My Love Affair with Stacy – And What It’s Doing to the Kids

Last year, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler came out with a book in which he posited that the food industry, somewhat like the tobacco industry before it, has perfected the ability to make consumers crave their products through the excessive use of salt, fat and sugar.   I haven’t yet gotten around to reading the book, but I remember hearing an interview with Kessler on NPR in which he seemed to blame his weakness for various foods  – and his subsequent weight gain — in large part on the companies that created them.

I have to confess that at that time I was pretty harsh on poor David.  Oh come on, I thought, listening to the radio.  You just have a weight problem – you lack self control.   Food companies are giving people what they want and it’s your job as a responsible adult to just say no.

But all of that was before I met Stacy.  

Maybe I should’ve been tipped off by that come-hither name — “Simply Naked” – but I swear I brought her into my home innocently enough, just a necessary dipping vehicle for a daughter who happens to like hummus in her lunch box.   But then one day I absentmindedly brought Stacy to my lips — and gasped aloud.   Never before had I encountered such a perfect trifecta of salt, carb and fat on my tongue, with just a teasing hint of sweetness lingering on the palate.  Every synapse in my brain started firing like a sparkler on the Fourth of July and at that moment my mind could contemplate only one simple truth:   Stacy and I were made for each other.

These days, when I think no one in my family is looking, I like to slip discreetly into the pantry to pay Stacy a little visit.  I’m in control here, I tell myself every time. I’m not going to let things go too far.  But then later, many long, delicious moments later, I emerge from the pantry — guilty, ashamed, and with salty crumbs all over my face and shirt that are as telltale as any lipstick on a collar.  Yes, there will be an extra five pounds on my hips by the pool this summer, but that’s a small price to pay for a love like this.

So, what does my love affair with Stacy have to do with kids and food?  Whether your own personal weakness is a Double Stuff Oreo, a Flaming Hot Cheeto, or maybe something more upscale and exotic, like a wasabi pea, I think you’ll agree with me that it’s only the processed foods that come from factories (or restaurants)– and not the whole foods produced in farms and fields – that cause that particular crazy swoon, that weakness in the knees and complete abandonment of self-control.

And now we have a generation of kids who, according to my guru Janet Poppendieck, “are eating more and more highly processed foods – fabricated foods, food prepared in factories . . . . and less and less whole food or minimially processed food.”   They’re also, according to Poppendieck, doing so on an almost non-stop basis: 98% of kids between 6 -18 report eating at least three snacks a day and half of them report eating five or more snacks a day.  A recent NPR story had similar statistics, describing children as eating virtually continuously during their waking hours.

Today’s kids – my kids – were handed little snack cups of cheesy Pepperidge Farm goldfish (or, if you’re from a certain demographic, Veggie Booty, aka “crack for babies”) from early toddlerhood.  They’re now surrounded by delicious, tempting processed food options everywhere they go.  As one parent who commented on this site wrote:

The problem is so ubiquitous… I find myself pausing before taking my kids to the carwash, for example (of all places), as they inevitably clamor for doritos; gatorade; sprite, etc., prominently displayed as soon as you enter the waiting area! Even as I walk my son from the parking lot to the baseball field for a Tuesday night practice, we have to pass a temporary stand set up to “fuel” the players with cookies, M&M’s, and James Coney Island hot-dogs. Sometimes I just want to scream with frustration.

So how do we get our kids weaned off these foods and back onto the path of orange slices and carrot sticks?   I know it can be done, theoretically, but there are days when I feel terribly pessimistic about it all.

Do you think I’m being alarmist here?  Overreacting wildly?  It’s entirely possible that I’m not thinking very clearly right now.   That’s what happens when you’re in love.

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  1. Torie says

    I hate that junk food is regularly proffered to my children; the drycleaners, the barber and the doctor’s office all offer one or more lollipops with each visit (why?). After a 30-minute tennis lesson, all the kids get ice cream sundaes — at 10:30 in the morning. It’s hard for me to say no when an adult shoves the candy under my child’s nose or when an entire group of children are indulging together.

