As I was going through some of this week’s lessons, I was brought to an article that really made me stop and think. It’s not that it was anything new to me. It was the way that really brought the message home. There are so many things in the article that I could spend hours talking about, but a few really jumped out at me.
The article was published on The Salt section on NPR’s website last month and it was about how, globally, our diets are making us sicker. (Link to original article). Over recent years, studies have showed that diet related risk factors for our overall health are far outweighing other risk factors. We are eating ourselves sick.
I can understand so many points that were made in the article and I have seen many of them first hand. Yes, we have done our part to work on the decline in hunger around the world (there are far less people going hungry every day) but that is only part of the equation. People are not eating foods with adequate nutritional value. Just because people know WHAT they should eat, doesn’t mean that is what they are going to eat. What we eat today is coming back tomorrow, next month or next year to haunt us. Diabetes and other diseases are on the rise, which could be reduced or eliminated, if it were not for what we are eating.
Many times it comes down to the power of the dollar. But sometimes income can backfire on us. When your income is lower, you can only afford so much. Between bills to pay, transportation, schooling etc, there is only so much one can do. You need to be budget conscious. Plus, if you are workign 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet, you lean towards the quick and easy. This usually means processed foods, sugary drinks and fast food. However, more income doesn’t always mean healthier options. Yes, you can afford more milk, fruit and fresh fish, but you can also afford to but more of the unhealthy stuff too. So now, you are buying both. So you end up eating more than you really need to!
Healthy, whole foods are getting more and more expensive, while the processed, convenience foods are going down in price. I saw this first hand when I would walk into the lunch room at my old office. Now understand, they did a great job of bringing in a company to stock us with healthy food options (salads, sandwiches, wraps, fresh fruit, juices, etc) that were available on a daily basis and restocked every few days, so you knew what you were getting was pretty fresh. The problem was, the healthy options were priced higher that the highly processed foods (which is the same as you will see in any convenience store etc), the snacks, soda etc and with a large number of your adults either still in college or just out of school, budgets were often limited. If you had $5-7 spend on lunch (and didn’t have time to run anywhere to actually pick up lunch) the lunch room was your best option. But when the fresh options were priced the way they were, many of the young adults were pulled into the quick and easy microwavable meals in a can, the snack type foods or other highly processed options. When given the choice for a quick snack, which do you thing most went… $1.49 for 2 hard boiled eggs or $1.19 for a candy bar? or $1.79 for that bottle of soda? A typical person would probably look at it and say that they were getting a better value for their $ by getting the candy bar or soda. Yes, maybe you were getting more food, but where you really getting more nutrition?
The same can be said for more fast food or faster service restaurants. Just look at “Value Meals” at the big chain restaurants. The average price for one of these meals is $5-7, which usually consists of a sandwich, fries and a drink. Whereas at the same restaurant, you can get a salad for about the same price… but if you want chicken added to that salad, be prepared to pay a few extra bucks. Right near our local High School there are several options for students to run and grab lunch if they opt to not eat on campus. Pizza, subs, burgers and more. For less than $5 you can get a value meal at one of the fast food places. The sub place just a block further down the road offers fresh veggies and healthy options for lunch, but is priced a little over $5 for a sandwich. Guess which place is busier with the student lunch rush? Money talks.
Over the last few years, any of you that know me personally know that I have really taken a close look at what I am eating. I have eliminated most, if not all fast food (there are only a few fast food places I visit, and it’s very infrequently) and try to do as much cooking at home as I can. Even when I go to the grocery store to pick up what I will need for upcoming meals, I still see where people fall into the money trap when it comes to shopping. For the cost of 1 bag of oranges, I could instead buy 3 2 liter bottles of soda! Or 2 large bags of chips!
Yes, there are many factors that play into this which I am not going to get into in this post. That’s for another time. My overall point here is that we really need to start taking a look at the nutritional value of our food, not just the monetary value. Yes, the fresh fruit and veggies might be priced a little higher but how much was it really saving you when you are faced with health issues down the road because if what you ate today? You only have one body, take care of it, feed it right and it will do you well for many hears to come!
I’m not saying you have to give up the pizza and burgers… just don’t eat them every day!