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Salt Sugar Fat

How the Food Giants Hooked Us

By Michael Moss
13-minute read
Audio available
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

Salt Sugar Fat examines the rise of the processed-food industry in America and globally, and why it has been fueled by the liberal use of salt, sugar and fat. These three ingredients are near irresistible to us humans, but their overuse also comes with devastating health effects.

  • Anyone who wants to eat more healthily
  • Anyone interested in why processed foods are so popular today

Michael Moss is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has written for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

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Salt Sugar Fat

How the Food Giants Hooked Us

By Michael Moss
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
Synopsis

Salt Sugar Fat examines the rise of the processed-food industry in America and globally, and why it has been fueled by the liberal use of salt, sugar and fat. These three ingredients are near irresistible to us humans, but their overuse also comes with devastating health effects.

Key idea 1 of 8

After World War II, processed convenience foods replaced the ideal of the home-cooked meal.

In post-World War II America, change was afoot: Women who had traditionally stayed at home to cook and clean while their husbands worked began to take jobs of their own. This meant that they suddenly had less time for the arduous process of preparing home-cooked meals.

At the same time, the increasing prevalence of televisions in American homes meant that there was another disincentive for spending more time in the kitchen, as you might miss great shows like Lassie.

Sensing the opportunity in this shift, food companies began to produce more heavily processed convenience foods designed to be quick and easy to prepare.

One of the first companies to do this was General Foods, which introduced Jell-O instant pudding in the 1950s to immediate success. A slew of other time-saving foods and products followed, as consumers were increasingly willing to trade a bit of their wealth for more free time.

Of course, the ideal of the home-cooked meal was hard to shake, not least because 25,000 home economics teachers in high schools in America were still advocating it and teaching students how to make it.

To overcome this resistance to processed foods, the food companies recruited their own home economics teachers to advocate processed foods by holding their own cooking contests and giving cooking lessons to mothers and teachers.

The most famous example of such a teacher is the entirely fictional “Betty Crocker” character invented by an advertising manager. Her catchy slogans, signature cookbooks and showrooms illustrating the ease of heat-and-serve meals contributed significantly to the shift of American food ideals toward the factory-processed foods that dominate supermarket aisles today.

The impact on American diets was particularly great due to the immense power of the three favorite ingredients of the processed-food industry: salt, sugar and fat.

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