    However, I’m the parent, not these other adults with candy, and it’s my responsibility to say no and be the bad guy. Really, who’s in charge? We’re supposed to be. And I don’t think we can necessarily blame others for our own difficulties in saying no.

    • says

      Oh, yes! This is exactly the conversation I’ve been having with myself, and I applaud you for engaging the discussion out loud with your blog. Kudos!

      I don’t think you’re overreacting; I think our bodies and minds are at stake here, and that this issue is not only a health issue but a human rights issue as well: we are struggling to maintain our health as the cost of doing so (in time AND money) requires more resources than we have at our disposal.

      Lately I’ve been contemplating an idea — which is rapidly turning into belief — that the best way to manage the assets and liabilities of globalization is to move simultaneously toward a more intense and strategic investment in our local communities: more local than “Houston” — I’m talking zip codes, feeder patterns.

      And another thing. does every corner need another supersize grocery store? How much choice do we need? In a 24/7 global culture, in a city without seasons, the choices of what to eat are endless and, suspiciously, debilitating.

      • bettina elias siegel says


        In grappling with this complex, enormous issue of kids and food, it’s so easy to get lost in the minutiae — your “big picture” perspective is thought-provoking and important. I’m so glad you’re here, and please keep your comments coming!


    • Kristin says

      I have had some success with my 7-year-old. Not that it is easy, but it has helped…we have had several conversations with him about healthy food. We talk about how good foods build his muscles, his mind, his bones. Whenever we have to say “no” to something we try and provide this type of lesson, and it has actually helped. He often comes to me now asking “is this healthy?” and when I tell him he can’t have more sweets today because he has had enough and they are not good for his body, he seems to agree and stops asking. He is a reasonable kid and I think most kids are. They want to be “big and strong,” and they need positive role models to accomplish this. Now, with my 3-year-old, this lesson hasn’t gone very far, but I am hoping if we keep trying, she will stop craving the sweets. For both of them, when they receive goodie bags at parties or games, I regulate what they get, letting them have only one thing and many times the rest of it goes inthe trash because they forget about it. If they get lollipops and I think it’s not a good time for a lollipop, I tell them to save it for after dinner. Now, ice cream sundaes at 10:30? It’s hard to fight that when all the other kids get one. Vending machines, cokes, etc. just aren’t an option for them and they know it. Ok, once in a while we may buy a mass-produced candy bar, but we share it and that might be once every four months or so. Maybe each time we are confronted with a vending machine or candy dispenser, it is a good opportunity to reinforce the lesson. Really, it’s not fun to be the enforcer, and we aren’t all perfect, but I have found that my kids do understand why I am doing it (at leasst my 7-year-old does) and when he gets older, I hope he thanks me for it.
      I now remember one recent incident when my daughter and I were sitting watching gymnastics and a parent (who also had a 3-year-old girl) came up to my daughter and offered her one of those hu-mongous sugary-caky muffins that you buy in a 4-pack at the grocery store. I was horrified–it was right before dinner time, and both mom and little girl were looking at me like I was some sort of evil person for saying “no” to my daughter. Now THAT was hard, but I did it, and she actually did not throw a fit. She knew she already had a snack and that was the rule. So, perhaps something is rubbing off on her. I must stay strong…

      • bettina elias siegel says


        Thank you for this and for your other thoughtful comments on The Lunch Tray. (As noted earlier, I don’t always reply to comments due to time constraints but I read and appreciate all of them.) As for the particular issue that you and Torie (above) raise, it’s so helpful to share how we act as gatekeepers against the “treat onslaught” and what strategies we employ. At any rate, it’s good to feel we’re not alone in the struggle.

        – Bettina

  2. Karen says

    Or maybe, as Elisabeth Badinter writes, ( processed food is a really feminist idea that has liberated women worldwide.

    I do enjoy preparing meals and snacks for my kids, up to a point. I like packaged foods for school snacks – they are easy, safe and somewhat nutritious if you shop carefully. I don’t like them eaten when we’re at home – a piece of fruit or cheese is a much better choice.

