Two questions are floating around in my head:
1. Do you suppose that when humans first learned how to turn wheat into flour and then into bread, a group of traditionalists went around grousing about this new, unnatural processed food?
2. Why is it that when Native Americans or a tribe in some remote corner of the world use all parts of an animal it is considered noble, but when a food company does something similar and fashions chicken nuggets out of less-favored bits of chicken meat it is considered bad, even evil?
I suspect the answer to the first question is a resounding "no", because that technological innovation increased the food calories that could be extracted from a plot of land, and enabled those calories to be stored for delayed use. These were good things. But who knows, maybe some people at the time were suspicious of the new-fangled bread.
The answer to the second question is harder to fathom. I suspect it has something to do with our deep-seated ideas about how homes should be run and what women should do with their lives, mixed with a healthy dose of knee-jerk "if a big corporation does it, it must be evil".
Personally, I think we should evaluate our food based on whether its production is sustainable and whether it is good for us, not on what technology was used to produce it or who produced it. I think we should be rational about this, instead of dogmatic. I don't think high-fructose corn syrup is a problem- I think the problem is our overuse of refined sugar. So I don't search for
It is not that I am a huge fan of "processed" food. We don't eat fast food very often at all. We cook most of our meals in our house, and I try to find recipes that I think are healthy. The vast majority of the recipes in heavy rotation come from Cooking Light, actually. However, I do make use of "convenience" foods, such as pre-shredded cheese, store bought tortellini, and frozen sweet potato fries (which I bake, not fry). And once every week or so, we eat a frozen pizza. I read the ingredients, and I decide if I think the product is a good mix of nutrition and convenience. I balance those things against the limited time I have in the evenings, and my desire to spend some of that time with my children, not in the kitchen.
I suspect that as my children get older, dinner time will move a little later and I will get them to help me make dinner- or at least hang out at the dining table while I make dinner. Hubby will make dinner more often, too, once we don't have to try to eat between 6 and 6:30. When these things happen, we will use fewer convenience foods, because we will have more time to cook and the work will be shared among all the family members.
In the meantime, I will continue on as I am going now- evaluating recipes and ingredients one at a time, with an eye to both nutrition and easing my hectic after work routine. And I will continue to refuse to feel guilty about it.
*Thanks to Petunia's decision to let me get some uninterrupted sleep last night, I'm thinking a little more clearly, and I realize that juice is a bad example. What I actually do with juice is look for products with NO added sugars and less added "sweetener juice" (e.g., grape juice). And then I still limit its consumption- Pumpkin gets juice at home only rarely.
Also, more on HFCS, food safety, and additives in the comments!