By now you have no doubt heard of the “personalized nutrition coach powered by DNA” called “Nutria.”  It is a “collaboration” with Lean Cuisine, and purports to create a personalized nutrition plan based on your genes. The idea is that Nutria coaches will interpret your DNA and make food recommendations that I am pretty sure include a lot of things like, “Hey, your DNA tells me you’d be SOOOOOO much healthier if you ate a lot of Lean Cuisine frozen meals!”

Please bear in mind that I am not a geneticist. The program could be simply wonderful and not a just way for Lean Cuisine to sell more frozen Salisbury steaks and turkey tetrazzini in the age of no-carb/gluten free/juice cleanse or whatever the current dietary fad is.

But if it is just a marketing ploy, one hopes they didn’t pay the advertising firm too much. Because while I’ll bet you dollars to donuts it’s supposed to be pronounced “Noo-TREE-ah,” I think even folks from outside the deep south are likely to associate the name less with a healthy diet and more with a hideous marsh rat.

Honestly, the whole thing made me think of a way to improve on the concept. What if, instead of taking the result of genetic testing and figuring out which Lean Cuisine would be best for you, we take your DNA and grow meat in a lab? I mean, it’s not technically cannibalism, right? And I bet it tastes better than nutria.


I admit there may be some downsides to that concept, but I’m still thinking of pitching it to one of those genealogy websites that promise to tell you that you’re not really Irish but half Danish and half Inuit. Think of the possibilities, “don’t just eat LIKE your ancestors…”

Perhaps not.

The whole genetic testing thing may be a bit of a trigger issue for me, because I have a recurring nightmare in which somehow my DNA has been submitted to a testing facility and I get a phone call: “Hi, Mr. Peyton? Yeah, this is Barry from Genetest Inc. I’m calling about your DNA? Uh, normally we just ship a packet of materials out, but in your case we felt a phone call was more appropriate… I’m not sure how to tell you this, but, uh… Mr. Peyton, you’re 7 percent nutria.” And then I wake up not knowing what the other 93% is. Horrifying, isn’t it?

I would like to believe that genetic testing is going to lead to all sorts of amazing things in the near future. There’s a great deal of promise for medical treatments and undoubtedly a host of other applications I can’t even imagine. But I don’t want someone to tell me what foods I should eat, because I suspect it’d just cause me more stress when I eat whatever the hell I want anyway. At the moment all I have to worry about is heartburn when I eat something spicy, and that’s enough.

I have enough trouble limiting my intake of foods I know are going to raise my cholesterol. I don’t need someone giving me a list of things I should be eating to stay at an optimal level of health. And that’s even more true if the list is made up entirely of Lean Cuisine frozen prepared meals.

Is that just me?