This week, families and friends across America will gather around their dinner tables to give thanks for the blessings of this past year. As Americans, we cherish this day of gratitude and celebration, as we fill our bellies with turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato pie.
By now, an image of Norman Rockwell’s famous Freedom from Want painting may come to mind. But some government officials and academic advocates want to limit your freedom to make dietary choices. This is evident by their efforts to ban, tax, label, or shame people into cutting nutrients like salt, fat, and sugar from their diets.
As you admire your Thanksgiving feast spread, here are five traditional foods that bureaucrats want to take off the menu:
1.The salty stuffing and mashed potatoes
Before getting a second helping of stuffing, check out how the regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are trying to cut your salt intake. They believe that reducing dietary sodium also reduces the rates of hypertension and associated health problems. To tackle America’s salt problem, the FDA plans to set voluntary sodium reduction targets for prepared food. However, research indicates that salt isn’t a primary determining factor for hypertension.
Here’s what the FDA is missing: An aggressive, one-size-fits-all campaign to limit salt is not right for everyone. First, reducing sodium in the food supply might not actually result in Americans eating less salt overall. Studies find that “salt appetite”—the level of salt people want—is unconscious. When the salt level of their diet is altered, even without their knowledge, people will naturally gravitate toward more or less salty foods to keep tier intake stable.
Furthermore, while evidence shows sodium reduction can lower blood pressure in some people who already have high blood pressure, there’s no evidence that restricting sodium to the government’s recommended limit makes people healthier. In fact, there’s some evidence it might make health worse.
2.The butter on your roll
Despite a recent study that found that consuming butter does not increase the risk of heart disease, Americans following the recent U.S. government dietary guidelines may be passing the butter this meal. The most recent nutritional guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tell Americans to eat less saturated fat such as red meat and full fat dairy, which includes butter. In fact, studies have found that people who consume full-fat dairy products are at lower risk for diabetes and obesity than those who eat low or no-fat dairy products.
3.That sugar-filled slice of pie
Whether your pie of choice is sweet potato, pecan, or pumpkin, if it’s store-bought the FDA wants to control what goes on its label. The agency’s 2015-2016 nutritional guidelines targeted “added sugars” instead of total sugars, presumably to encourage people to consume more fruit and less sugar filled treats, such as pie.
But research shows this could backfire, similar to the “low fat” and “fat free” hype in the 1990s that fattened food marketers’ wallets but didn’t slim down Americans’ waistlines. Labeling foods with both total sugar and added sugars may confuse consumers, as some could think that foods with low added sugars are okay to indulge in without thinking of the total sugar they are consuming. Generally, the FDA’s attempts to interfere in Americans’ diets are unhelpful and can often make matters worse.
4.Your cup of holiday cheer
For our cola sipping readers: Wishing to crack down on obesity, lawmakers across the country have proposed local soda taxes. But a tax on pop is more likely to slim down citizens’ wallets rather than their waistlines. Like the low-salt foods dilemma, evidence shows that most consumers just shift their consumption to other untaxed products such as naturally sweetened fruit juices, which often contain as much or more sugar.
For those drinking something a little harder: It isn’t Christmas yet, but as you plan your holiday shopping and party planning before the food coma sets in, keep in mind these holiday regulations on buying booze. Across the nation, 27 states have blue laws that make alcohol shopping difficult. These laws prohibit alcohol sales on Sundays, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve (and this holiday season, both Christmas and New Year’s Day are on Sunday).
5.Genetically modified foods – so everything?
Earlier this year, Congress passed a bill that established a nationwide labeling policy for products that contain genetically modified organisms. Dozens of ingredients in your Thanksgiving meal are genetically modified, from cooking oil to that yellow squash dish. But what is the problem with a mandatory labeling rule?
First, it conveys a false message that genetically engineered foods are unsafe. In fact, the genes of nearly every food on the grocery store shelf have been modified by human hands. What activists call GMOs were changed using more sophisticated, but safer and more precise methods.
Second, this kind of labeling is expensive because it forces farmers, shippers, and food companies to account for the breeding methods used to develop every single ingredient—and those costs get passed on to consumers.
Lastly, there is already a vibrant market for foods voluntarily labeled as “non-GMO,” so consumers wishing to avoid those products have all the information they need to make informed choices.
It’s much too early for an appearance of the real Grinch, but it can feel as if these regulating bureaucrats wish to snatch the “Who pudding” off your holiday table in a Grinch-like fashion—or at the very least, smack a mandatory label on it. Don’t let it rob your holiday joy! You still have the freedom to make your dietary choices. This Thanksgiving, as we gather round the table to give thanks, let’s give thanks for the freedom to choose the food on our plates.