  3. Maryellen says

    Thanks for creating such a great resource! Anna turned me on to your blog and I’ll be checking in regularly, especially as we are trying to move toward a more healthy lifestyle. Two things, in particular, have driven this decision: my daughter recently asked why food that’s bad for you has to smell so good (we were near the Target on Sawyer and the fan exhaust from all those fast food places had filled the area with the smell of grilling and frying) and the second, more sobering, event was when our pediatrician informed me that both my seemingly average built children had an above average BMI. Her diagnosis: too much sugar and processed food hidden in our diet.

    • bettina elias siegel says

      Maryellen: Welcome to The Lunch Tray! I’m so grateful to Anna for spreading the word. I hope I can be a helpful resource as you and your family move toward a healthier lifestyle. E.g., one idea that came to me (quite selfishly, because I need the info, too) was asking for a reader round-up of everyone’s most healthful yet kid-approved lunch box items. Sometimes when I face those two empty lunch boxes every morning I have a total failure of imagination (or advanced preparation) and it’s at those moments that I find myself reaching for the more processed foods. At any rate, do keep visiting TLT and leaving comments. – Bettina

  4. says

    I read that book! The End of Overeating. It was great. I myself, raised on vienna sausages and bologna, definitely work to avoid the processed stuff. It’s creepy as hell, but I still love it!

    • bettina elias siegel says

      Katherine – Welcome to The Lunch Tray! I heard you read at the Inprint Poets & Writers Ball a few years ago. Glad to have you here. – Bettina

  5. Laurie Buchsbaum says

    What a fabulously written essay! I was blown away when that first Stacy Pita Chip went in my mouth. Wickedly addicting.
    The most shocking (but to be expected) fact is that
    ONE OUNCE, one tiny ounce, has 130 calories and 5 grams of fat.
    To think how quickly I could put away my RDA of calories is
    Thank you for this, it is always comforting to know you are not alone.
    Now I am off to listen to Kessler’s NPR interview. The book is a life-changing, paradigm-shifting piece of genius. I highly recommend it.

    • bettina elias siegel says

      Laurie: I’ve found that not everyone understands Stacy Love. (Fools!) Maybe we could start a support group, or a hotline to call when you find your hand reaching into the bag. :-) And based on your description, I’m ordering the Kessler book right now. – Bettina

  6. says

    I just want to address the statistic stating that children are eating virtually all waking hours of the day. As a former compulsive eater, I’ve learned to honor my hunger. My son and I are “grazers” and in fact do eat all day. While mealtimes are sit down, social affairs, I keep plentiful HEALTHY snacks on the kitchen table all day, for the grabbing. We’re both slim and are very physically active. I’m teaching my son to honor his hunger AND fullness as well. Even with healthy foods, the Clean Plate Club is largely responsible for overeating habits; teaching children a visual, external cue to fullness rather than the internal cue to stop. I realize I’m preaching to the choir here but it’s not that kids are eating all day…it’s that they’re eating JUNK all day.

    • bettina elias siegel says

      Jamie: Agreed – reasonably-sized, healthful snacks all day are not the problem here and when left to my own devices I’m a natural “grazer,” too. But when it comes to my kids, I do value our family dinner and try to curb non-stop snacking in the afternoons, lest everyone arrive at the table already full. So my kids eat a substantial snack after schoo, but if someone complains about being hungry again and it’s within an hour or so of dinner, I try to dissuade them or allow only a bit of fruit. (The other day, I was skimming Mark Bittman’s latest book, Food Matters, and he noted that, as a society, we’ve become intolerant of even the mildest hunger pangs and often don’t even let ourselves get to the point of true hunger.) Thanks very much for reading The Lunch Tray and for sharing your comment. – Bettina P.S.: The name of your business cracked me up. :-)

    • Mom in NJ says

      I was wondering if you could share what sorts of snacks you eat/serve all day. This is an issue I (and my kids) struggle with as we are frequently hungry, but are not necessarily satisfied with a fruit or vegetable. Of course, we then turn to less healthful options (anywhere from crackers to cookies to chips), but I am trying to reform our habits. Any guidance is appreciated.

