Sunday, January 24, 2010

Americans Eat Crap

22 comments
It's a favorite pastime of Germans (and other Europeans) to comment on the fact that Americans eat crappy food - implying, of course, that they themselves are feasting on nothing but bakery bread and fresh local vegetables from the markets.

Well, they aren't.

Aldi, Lidl, Norma, Netto, and Penny apparently count for 70% of Germany's retail food market! Amazing! It takes a lot of work to weed through and find the non-crap at some of these places. It's kind of like shopping at Trader Joe's only without all the interesting/granola-y foods - tons of processed food, crappy produce, some basics are not available there, etc. Hopefully what Germans are buying there are the staples that are no different from any store - mineral water, milk, eggs, sugar, etc. But someone has to be buying all those icky cold cuts, frozen cordon bleu, horrible plastic-wrapped cakes, Crusti Croc Erdnuss flips...

Is it just me? I think they're eating a lot like Americans!

22 comments:

  1. I am sure some do. It might be a matter of educational level too. I personally don't buy any of the things you mentioned there (even though I do most of my shopping at discounters), and neither do my parents. Granted, I do buy cold cuts but I don't find them icky (not sure if you are speaking of cold cuts in general or the really fatty ones) and I stick to the low-fat ones (ham, etc.).
    But I think knowledge about nutrition often goes hand in hand with being educated, and what with the discounters being cheap they definitely do not only target university-educated people (until a few years ago, shopping at Aldi/Lidl was not something you'd want to admit to).
    While I think a lot of the food in the US is obviously unhealthy (fast food, processed food), I do know that not everyone there eats it and I also know that much German food is just as unhealthy for someone who doesn't work in a mine 12 hours a day 6 days a week. I think many people are not aware of it because they think that if it's traditional and cooked from scratch that makes it healthy.

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  2. Re: cold cuts - I refer to the low-quality ones (usually pretty fatty, yes!). :)

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  3. dreamoncemore: “It might be a matter of educational level too”

    Or: a matter of income (which may or may not be related to an educational level), too...?

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  4. I do agree with "dreamoncemore", I do believe it is a level of education. My mother who is a nurse was telling me that she went to a dinner to a friend of hers (the funny thing is that I never understood why she was "hanging" with those people as the only thing that she has in common with them is a few memory back in the sixties when she was unmarried and naive) Anyway, those friends are fisherman and never even graduated from HS. She then mentionned to me that they had a "Typical" meal that most "low" class will have and that the only veggies were: Potatoes! Well, not everyone know what is good for them, and if they are just copying what they use to eat when they were young, then yes they will have potatoes. It is also a culture background as well. I am french and cook the "french" way, but believe me, give me a good steak from Omaha, and I will trade in my french cooking for it! LOL! if you are raised to see your parents cook and eat healthy you are more likely to be doing the same. And since most of the people who don't eat supper healthy don't have the education (Most of the time) you can assume that they are comming from a background that don't have the education as well! Well that is my opinion! Of course should I mention that I think that the book titled "French woman don't get fat" is a bunch of BS, since I am a french woman AND I am fat! LOL! ;-)

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  5. So true - the difference is that German packaged food has way less variety and fewer healthy options. Still waiting for a local Whole Foods... of course, if there was one they still probably wouldn't bag your groceries.

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  6. I was totally thinking the same thing! I completely agree. I have no idea why they think they eat better than Americans. I've also noticed how much pure white sugar they eat and bake with.... Based on my studies thats the worst. And of course I am not referring to ALL Germans, but just the majority that I have been around. However, I know that Americans eat horrible, the majority! I myself am an organic eater completely.

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  8. I find that the level of nutritional education here is much lower than is commonly touted. I say this for the higher income/higher ed folks, too. I find it shocking. What I had for food in the hospital was deplorable, and, from what I've seen and heard since then, typical (obviously sausages from a jar, powdered mashed potatoes, canned sauerkraut, crust of bread, fatty deli meat, etc - my husband was smuggling fresh fruit to me!).

    The fact that the entire country still has an insane focus on refined sugars, bleached white flours, heavy creams, fatty cuts of pork, and an overabundance of white potatoes....i mean, really!

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  9. Aaaaah, PET PEEVE!!!

    Yeah, Germans tend to be judgemental and think they are so much better in every way than Americans. Yet, Germany is the fattest country in Europe... Oooooh... how did that happen? Don't we eat SO much better than Americans?

    I guess we simply forget about the fact that we love currywurst, bratwurst and döner... it's so much easier to live in denial and blame everyone but yourself.

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  10. I am continually amazed at the amount of junk food I see at Aldi and Lidl. I love to shop there for their fruits and veg (far cheaper and more fresh than what we get at the commissary), but most of the other stuff is junk. Of course I'm sure the Europeans will find a way to blame it on all the American influences. :)

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  11. Aldi owns Trader Joe's, which might explain the similarities...

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  12. The Brits like to do this too, bitching about how awful the American diet is and yet honestly the average British diet is exactly the same as the average American diet.

    Nothing beats some fresh fruit and veggies!

    I prefer to eat "real" food, be it healthy or not (although I try to balance it). Don't like processed crap, even if it is labeled "organic".

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  13. Did you all watch the movie food.inc? That movie is interesting and eye opening.

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  14. Wow, thanks for all the commnets! Food seems to be something we can all get interested in. :)

    I just want to be clear that I make no judgement about shopping at Lidl/Aldi/wherever vs. anywhere else - merely that I don't see a huge difference in the types of food that sell here and sell in the US. And, I find that they sell a lot of junk at Lidl/Aldi/etc. As a lazy American I prefer to get as many of my groceries as possible in one place and since you can never get all the ingredients for any (from scratch) recipe at Lidl, we don't usually go there unless we are eating late/rushed and just want a frozen pizza.

