Friday, April 06, 2001

Nutrionally sound-off

Everyone knows spinach is good for you, right? Chock full of super-good nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folic acid and lutein. Eat it a few times a week and you'll be hale and hearty as Popeye. And yet, I think I speak for a majority of children and quite a lot of adults here when I say -- yuck.

It seems a cruel conspiracy that the things that are best for you taste the worst. I wouldn't go near liver for all the iron in the world. Brussels sprouts may be little bundles of cancer-fighting phytochemicals, but I ain't going near them, either. And spinach--well, it doesn't make me gag the way it did when I was a kid, but I wouldn't miss it if it went away. Why can't cookies and crackers and big greasy fast-food burgers be loaded with nutrients? The good stuff's always bad, and vice versa.

Nutritionists at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, are trying to do something about that, but I'm not sure how effective they're going to be. Their plan: To sneak spinach into foods we like and hope we don't notice. Tell this to my daughter, who was able to pluck every molecule of the green stuff out of a serving of spinach manicotti. We who dislike spinach are a determined lot.

But apparently there were no true spinach haters among the 40 tasters recruited by the university to do a hamburger taste test. Each got some half-burgers with iceburg and some half-burgers with spinach, and most couldn't tell the difference. Ditto with tacos. The nutritionist's conclusion: Fast food restaurants should make the switch, pronto.

Can't you just see it--McDonald's and Burger King keeping an eye on each other, waiting to see who makes the switch first, so the other can launch an ad campaign that goes "Eeeeeeeeeee-YUCK! That other place puts SPINACH in its burgers!" Have it your way, indeed. Anyplace that loves to see us smile won't be going for spinach anytime soon. Maybe the Popeye's fried chicken franchise could get away with it on a chicken sandwich, but that's about it.

That's not likely to deter nutritionists, for they, too, are a determined lot. What will they suggest next? Spinach stuffed in the crust of Pizza Hut's stuffed-crust pizza? A little chopped liver in cans of corned beef hash? A deep-fried Brussels sprout with every order of onion rings? One shudders to think.

Turns out, I'd just as soon keep my guilty pleasures guilty.

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