      • Bettina Elias Siegel says

        Mom in NJ: I totally understand. I do have some snacks in the pantry that are more of the refined chip/cracker variety and of course my kids immediately gravitate to those boxes when they come home hungry from school. I have to intervene quickly! Some healthier snacks that work well in my house are muffins I’ve baked myself with whole grain and with fruit mixed in (pumpkin, banana, berry, etc.), fruit smoothies made with fruit, yogurt, honey, etc., homemade popcorn (just throw it in a brown paper lunch sack and microwave, then add your own seasoning), snacks involving nuts and nut butters (assuming no allergies), cheese with whole grain crackers, whole grain cereals with milk, etc. I’m not an RD, course, but with respect to my own eating habits, I’ve learned that the best way to avoid all-day munching on crackers and chips (of the refined white flour Stacy’s variety) is to be sure I’m getting enough filling fiber and also a little fat in my snacks. So, for example, a few whole grain crackers spread with peanut butter topped with sliced banana or sliced apple are likely to keep everyone more satisfied than a plate full of Ritz crackers, and you’re working some fruit into the snack as well. I hope this advice is helpful. I am also going to post your question on TLT’s Facebook page as readers of this blog always have wonderful ideas to share!

  7. says

    Hey Bettina: first off, sorry I’ve become a Lunch Tray Stalker…I love your blog! second: yeah, my business name cracks everyone up; it’s half of my success. Third: just of curiosity (and TRUST ME, I’m so NOT trying to start any scuffle here!)…What’s your opinion….What exactly is the benefit of becoming intolerant of even the slightest hunger pain? What is the benefit of getting to the point of true hunger? I live in affluent state (physically and emotionally) where great food is plentiful. As a former circus performer and personal trainer, I’ve always believed the body (in particular the metabolism) is best run if treated like an on-going fire. It burns longest and strongest when stoked constantly: not letting the fire burn out to re-start it. While that works, it’s not the most effective way.
    And personally, I’ve found that when I try to wait for “true hunger” I more frequently make poor choices, eat faster, and therefore usually eat more.
    I, too, don’t offer anything an hour or so before dinner and our meals do tend to be smaller. But in the last 10 years or so of conscious eating, I can honestly say, I have never felt over-full or stuffed (not even on Thanksgiving).
    So again, I’m just curious what your thoughts are why it would be beneficial to wait for true hunger.
    Thanks! Keep up the great work!! (the scuffle got a little prickly there, eh?).

    • bettina elias siegel says

      Jamie: So glad you like the blog! You ask a good question (and no fear of scuffles — that’s what makes a blog interesting!) Whenever my answer to a comment looks like it’s going on and on, I start to suspect that there’s a blog post in there! :-) So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to excerpt your comment (even though that got me in trouble last time! I really will try to preserve the context!) and answer it in a post, maybe even today. Keep reading The Lunch Tray and commenting! I love your insights. – Bettina

    • bettina elias siegel says

      Hi again, Jamie: I’d said that I was going to address this in a blog post and I actually wrote out the whole thing before deciding, eh, not sure anyone but you and I really want to talk about this issue. So, first, here’s the actual passage from Food Matters to which I was referring. You’ll see that Bittman is talking about people who want to “lose or maintain” their body weight, which is sort of everyone (if you need help gaining weight I don’t really want to know you.) But clearly he’s really focusing on the former, people who want to lose weight, which is of course not your issue or your son’s.

      Also, just to be clear, I have absolutely no issues with grazing (and am myself a grazer to some degree) but would point out that studies ( have apparently disputed whether it’s truly the better way to eat.

      Bottom line: what you’re doing clearly works for you and your son, and that’s fantastic. For me, though, the Bittman quote resonated, because when I do eat at the slightest hint of hunger, even if my diet is overall pretty healthful, I’m very likely to eat more food than I need in a day and gain weight.

      Also, there is something to the old expression, “hunger is the best sauce,” i.e., when you’re really hungry (but not, of course, waiting until blood sugar plunges and you’re an out of control maniac), food does seem to be more pleasurable. And, in the case of kids, they’re far more likely to try something new.

      So, that’s what my post would have said. Feel free to comment back! If enough people care about this topic, we can always throw it out to the whole readership.

