Filed Under: Food Scares

Bittman’s Bitterness Over Processed Food

For more than a decade, Mark Bittman has shared his favorite simple recipes as a columnist for the New York Times Dining section. His weekly column, "The Minimalist," was once a source of simple, delicious recipes, but as recipe sharing has become more democratized (Just google "mashed potato recipe" and you'll see what we mean), Bittman has transformed from minimal food guru to food pundit. This week, the New York Times formalized Bittman's transformation by moving him from the dining section to the opinion section as their newest columnist.

Yesterday Bittman published his "food manifesto" in the Times, where he outlined his big ideas for the future. We're generally skeptical of manifestos, and this one is no exception. Predictably, Bittman relies on the hackneyed mantra of "all-processed-food-is-bad" to call for a host of changes to the food industry. Bittman's beef (pardon the pun) isn't the subsidy system itself, but the fact that we're supposedly using the money to fund "junk food."

Oh really? Using, we decided to calculate the nutrition information for a single serving of the recipes from Bittman's famous cookbook How to Cook Everything—and then to compare them with similar dishes from Stouffer's, the makers of the processed freezer meals that Bittman dreads.

Bittman’s Fried Chicken (single serving)
Calories: 470
Total Fat: 18 g.
Sodium: 500 mg.

Stouffer’s Fried Chicken Breast
Calories: 230
Total Fat: 10 g.
Sodium: 930 mg.

Bittman’s Chicken Parmesan
Calories: 433
Total Fat: 25 g.
Sodium: 1,170 mg.

Stouffer’s Chicken Parmesan
Calories: 310
Total Fat: 8 g.
Sodium: 660 mg.

Bittman’s Chicken Fajita (single serving)
Calories: 685
Total Fat: 26 g.
Sodium: 1,285 mg.

Stouffer’s Light Chicken Fajita
Calories: 240
Total Fat: 7 g.
Sodium: 710 mg.

Bittman’s Beef Stir-Fry with Ginger and Onion
Calories: 286
Total Fat: 12 g.
Sodium: 365 mg.

Stouffer’s Oriental Ginger Beef Stir-Fry
Calories: 250
Total Fat: 4 g.
Sodium: 620 mg.


On almost every count, the microwavable meals are healthier than Bittman's homemade fare. And they often contain substantially fewer calories and fat grams. But what would a head-to-head battle be without a cheeseburger comparison? This is our personal favorite:

The Bittman Burger
Calories: 724
Total Fat: 39 g.

McDonald's Big Mac
Calories: 590
Total Fat: 34 g.


Your eyes aren't fooling you. Bittman's burger is less healthy than a Big Mac—the scourge of food cops everywhere.

People eat freezer meals because they're quick, inexpensive, and easy to make. No one is suggesting that humans should subsist solely on microwave meals, or that all convenience foods are nutritious. But Mark Bittman's demonization of processed food simply because it's processed is pointless and ignorant of the facts.

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