Friday, July 15, 2011

Food Revolution Friday: When Healthy Goes Overboard

The green sign beckons like a lighthouse on a stormy sea. Inside, I know, wait comfy chairs just begging to be sat in, and the smell of coffee wafts through the air like perfume from the gods.

I am in love with Starbucks. I'm not ashamed to admit it-from working there at 19 years old and meeting my husband as he came in every day for a coffee, I have been a faithful customer for about 20 years. Tall nonfat vanilla lattes are my drink of choice-or a cup of Pike Place drip coffee, and rarely I snag an Island Oat bar or a piece of raspberry lemon loaf.

You have not lived until you try the raspberry lemon loaf. Moist, luscious lemon cake with a swirl of raspberry throughout and topped with a sweet icing, this loaf is something that my family waits all year to herald it's arrival at the store. Kevin and I each buy a piece and then slowly savor each bite, relishing its sweetness.

Or, I should really clarify, we used to.

This past Mother's Day Kevin and I went to Starbucks for our annual Mother's Day coffee date, and as we stood in line to order, rejoiced when we noticed the lemon loaf in the pastry case. It's here! It's here! We haven't had any since last year, and it's back! Sitting down with our drinks and a piece each, I popped a small piece into my mouth, closed my eyes, and slowly chewed.

This was not lemon loaf. Or at least, not the lemon loaf I knew. This dry, tasteless cake was an imposter. I asked the barista behind the counter if the recipe had been changed.

"Oh yes," he confirmed, "Starbucks is trying to make their offerings healthier, so they changed the lemon loaf. I think there's less of the raspberry swirl in it now."

Less sugar, I guess. Less taste, too. So much less that I don't even like it anymore.

During Food Revolution Road Trip, we visited what feels like every Starbucks between Spokane, Bozeman, Rapid City, Moab, Boise, then Bend. At some point I picked up a pamphlet with the nutrition information of the food Starbucks carries and noticed that the lemon pound cake (which I'm guessing is close to the lemon loaf) is close to 500 calories a slice.

Yep. It's a whopper, alright.

I also noticed that Starbucks has rolled out their latest in the effort to offer healthier food. Bistro bites are packaged healthier options that you can buy in place of high calorie treats, and to be quite honest, they look pretty good. I also noticed the signs in Starbucks saying that they have eliminated all the high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and flavors from their food products, which I really appreciate.

BUT, there is one thing. It's called moderation. And sometimes, I just want a piece of raspberry lemon loaf, even though it's around 500 calories. No, I don't eat it every day. I don't even eat it once a week-and when I do, I have a zero calorie drip coffee. Sure, I understand the need to make things healthier, and I love it that food places are doing it, but do we really have to swing so hard in the other direction and only have healthy items? It's like in Food Revolution when Jamie was trying to convince Dino to make milkshakes with yogurt. I understand the idea behind it, but when I want a treat, I want a treat. Do we really have to eliminate everything that is high in sugar, fat, and calories for everyone? I get it, really I do. But sometimes, a treat should be a treat. Maybe make the portion size smaller, if you must.

Starbucks, I love you dearly and I applaud your efforts to make your food healthier, but please, please, don't go overboard.

Life is too short to go without brownies, cheesecake, and that delicious (original!) raspberry lemon loaf.

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