  8. says

    Bettina…I don’t mind at all. Another thing (potential blog?) I was thinking about this morning as I packed my son’s lunch. I’d love to thoughts on making lunches “fun”. I started using cookie cutters for my son’s sandwich (no crust: we use hard core wheat berry bread and I’m perfectly fine with no crust…it is kind of hard and nasty). Part of me thinks it’s cute and part of me thinks it’s ridiculous. But he’s four and it’s fun. Bento boxes are really big right now…as well as the food art that goes into them. Rice and seaweed formed into a panda bear. Hard boiled eggs molds…I don’t know. It seems like something a lot of your readers would have an opinion about. Just curious…as always…Jamie

  9. bettina elias siegel says

    Jamie: You’ve read my blogger mind! Here’s a Lunch Tray “spoiler” – I’ve already contacted the women behind Yum Yum Bento to interview them about all aspects of this “art”, including the cultural underpinnings, the craft of it and my biggest question . . .how must you feel when you create such intricate loveliness and your kid STILL won’t eat it?? I plan to “air” the interview in September as part of a back-to-school theme month, including also a reader recipe exchange and lunch box tips. – Bettina

  10. says

    Yeah…I’m psychic too :) I was actually hoping more for (I guess, secretly another scuffle) viewpoints…is there anything “wrong” with making food fun? And to what extent? How far will people go and is it just more “over-parenting”…the old school mom is me makes fun of the hippy mom on a daily basis…it’s frigging sandwich for gawd’s sake…

    • bettina elias siegel says

      Yes, I’ve thought about exactly that issue, too! The whole, heart-shaped sandwich thing. Definitely post-worthy and also on tap for September.

  11. says

    Hey Bettina: yeah…I guess it’s just a matter of what works for you. And I think I’m super educated about food and particularly my body and how it works. I think many people wouldn’t snack exactly the way my son and I do…we don’t eat any sort of typical snack food. We eat roasted turkey rolled up in Nori (seaweed)…so I don’t advocate for goldfish, crackers, cheerios or any other typical snack foods.

    I just don’t see any particular benefit to 3 servings of 4 oz of protein 3x a day as opposed to 1 oz of protein every hour all day long.

    For some kids, I guess that hunger make strike a balance in trying to get them to try new foods. I find the opposite. Because there’s no commitment (a full serving that makes up a good portion of a meal) my son is much more likely to try something new in a tiny portion that won’t make the meal. For example, last week, he said he didn’t like edamame. He tried one and spit it out. I snack on it constantly and he’s tried one every day. Yesterday, he informed me that he loves edamame and can he have some more.

    There was no love lost in the trying. There was no struggle at meal time. And there was no making something else because he wouldn’t eat what I’d prepared. There’s also a lot more room for variety. I can come up with 7 different foods when we graze. Whereas: I’m not preparing 7 different foods to try or not at meal time. He eats peas and carrots for a snack, but at dinner time, not so much…go figure. Toddlers.

    I’m definitely not arguing, it’s just what works for us. I see so many parents struggle with vegetables that I can’t help but think I have a good thing going when my son asks for broccoli for an afternoon snack.

    By the way: this has nothing to do with maintaining weight and believe me: I load up my six-pack baring son with as much heathly
    fat as I possibly can! For us…this is about maintaining a constant flow of energy. I do suspect we both lean towards a hypoglycemic body type and waiting for hunger does not work.

  12. NotCinderell says

    Re: the kind of food that is actually addicting. I don’t think of Stacy’s Pita Chips as falling into the category of “addictive food.” They contain no MSG, trans fats, HFCS, or artificial flavors. There are none of those brain-fooling chemicals that make you feel like you’re eating something radically different from what you’re actually eating. They’re actually not that high in fat, either.

    There are definitely some foods out there that I imagine evil food scientists trying to figure out ways to addict people to them. They put artificial colors and flavors, as well as chemical flavor enhancers into food to make it look and taste more appealing than it otherwise would. Stacy’s pita chips don’t contain anything you can’t pronounce in them. They’re actually not bad for you if you portion them out before you eat them and only eat one portion.

    Maybe you just really like them.

