One morning, I was doing my usual routine-up with Geoff and our two dogs at 5:45: we hit the Solana Beach Coffee Company at 6:05 then down to the Del Mar Dog Beach to let the dogs romp, sniff, eliminate and play on the shoreline.

Del Mar Dog Beach is truly a special place; it reminds me of a west coast town’s version of a New England General store—daily there is a core cast of characters (dogs and people alike) and others who phase in and out through the weeks or months.  We shoot the breeze with each other; comment on the weather, sports and our beloved canines and more often than not we will learn the dogs’ names well before those of the owners.  If we ever learn the owners’ at all.

One of my friends—a regular who I refer to as one of the “tribal elders” at the early dog beach shift has been showing up this week with a can of Kern’s Nectar in hand in place of his usual cup of coffee.  The conversation this morning went something like this:

Darren are you really drinking this for breakfast?

Darren: “Les, is this healthy?”

Me: “Dunno, let me see the can.”

Me: *GASP* NO DARREN THIS ISN’T HEALTHY

Darren: But it says so right here (points to front label with enticing picture of fresh fruit and the word)“Nectar”.

Nectar.   Hmmm.  That’s a good one. What marketing genius came up with that one?  When I think of nectar, I think of the sweet drops that come out of the stamen of a flower. Well, in this particular nectar, the first ingredient is WATER and the second is (you guessed it) HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. AHHHHHHH.  Run away, Run away!!!  But there is my friend Darren, chug-a-lugging this “nectar” under the guise that he kicking off his day with a can of good health.  May I also add that there are over a dozen ingredients in this “nectar” (food hypocrisy at its finest); many of which are too long to pronounce.

When did we all succumb to clever marketing in making the decisions for us in our food choices?

Me: Your best bet is to drink freshly squeezed juice. Unpasteurized. You know, the stuff you squeeze at home

Darren: But buying freshly squeeze juice is so expensive. I bought one of those teddy bear shaped glass bottles of pomegranate juice and it was, like, 6 dollars!

Me: Darren, that isn’t even fresh. All store bought juices have been pasteurized—which is a sanitation method that kills pathogens but also kills enzymes and vital nutrients.

Me: And you can make your own 12 ounce glass of OJ or Grapefruit juice for about 70 cents.  And there is no packaging to add to our growing landfill!

Me: Did you see all of the CRAP and the sugar content of that? Darren, this 12 ounce can has 44 grams of sugar.

Darren: Yeah? (Puzzled)

Me: (quickly calculating the math) that is the equivalent of 11 teaspoons of sugar. Which equals almost 3 Tablespoons. Which is close to a quarter cup. In 12 ounces of your so-called “Nectar” you are drinking almost a quarter cup of sugar. Or in this case, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!  You might as well show up to the beach with a can of Pepsi.

Darren: Well Pepsi contains caffeine.

Me: *Sigh*

In my mind, “Nectar” is in the same category as “Muffin” or “Smoothie” or “Pad Thai” (the latter deemed healthy while hiding behind the cloak of ethnicity).  When you look closely at the standard ingredients in Pad Thai, you realize that what you are getting is a pile of white rice noodles (white rice flour) smothered in ketchup and oil with a very small nod to vegetables (maybe a couple of bean sprouts and a few slices of green onion if you are lucky).  Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff. But wouldn’t exactly call it a healthy eat!

In the media today, there is much discussion about “flattening your belly”. Those google ads pop up on the right side of my computer all day.  Here is the deal:  I assure you that if you cut out cane sugar, white flour, alcohol (maybe have a glass of wine or two a week-but that is it) and eat whole, unprocessed foods you will look great on the outside and feel fantastic on the inside. And yes, your belly will probably become flatter.   People tell me that fruit contains sugar and yes, it does. But have you ever seen anyone get fat and sick on a diet that’s made up of mainly whole fruits and vegetables?

You really have to scrutinize food labels.  There are some savvy marketing snakes out there who will lead you to believe that a particular is healthful when it actually is not.  Of course, you have less to scrutinize if you just eat whole, unprocessed foods.

EAT REAL FOOD.  EAT MORE PLANTS. STAY AWAY FROM HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. AND DON’T DRINK THE “NECTAR’

Have a great day–