Parade Magazine asks 3 celebrity chefs to plan a Sunday dinner that raises cholesterol and pads tummies.

In its latest issue, Parade Magazine features an interview of three female celebrity chefs, Daisy Martinez, Lidia Bastianich and Paula Deen, on how to make Sunday dinner more meaningful for the family.  Just in case we didn’t notice, the article starts by pointing out that the chefs represent three of the most popular cuisines in America: Latin, Italian and Southern.

The interview presents the mass media’s usual equation for happiness: The chefs’ comments focus not on nutrition or food preparation, but on the emotional value of a family eating together—a chance to air family issues, a way to make family members feel better or feel loved, the fact that kids who eat meals with their parents are more likely to grow up right and not get into trouble.  The culinary genii have many examples of bad food being an okay option and only one suggestion on how to foster healthy eating habits.  “Food is love,” as one of them says.  All true…

But in focusing on enhancing the emotional value of food, Parade and it celebrity chefs forget all about nutrition.   Here is the Sunday meal that Parade created with the chefs:

  • Linguine with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
  • Puerto Rican roast pork
  • Spicy black-eyed peas.

To get the recipes, you have to text message or go to the website, which makes sense now that Parade’s dimensions size out a little larger than a commemorative postage stamp.  Being an old-fashioned kind of guy who uses his cell phone only for telephone calls, I selected the later option. 

At the web site we learn that:

  • The pork dish is 100% all meat, no vegetable garnish.
  • There is bacon in the black-eyed peas and only just a little green in the form of canned chili peppers. 
  • The pasta is a healthy entry in the right context, with a little green and lots of tomatoes.  But given the fat content of the entire meal, maybe Lidia should have left out the cheese this time.

Would you consider this meal to be nutritious?  Will it help people eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day?  Is it low in animal fats?  Lots of complex carbohydrates? Any fish? Where is a green vegetable dish, maybe kale, spinach or cabbage?  How about a nice spicy Mexican salad? Or some guacamole without cheese served with raw veggies? 

Well, no, not nutritious. It has lots of fat, more protein than needed, a mere one serving of vegetable or fruit, just a sprinkling of green.  Probably laden with too many calories, but we’ll never know since Parade doesn’t publish the calories or fat content for a serving of any of these dishes.

How hard would it have been for Parade to present a nutritional role model for families?  Why didn’t Parade ask the chefs to work together to plan a meal that would be healthy for the family, which means three servings of vegetables or fruit, lots of complex carbs and only one fatty source of protein?

Remember that Parade is without a doubt the most well-read print periodical in the country by virtue of landing inside the ad circulars of hundreds of Sunday newspapers.  So in a sense, Parade is among the largest of all mass media role models and conveyors of the American ideology.

Having created a greater need for food by injecting it with more emotional value and at the same time mystifying food preparaon by making it the purview of “experts,” Parade decides not to offer the American public a healthy meal, but instead to present a calorie- and fat-laden groaning board as the answer to the meal-planning conundrum.  The result: people will eat more, which means they will buy more food (and unfortunately collectively gain more weight, contract more diabetes, heart problems and cancer, and die younger). 

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