    • NotCinderell says

      I’m sorry, that came off as really obnoxious. What I meant to say was, kind of like Michael Pollan talks about in In Defense of Food, how there were a few major shifts in food processing in the 19th and 20th centuries. The first was the widespread availability of white flour and refined sugar to the masses. The second was the ability to can and package things for long-distance shipping. The third was the addition of all sorts of nasty things like HFCS, MSG, trans fat, artificial flavors, etc. The third category of processing is what I associate with the obesity epidemic. So yeah, they’re not carrot sticks, but they’re also not microwavable pizza rolls, either.

      • bettina elias siegel says

        NotCinderll: No offense taken at all! I was just trying to find the time to formulate a reply. Basically what I was going to say is that I’ve not yet finished Kessler’s book but my sense is that his focus is less on artificial flavors, etc. and more on the food industry’s careful calibration of fat, salt and sugar. In that regard, Stacy has it nailed (for me at least). I agree that of all foods for me to fixate on, pita chips are relatively harmless, but what’s really interesting to me is the true lack of control I feel: despite my best intentions, if they’re around, I really can’t not eat them! That’s the sort of addictive response Kessler is addressing. – Bettina

  13. NotCinderell says

    My question is, why and how is a Stacy’s pita chip different from, say, a treat made from a homemade recipe if it contains stuff that you’d find in your own kitchen? I kind of agree w/Michael Pollan again that the easy availability of processed foods is part of the problem. I could spend a couple of hours making cookies, or I could pick up a box from the store.

    I almost never buy cookies anymore, because I can make pretty good cookies at home (usually involving healthy stuff like oatmeal and dried fruit), but thinking about the kinds of cookies that I would buy rather than make, I can’t fathom the amount of effort that would go into making thin chocolate wafers and buttercream frosting to make a homemade Oreo. I might foray into making ice cream occasionally, trying simple flavors like strawberry, peach, or green tea, but I’m not going to try making my own batch of Chubby Hubby. I have an issue of Saveur magazine that contains a recipe for crackers with flaxseeds in them. I’ve never made it. Ditto on the Mary Jane Butters recipe for homemade graham crackers. There is no way I’m going to try to figure out how to make a homemade pita chip on my own.

    Obviously it’s more than that, though. I’m just not sure what it is.

    • bettina elias siegel says

      NotCinderell: Agreed – if I had to make them on my own, I’d eat far less. But I still think there’s something about that fat/carb/salt/sugar “hit” that undoes people, whether it’s Stacy’s or another snack. I need to finish the Kessler book so I can speak intelligently about it! – Bettina

  14. Orell Fitzsimmons says

    Where can I get some of those Stacy’s chips, they sound great, maybe we can get them included in the ala-cart menu at our schools.

  15. Sarah says

    In my case, it’s the sweet, creamy deliciousness of ice cream that undoes my self-control. My solution is simple (at least in theory). I know I have no control when it is in my house, so I don’t buy it.

    I look at it this way – if I say “no” at the grocery store, I only have to deny myself once a week. If I bring it home, I have to try to control myself every night of the week. Not gonna happen! I’m not always successful, but I definitely do better with my avoidance strategy than with attempting self-control.

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Oh, Sarah, you are so wise. Mostly I say no, but sometimes I throw Stacy’s in my cart thinking, “It’s just for the kids’ hummus, I’m really NOT touching these.” And then it’s a weeklong test of wills between me and Stacy, and you can guess who wins every single time! :-)

  16. says

    You know, before I had a child, I had all the answers to these questions as well as other mothering issues. After eight months of mommyhood, I know better than to just blurt out answers b/c you just never know when one of your parenting ‘solutions’ will blow up in your face.

    So, who knows what my food tactics will do to my daughter. But certainly processed food is easy, delicious and really kind of addictive. My husband especially has trouble with this. Where I very rarely eat fast food, he has a hard time avoiding it on a daily basis. Anyways my daughter is just starting solids. I make all her baby food, except her instant oatmeal. I hope to do the same with her finger foods. I don’t plan on letting her have juice except special occasions, which people think is odd of me, but I don’t see the nutritional value in it when she could just have fruit. And, perhaps my most difficult strategy to put in place is that I will (gulp!) eat mostly unprocessed foods. I’m starting this now and think of her future every time I’d rather reach for chips instead.

