Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Part 10: What to Eat

Part 10: What to Eat Based on the book “What to Eat” by Marion Nestle

Today nearly half the food dollar is spent on foods prepared outside the home and what those foods contain matter a lot. Prepared foods no matter where they are sold tend to be higher in fats, salts, sugars and lower in fiber and vitamin and mineral content. If you eat a lot of prepared foods you need to choose wisely which can be rather difficult since most prep foods don't come with a label or have complete ingredient lists unless you want to go hunting on google for them. Remember the Law of portion size: the more food in front of you, the more you will eat. When you take items from a salad bar you are choosing your own portions and making a guess about how much food you will want to eat. Then we have portion distortion: the idea that anything you are served in a container has the same number of calories. The “eat me” message emitted by large food portions is so powerful that it overrides all other considerations. A large portion is  said to influence consumption norms and expectations and it lessens one’s reliance on self monitoring (internal body cues). Food companies are well aware of portion distortion and take full advantage of it to encourage you to eat more. To make informed decisions about food choice you need truth in advertising, the whole truth and nothing but. Grocery stores could do more to help you make better dietary choices if they made it convenient for you to make those choices. By this time you know what that would take: put healthier foods where it is easier to get them, advertise them, price them attractively, and give healthier foods the same kind of marketing attention that gets paid to junk foods. Grocery stores could also demand that food producers grow fruits, veggies, crops, animals, farmed fish in ways that protect the health of the environment as well as the people. If stores did this they would not only be adding value to the foods they sell but would be adding lasting value. All those apparently healthy new packaged foods you see on supermarket shelves with all their health claims are there to make you think that the companies have responded to your concerns about health by giving you better choices, they didn’t. You may have heard statements like these before: all foods can fit into a healthful diet (you can eat anything you like with no restrictions), there is no such thing as a good or bad food (you can eat anything you like), the keys to healthful eating are variety, balance, and moderation (you can eat anything you like anytime). When the author hears such statements singly or in combination, she knows there is only one purpose behind them: to defend the right of food companies to market their products any way they like. Even though each of these statements hold a grain of truth, each leaves out crucial parts of advice: most of the time you are better off eating whole foods, unprocessed foods and avoiding junk foods. The mantras are designed to protect big business and put the responsibility solely on you with zero help. What food companies really mean is to eat more of their foods more often and not give the choices a second thought. But some foods are better for you than others and it's not hard to tell them apart. EAT WHOLE FOODS!!!!! Veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, lean meats, low fat dairy, and unprocessed or minimally processed foods…..yes you can still have that junk food you enjoy just not too much and not too often. The foods that go under the better for you category can be put together in simple delicious ways that don't take too much time to prepare. But in today's busy world of go-go-go it may seem much easier to grab a package of a shelf than to buy real food, but you pay for the apparent convenience in at least 4 ways: money (you pay for packaging and marketing on top of the food), taste (the chemicals), unhealthy calories that increase disease risk, the loss of the joy of eating. The current environment of food choice is not inevitable. Many of the ways in which it encourages eating more—ubiquitous advertising, food available everywhere, larger and larger portions, unchecked marketing to children, weak government regulation–have evolved in response to the demands of big business. Many of these “eat more” changes have occurred since the 1980s. You cast your vote for your choice of food environment every time you put something in your cart or order off a menu. If enough people vote with you changes will happen.