    Sandra: I haven't see Food Inc., although I did read Fast Food Nation, which might be similar?

    Juliette: I think hospital food is bad all over - there's even a blog showing it from all over, google hospital food blog! :)

    Satakieli: British eating habits are probably the closest of all to American ones. Germans, however, should also be careful. They may not have the same obesity rates as the US, and there is a protective effect from the greater physical activity that many Germans do, but they could be quickly on their way to American-level rates of obesity, only because it happens so quickly. US rates were similar to German ones only a few short years ago (like maybe 15-20 years?). The populace got fatter very fast and Germany could too. :/

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  15. I understand your point, but I do have to disagree a little bit----Although it varies from Aldi to Aldi I think you can get some pretty good (and healthy) food at there. At least in the town where I live the fruits and veggies that I get from Aldi are always better and tend to stay good longer than those I get from the other, more expensive stores in town (not counting the farmer's market on the weekend of course). I'm a vegetarian, so I wouldn't know about the meat section, but their dairy section is also pretty awesome.

    Also, this is just a generalization, but I have found that the food selection in Germany is much more "natural". Just as an example----in the US it is extremely difficult to find full fat, non-sugared, non-sweetened yogurt. Here you can get it from a cheap store like Aldi. In the US, a simple food like yogurt is filled with sweeteners, artificial flavors and thickeners. And I've noticed that fruits and veggies are also less likely to be treated with preservatives over here.

    Of course that is just my personal experience. (I've lived in relatively small towns, both in the US and Germany).

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  16. A lot of it has to do with income level. If you buy the high-quality bio (organic) stuff, you have to pay triple or more what the discounters are asking.

    Aldi and Lidl are cheap-cheap-cheap, and some of their stuff is actually good. We buy the Aldi UHT cream cheese, pineapple juice, paper towels and toilet paper. Because the stores are so awful and the cashier lines dreadfully long, I buy it all in huge bunches to keep the number of times per year I actually have to go there to an absolute minimum.

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  18. Yeah, but let's face it: big discount chains (Aldi, Lidl, or Wal-mart) can sell things cheap and undercut the competition only because they buy things in bulk and then sell lots of those things. There's usually only a small profit margin on any particular item bought from one of these stores, but they sell massive quantities of these items. What that means is that even though you or no one you know buys all those prepackaged, processed foods, they're still selling LOTS of them to someone somewhere in Germany in order to turn a profit.

    Also, 70% of the market? When you consider that number was probably calculated on sales figures, that probably means that well MORE than 70% of the food that is consumed comes from discount grocers!

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  19. Amanda, I'm sure there is some variance in quality between the different stores. Also, I have more experience with Lidl and Penny than Aldi (but have not been impressed with Aldi in my limited experience). Lidl is fine for bananas or apples here and there, IF you can find them at all. Never had luck at Penny. Usually the produce isn't local that I see (of course bananas never will be).

    I agree about the yogurt. You can find good yogurt in the US but most of it is weird stuff that is barely yogurt anymore (I'm thinking of these "Whips" and things). I liken it to certain food situations here. In Germany you CAN find canned black beans without sauce on them, frozen vegetables without butter or sauce on them, corn chips without flavoring all over them. But you need to put in extra effort, because most of the beans/veggies come with sauce on them and most of the chips come with flavoring on them. So, things are not all more natural here.

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  20. Perhaps it's because I am in Berlin- I know that there is much more variety in the West- but food here is terrible. It's the thing I complain about all the time. When I was in Italy in October, I bought products made by a German company (we had an apt) and the difference was that the German product had MSG and the Italian didn't: as I said then, Italians wont put up with the crap in their food that Germans appear to enjoy. I don't know why anyone over 4 would want full fat yogurt: I never had any problem buying low or non-fat plain organic yogurt up and down the Eastern seaboard of the US. And my tiny supermarket in upstate NY had a better selection of fruits and vegetables than any market in Berlin (although Kaufland in the burbs is a bit better). Trader Joe's, purchased by Aldi, has hormone free organic chicken and beef at competitive prices, organic boxed stock (as opposed to the MSG laden base here), etc. German food is worse than any cuisine I've ever had, which includes Austrian because Austrians use far less fat (eg Austrian strudel with no fat, German with over a pound in the dough). Ouch- talking about food here brings on my bitter edge! And, ps, all meats and cold cuts in this country are relatively low-quality and fatty, unless you roast the beef/ turkey and slice it yourself (there's decent Argentinian beef purchasable at Selgros, by the 60Euro piece).

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  21. Netto has been absolutely exploding in my region in the past year or so (just after it took over Plus). I rarely go there, but from what I remember they don't have veggies and fruits.

    I do, however, go to Lidl and sometimes Aldi - however Globus as well.

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  22. J: sorry to hear about your Netto experiences. We live around the corner from what used to be a Sudi, then a Plus (for a short time), and then a Netto City (sadly the building's under renovation and we won't have another grocery store in that spot until 2011 at the earliest). All of those are subsidiaries of or were taken over by Netto. The selection at that Netto for meats and dairy products and dry goods was never all that great (after all, it is a shoebox of a supermarket), but their fresh fruits and vegetables were all fantastically good quality with a sizable selection of Bio products therein. I miss that Netto also because it opened at 06:00 and closed at 20:00 every day.

    I wonder if our Netto's awesomeness stems from the proximity to their HQ — Maxhütte-Haidhof is only one RB stop away from Regensburg's Hbf.

    I

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