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Amanda – It’s wonderful that you’re thinking ahead for your daughter and I hope you can adhere to your goals! It does get harder once your little one’s world expands, and he or she is exposed to all sorts of foods you’re not crazy about at friends’ houses or parties or at school. So rather than strictly controlling every bite my older (9 and 11 year old) kids eat — I just don’t have the energy for that battle all the time — I’m trying my best to teach them the “whys” and “hows” of sound eating and hoping for the best. At any rate, thanks for commenting on TLT and I hope you come back!

  17. says

    Hi Bettina, I’m still catching up on old posts on your site and found this one just as I was trying to resist going back into my pantry for my version of your Stacy – dark chocolate covered pretzels from Trader Joe’s…I bought these as a treat for my husband’s birthday and am sitting at home trying not to finish them before he has a chance to share! But I wanted to comment a little about Michael Pollan’s “rules”, which I am generally a huge fan of, but have some flaws for me…the problem is I really enjoy baking, and am obsessive about freezing, which means that it is way to easy for me to have homemade cookies available at all times! I actually noticed recently that I was using up butter, sugar, oats, and flour at an alarming rate and had to take a break from baking – even with “real” ingredients, I don’t need to be eating cookies all the time! So while it’s a good rule of thumb to say we can have all the treats we want as long as we make them ourselves, or just focus on good ingredient lists, for those of us who may have a little trouble with will power even wholesome and simple foods (like another trigger food for me – organic tortilla chips with 3 ingredients – corn, oil, salt!) might require a little more active moderation. Maybe for me freezing makes something too much of a “convenience” food and I can eat all the treats I can make, but only if they’re fresh? :)

    Also, to Jamie, if you’re still following this thread, wanted to let you know that your fabulous business name just made me a customer…bought your book last night after seeing your comments here and may be in touch soon with questions!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says


      First of all, I have a horrible feeling I’ve been misspelling your name in various past contexts (with a “y”) — if so, please forgive!

      Second, I know what you mean about Pollan but he might take it a step further. In other words, what if not only were you baking your cookies but also harvesting the wheat and grinding the flour? I think we take for granted that even buying staples from which we make our foods is still a huge — and quite recent – leap in convenience when you look at the span of human history, or even just the history of agriculture. What do you think?

      My main takeaway from your comment is that I must, under no circumstances, purchase the dark chocolate covered pretzels at Trader Joe’s! :-) (Fortunately Houston has yet to get our own TJ but rumor has it one is coming here soon.) And I will pass on to Jamie your kind words in case she doesn’t see this. She was one of my very first TLT commenters and therefore holds a special place in my heart!

      • says

        Hi, I don’t think you’ve been misspelling my name but thanks for paying attention! And I totally agree – if you do end up getting a TJ’s (which would be exciting, it’s one of my favorite stores!), avoid the dark choc pretzels – they are crazy addictive!

        As for grinding my own flour, certainly that would SIGNIFICANTLY slow down my baking! Although I just reread that point in Food Rules and I’m not sure Pollan quite had that in mind; I think he was assuming that most people just don’t enjoy being in the kitchen enough to make all of their own food AND lots of desserts – he says “eat these treats as often as you’re willing to prepare them — chances are good it won’t be every day.” Which is true in my case…there is no way I would make them every day, but pull a couple of cookies out of the freezer each night and pop them in the microwave? No problem! I think I need to save my freezer space for some healthier “convenience” foods :)

        • Bettina Elias Siegel says

          Alissa – I’m sure you’re right. It’s been a while since I read Food Rules. I do recall this factoid that I once published on TLT: If you looked at human history as a single 24 hour day, agriculture doesn’t appear until 11:54pm! So, regardless of who is grinding our wheat or processing our sugar, the inclusion of refined foods is just a recent blip in our historical diet! And yes, for someone who is efficient and likes to bake, it’s very easy to have “goodies” on hand at all times, even if a little effort is involved up front. The bottom line is that we live in a world where it’s now just too darn easy to overeat, or to eat foods that are less than ideal for our health, and it really does take a certain amount of willpower to resist that convenience.

