Angela Huston

I am still trying to determine how to continue to enjoy eating what tastes delicious even though "experts" claim it offers little or no nourishment, with the supposedly tasty merits of what is purportedly good for me but is often a second-rate, so-so healthy knock-off alternative that tastes blah.

I have some difficulty using words like healthy and delicious in the same sentence, particularly when it comes to comparing honestly good cookies with other "fabricated treats" that some claim to be both enjoyable and good for me.

Some manufacturers boastfully claim we would not be able to tell the difference between what is good for us and what tastes good when eating their products. Caveat emptor: many of those synthetic "wannabees" bear little resemblance to real cookies as I know them.

Truth be told, even when they sprinkle sugar on a "healthy" treat (which should be considered a violation, or at least a contradiction of goals), most of these healthy items resemble an assortment of parched leaves and twigs, toasted string, seeds of questionable origin, and plastic foam, all shaped and held together with unpronounceable ingredients. I think I would feel safer chewing rubber bands.

Our once reliable avenues leading to good health have been detoured by an almost fanatical desire to create the perfect body. This impossible quest is taking control not only of our diets but our common sense as well.

The governing requirements and prohibitions frequently change, as noted in often conflicting studies by experts; yet, instead of questioning the credibility of the reports, we volley back and forth between current recommendations, which change with the frequency of Wall Street quotations.

The one common conclusion many people are drawing is that if we pay closer attention to the cycle and wait long enough, our favorite foods will be safe, and healthy, to eat again, even if for a limited time.

The four basic food groups once offered a simple, sensibly balanced guideline to healthy eating. It was, however, developed before the need for instant gratification was satisfied by meals-in-a-box or the magic of a microwave oven.

A lot of people still subscribe to that old regimen, though, and maintain good health; nevertheless, the strong movement encouraging us to switch from the "familiar four" to the triangular food pyramid continues. Is nothing untouchable?

Our changing lifestyles have necessitated some rethinking of our diets, but the widespread use of peculiar-sounding sprays, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and unfamiliar flavorings and substitutes has gone to extremes. Dang! If I am going to eat chocolate, I want the real stuff. The same applies to sausage that does not have the word turkey in front of it.

I understand all these alterations are intended to reduce the intake of fats, cholesterol and sodium -- sound advice that should be a definite consideration --- but even broccoli has its limitations. I am sure former President Bush would have agreed.

I think even highly recognized fitness gurus might agree balance and moderation would be important words to remember while following the guidelines, too. Just because one portion of cruciferous vegetables is good does not mean two are better, or four are really great. Eating should be both nutritious and enjoyable, but please do not ignore common sense.

Perhaps I tend to oversimplify some things, to stick too closely to the middle of the road when making my decisions, but it is a place from which I operate comfortably. The middle ground gives my balance some wiggle room; I still get to have occasional indulgences while avoiding going to extremes. I get both the benefits and the pleasure of good, real food.

Therefore, based on my personal, unscientific analysis, I plan to continue eating and enjoying foods whose ingredients I recognize and can pronounce. I will continue to trust the kindly-looking, health-conscious Quaker gentleman on the oatmeal box who has been sincerely smiling as he has wisely guided people for generations .... and he lets us eat real cookies!