  2. They are never classified as “food.”

Pancakes are a pretty staple breakfast item. People aren’t expecting there to be such an epic amount of crap in there, and won’t think to look up the ingredients, especially when it’s for charity.

People expect food to be food, and with smaller, local restaurants, that’s usually what they’re getting. The big business chains are out to maximize profits, and for them that means filling their “food” with stuff that is perfectly legal, but really shouldn’t be eaten. McDonald’s is, of course, an even worse offender. Back when I didn’t care, I was a big fan of the double quarter pounder w/ cheese, which I now see has 2.5 grams of Trans Fat, and over half a day’s sodium. Plus, the third ingredient in the bun is High Fructose Corn Syrup, which has its own host of concerns. Yuck.

I’m fortunate to live in an area with abundant sources of fresh produce, and the means to purchase it, but that isn’t the case everywhere. When you have a family to feed and you’re trying to make every dollar stretch as much as possible, you’ll go for the most economical source of food around, which in some places is McDonald’s, IHOP, and the like, or even just packaged items at the grocery store. Part of what makes their “food” so cheap is all the “not food” it contains, as well as the massive government subsidies that makes meat, dairy, and especially corn (and its derivatives) cheaper than fresh produce, when it should be the reverse. It’s a cruel system that makes the poorest in the country into the fat, diabetic and poor.

Since the FDA and a great many politicians are in the pocket of Big Agriculture, getting laws passed at the national level to stop all this is next to impossible, and extremely difficult locally. Those of us who have the means to choose where and what we eat, though, do have the power to make them change, by not giving them our money. We can choose to look up the ingredients to our favorite indulgences and see just how bad they really are, then find a healthier, or at least more local alternative.

I’m not asking you to stop eating pancakes, I’m asking you to stop eating garbage that is dressed up to look like pancakes.

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