  18. Marla says


    Finally! Someone else who has a love affair with Stacy’s Pita Chips like I do. I too have this crazy obsession with them and they are perfect. To have someone describe my same addiction with such detail.. ahhh! My colleagues say that I need to start a Stacy’s Pita Chips Addiction Support Group. So, if you or anyone else out there would like to start the first ever Stacy Pita Chip Support Group, let me know and I will be there.


    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      A fellow addict! Welcome! :-) Maybe we should exchange phone numbers for when that call from the pantry gets too hard to resist. LOL!

  19. says

    Stacy makes regular visits to our office. We can’t get enough of her! I know it’s 2012 and was wondering how you are faring since it’s been over 2 years since you’ve had the affair.

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Ha! You must be right! And btw, I checked out your lovely blog today. Especially appreciated the Laurie Colwin quote. I’m such a fan of her writing.

  20. Elizabeth says

    It can be done. The intervention just has to be done early.
    My mom and dad adopted my youngest sister as a newborn baby…as my parents were entering their mid-50’s. Yikes, right? That was 5 years ago. I am now a mid-twenty year old with a 5 year old sister. After raising my two older siblings and I under pretty rigid house rules, my parents are scary-relaxed about most things my little sister does, that they would have bit our heads off as kids for.
    One of the techniques that they do with my little sister, that they seem to have perfected after raising my siblings and I to do as well, is eating “smart”. Not eating “healthy”, because lets be real here, most adults loathe and simply can’t eat 100% healthy ALL THE TIME. So why would kids enjoy it anymore than we do? If my baby sis wants a Popsicle, we let her have a Popsicle. If she wants a doughnut, go ahead and enjoy that doughnut, girl. But if she begins asking for another one and another one, we tell her no. One, MAYBE two, is enough. And my parents have been pretty good at enforcing that. They also simply didn’t introduce certain foods and drinks into our diets as children. And so as adults, we don’t crave them. My little sister has never had a sip of soda or that horrible kool-aid, bug juice, or sparkling juice. And she doesn’t ask for it because she doesn’t even know it exists. (One time my sister did accidentally pick up my moms glass of diet coke thinking it was iced tea, but my mom lunged off the sofa and snatched the glass out of her hands before she took a sip. Haha.. Dramatic, I know. But my baby sis asked why she couldn’t have soda and my mom pulled out her iPad, googled “decaying teeth”, and showed her what would happen if she drank soda. My little sister has never asked or wanted to drink soda since. And she now asks “what’s in this cup?” before she drinks out of a glass)
    No white bread, only skim milk, lots of ice water, lots of fresh fruit and veggies, yadda yadda yadda. And no denying our desperate cravings. My parents raised us with pretty good eating habits and I know my little sister is going to have even better eating habits then we did.
    *Side story on alcohol:
    I have a very distinct memory of one time when I was probably around 6 or 7, I was with my dad in his office listening to music after dinner. My dad was reading in his lounge chair, drinking a glass of red wine. I asked my dad if I could taste what he was drinking. He smirked and said, “Sure.” And let me take the teensiest sip of his red wine. I remember as soon as it hit my tongue, I gagged and spit it out. My dad thought that was hilarious. I asked him why he was drinking something that tasted so horrible?! And wouldn’t he rather have juice?? Haha. But he just laughed and told me, “It’s an adult drink. It’s not for children.” I have no idea how exactly, but that experience has just ruined my ability to enjoy alcohol as an adult. If I ever do drink alcohol, which is rarely ever, it has to be extremely diluted down with juice or I simply can’t drink it. I only recently realized that no one in my family really drinks alcohol except my dad. My mom takes 2 sips of a wine cooler and its “lights out” for the rest of the night. And like me, my older brother and sister barely drink at all. It’s just how we were raised. Like certain terrible foods so many kids eat these days, it was never really present in our house so we never were curious about it. And now as adults, we don’t crave them.


  1. […] been so readily available at every turn.  I’m reminded again of the parent whom I quoted in my Stacy’s pita chip post (on kids and snacking), the one who hesitated to take her kids to seemingly innocuous places like […]

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