Better Than Cream Cheese At What Price? The Mental Health Cost of Eating Responsibly


While I wouldn’t at this point call myself a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, I’m still trying to minimize my animal-product consumption. I explore one of the local groovy grocery stores or the “health-food” section at Raley’s every once in a while to hunt and gather veg foodstuffs to try. Most recently, I picked up a tub of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, because I like to have toast with cream cheese pretty often for breakfast.

It sat in my fridge for a week or more before I even opened it because it just didn’t sound good and I wasn’t in the mood to give it a shot. However, this morning I finally spread some on my toast, along with a shmear of avocado and a little salt and pepper, and the difference between it and dairy cream cheese was almost nil. The texture was exactly the same. The taste was probably 99.9% the same. The most noticeable difference–and it wasn’t very noticeable–was that it was not quite as brilliantly white as dairy cream cheese.

So that was pretty cool. I figured I could add Tofutti’s faux cream cheese to my list of alternatives.

Never mind that it costs about twice as much as the same amount of dairy cream cheese–I’m doing my part to not support the commercial dairy industry, right? I’m helping improve our world, right?

Well, maybe…

…but then I thought, well, this is made out of soy, right? Where do the soybeans come from? Are they genetically modified? Was a huge patch of forest cleared out to make way for them to be grown? What kind of industrialized farming practices, chemicals, small-farmer-screwing, etc., were used in their growth and processing?

…and then I looked at the ingredient list, which features none other than the dreaded partially-hydrogenated oil high in the order. I guess if you’re trying to whip up something resembling cream cheese, you’ve got to add something highly coagulable to get the right texture. (NOTE: I read on that there is a new version without the partially-hydrogenated oil in it, but that’s just one of several un-straightforward ingredient names on the list.)

So what it comes down to is I’ve got another dilemma.

I can just stick with regular old dairy cream cheese and be complicit in causing pain and anguish to mama cows who are used by an industry that pumps them full of drugs and stinks up the environment and poisons people with huge ponds full of festering cow shit and piss and antibiotics and chemicals and the occasional unfortunate creature that falls in and rots in them…

…or I can buy this Tofutti stuff and probably be complicit in supporting sneaky, predatory mega-agriculture companies who will mow down the countryside so they can plant a sea of possibly GMO, probably subsidized, maybe pesticide-sprayed soybeans (not to mention raising my triglyceride levels with those damned partially-hydrogenated oils)…

…or I can spend twice the time shopping, trying out every possible kind of nondairy cream cheese in every longhair natural foods store in my area, scrutinizing labels and Googling ingredient names and making sure everything I’m buying is completely organic and chemical-free and cruelty-free and all that, and then not only will I be friggin’ exhausted, but I will also be that much closer to bankruptcy.

Sheesh! No wonder hardly anybody cares what’s in their food anymore. It’s just too hard.

As I occasionally tell my uber-laid-back husband, Brad, this is what it’s like living inside my head. Best stay out if you want to keep things simple.