With the exception of eating out on occasion, we cook and eat pretty much all meals from scratch. Needless to say, there is a lot of chopping, dicing, peeling, and mixing going on in my kitchen. Once the prep work is done I am sauteing, roasting, baking and frying my food until it is ready to devour. I read plenty of articles that say that it is expensive to eat real food. That one reason people eat prepared foods, fast food and junk food is because it is cheaper than healthy food.
I can’t quite wrap my head around that argument.
Prepared food, fast food and junk food are not in the same category as real food. They contain copious amounts of sugar, salt, hydrogenated oils and refined flour. Folks who subsist on this “food” are often overfed but undernourished. They take in too many calories but don’t get adequate nutrition. Did you know you can be morbidly obese and malnourished at the same time? When we eat like this we are gaining weight but starving for the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients that our bodies require for health. Over 60% of us are considered overweight in this country.
Poor nutrition leads to dysfunction in the body and this leads to disease. A diagnosis of a disease leads to visits to the doctor, to the emergency room, to the pharmacy. It leads to medications to treat the symptoms people are experiencing but that do not cure the disease. So we get sick from eating a diet poor in nutrition. We go to the doctor who prescribes medicine to mask the symptoms but does not cure what ails us. The initial symptoms get worse and new symptoms appear which prompts another visit to a different doctor and more medicine to treat the new symptoms.
Rinse, Lather, Repeat!
According to TIME, Americans spend $13 million per year on the most popular medicines to treat acid reflux. That’s a lot of moula to dish out to treat our upset stomachs that are often caused by poor dietary choices. The article goes on to conclude that acid reflux is better treated by dietary changes then by taking medicine. Yup – if we just ate healthier we wouldn’t need the medication or the doctor visit. We wouldn’t need to get the bad belly in the first place.
In the short-term, eating healthy, real food may require a boost in your food budget. In the long-term, that small bump in your food budget will more than be offset by the decrease in doctor costs, hospital costs, and pharmacy costs.
I don’t think cost is the primary reason people choose unhealthy food. I think the food industry has done a hell of a job convincing us that the food they package, market and sell to us is healthy. They masterfully design labels that are attractive to look at and that practically scream at us health announcements. Low-fat, sugar-free, all natural, hormone free, gluten-free, fortified with vitamins are just a few that come to mind.
People struggle to figure out what is the best option in order to choose health for themselves and their families. This struggle is real and in order to come out on top, don’t listen to the hype. Stop buying antacids, stop buying low-fat, stop buying sugar-free and start buying food in its most natural state. A fruit roll up is not good for you, no matter what the package says!
For those raised in homes where fast food, junk food and processed food were the norm these health claims appear valid and buying these products over others appear to be healthy decisions. Those of us raised in households where real food was served day in and day out are also not immune to these health claims by the food industry. Heck, even Mother Fran thinks that if she buys low-fat labeled and sugar-free she is choosing health. But she isn’t!
The problem is when they remove the fat, they add in sugar or sugar substitutes. They sneak sugar into all types of processed food as well as hydrogenated oils and preservatives. They make it almost impossible for the average consumer to determine if the foods they are choosing are good or bad for their health. As consumers, we need to get savvy to the tricks of the food marketing and packaging. If we seriously want to choose health, we need to start paying attention. For those of us over 50, that typically requires a good set of reading glasses.
I try to remember to bring my reading glasses into the grocery store with me but I forget about 50% of the time. I have figured out a few tricks to ensure I make good food decisions without asking my fellow shoppers to read the ingredient list for me!
- If the ingredient list is longer than 3-4 items I don’t get it.
- If there is more than 1 ingredient listed on things like fish, chicken, hamburger – don’t buy it.
- If frozen vegetables have more than the obvious vegetable on the ingredient list – don’t buy it.
- Buy fresh vegetables and fruit in season
- Stick to the edges of the grocery store. This is where you will find the meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables and fruit. You know, the real food!
- If canned goods contain soy and you aren’t buying a soy product – don’t buy it. Soy is used as a filler and you should see how mad I get when I find it listed on my canned tuna. It doesn’t list it as an ingredient, it just says in really small letters: contains soy. Grrr.
- If you can’t pronounce every ingredient listed on the label or you don’t know what an ingredient is – leave it on the shelf. They sneak all sorts of nasty stuff into the box and don’t have to tell us about it. Remember EAFUS?
- If you know it is junk but are tempted to buy it because it says low-fat, sugar-free… – come on, you know it is junk. Don’t waste your hard-earned cash.
- If your deli meat contains sugar or sugar by any other name – Yuck. Really?
- If the label lists trans fat, partially hydrogenated oil – steer clear of it.
P.S. Walmart sells a 40 count box of fruit rolls up for $5.88 and a 2 pound box of strawberries for $5.44.