If you're trying to lose weight, the latest food trend may be just what you need to really slim down. You can eat all you want. You just may not want to eat much, if any.
That's because your meals will include an unconventional ingredient: bugs, in the form of crickets, grasshoppers, ants, termites and more. The Wall Street Journal reports that Belgian celebrity chef Sang Hoon Degeimbre has been known to serve mealworms to diners who are told they're getting minced lamb, just so they can experience them without prejudging. He also endorses a line of insect-based treats.
He's not alone in his interest. The Belgian Insect Industry Federation has more than 30 member companies, and the government has drafted regulations to ensure safety and hygiene.
You may expect this sort of thing of Europeans, who are known to eat things like veal kidneys and blood pudding. But the phenomenon has crossed to this side of the Atlantic. San Francisco-based Bitty Foods uses crickets to create a sort of flour that can be used in baking anything from cookies to noodles.
If your experience with this type of nutrition is eating the worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle, you may be averse to the notion when sober. But advocates are confident that Americans will get over their aversion. In the 1950s, no one would have dreamed of restaurants specializing in raw fish. Americans of a certain age didn't grow up eating yogurt. Veggie burgers are a relatively recent invention.
Nor is our aversion universal. Two billion people around the world already eat bugs, and Eva Muller, an official of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, has said, "They are nutritious, they have a lot of protein and are considered a delicacy in many countries."
Bug farming produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than raising cattle or pigs and uses less water. Not to mention that no rancher ever got trampled by a herd of stampeding mealworms. Animal welfare advocates might consider eating insects ethically better than eating chickens.
Bitty Foods co-founder Megan Miller sees other attractions. If you're into the Paleo diet, what could be more prehistoric? She also thinks cricket flour will appeal to those who avoid gluten.
But if you think nothing could be cheaper than grinding up insects, think again: A cup of Bitty's cricket flour takes 4,000 crickets, The New York Times reports, and a 20-ounce bag retails for $20.
Maybe the prices will come down as the market grows, and maybe consumers will find the taste better than they expect. One former Peace Corps worker who tried termites during his time in Liberia told the Boston University news site BU Today they "tasted like bacon bits — crunchy, a little greasy."
Trust us on this: Any bug that tastes like bacon has a real shot at becoming an American staple.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun