Why I am in a Food Fight (against Junk!)

I will not stop ... until filling her with junk food is just as socially unacceptable as giving her a cigarette.

Why do we not give cigarettes to kids? Because while they may like the feeling for a moment, we know it will end badly.

Why do we not let them drive a car? Because while they may like the feeling for a moment, we know it will end badly.

Why do we not give them drugs? Because while they may like the feeling for a moment, we know it will end badly.

Why do we not send them off to school full of toaster pastries (candy disguised as breakfast?) Because while they may like the feeling for a moment, we know it will end badly.

Oh, how I wish that last one were true. But somehow our culture has slipped, we have lowered our collective bar, to the point where we don’t even think it’s odd any more to:

And when a parent tries to call foul on this bizarre behavior, he/she tends to be viewed as “extreme,” and to be hear they should “let kids be kids.”  OK, pass them a cigar – they may like that, too.

Instead, what if we could find a way to tune out the words of the food marketers (whose job it is to increase consumption of their brands – not to increase your health) … and to instead make independent, informed choices for what to feed our families and ourselves?

What would our meals look like?  What would our kids’ snacks look like?  And what would be the impact on our collective health?

I believe we can reverse the trend in child obesity rates, which have quadrupled, from 5 to 20% in the last 30 years, along with hospitalizations of children due to obesity complications.

I believe we can reverse the highly related Type 2 Diabetes crisis (healthcare costs of $110 billion in 2011, projected to rise to nearly $157 billion by 2017).

And, call me crazy, but I think this can and must happen quickly, overnight, even.  Let’s effect a culture shift that makes healthy choices the norm … the “default” behavior, and makes unhealthy choices uncomfortable.

If you are a parent, you can help be a driver of the shift.   Bring beautiful, healthy snacks and meals when called upon by your school.  Demonstrate that in-season fruit, water (maybe flavored with some fresh fruit?), and veggie snacks will be gobbled up as quickly as junk food, but with FAR better long-term results.  And at home, cook, or at least assemble!  If you start with whole ingredients like vegetables, grains, eggs, etc., and keep the focus more on vegetable sources, it is incredibly hard to make unhealthy meals.  It’s the so-called “convenience” foods that come pre-packaged, pre-measured, pre-sliced that are most dangerous to your family’s health.  Think:  making your own chips vs. buying them in bags.  You may have them from time to time, but the volume would be drastically reduced.

If you are an educator, make your classroom a “marketing central” for a healthy lifestyle.  Kids who look at appetizing pictures of fruits and veggies all day tend to choose and eat more of these foods at meals!  And for goodness sake, please ask parents to send only snacks that support health.

If you are a doctor or nurse, PLEASE don’t be afraid to suggest that families limit their foods to those made from fresh, whole ingredients.  It’s not “fringy” or “crunchy” … it’s based in science and just makes sense.  Years ago, a few words from a pediatrician helped call my attention to a dietary choice I was making (for “convenience”) that compromised my children’s health.  He made a huge impact on our lives.

If you are an influencer of others – and this includes all celebrities, athletes, journalists, bloggers, etc. – please wield your influence wisely.  Since you have to maintain high energy for your high-impact life, you probably already make awesome food and lifestyle choices.  Be public – very, very public – with them.

And whoever you are, for yourself, as you go through your day, ask yourself whether each food choice you’re about to make supports or damages your health.  If it is damaging, exercise this opportunity to hold yourself to a higher standard … to tell yourself a new story about your value, and what your body deserves by instead choosing foods that are healthy and life-affirming.

It really doesn’t take many good choices before they suddenly start to be the easy norm for you … and even those around you!

Palate and the Plate

Eat Yourself Well - Dinner When most people think of a healthy lifestyle, they think of what they are giving up … but if you put a little thought into it, you can easily remind yourself of what you are gaining:  beautiful, vibrant health!

The plate on the left contains yellow french beans, avocado, spinach, tomatoes, spices, olive oil, vinegar and a little grated mozzarella cheese, but the net effect is arguably more appetizing than any burger and fries could ever be!  In fact, most healthy foods are absolutely gorgeous, and don’t require much imagination to be composed into a mouthwatering presentation.

Also, pay attention to your choices of platter and plate colors and shapes.  Check out this article about an Oxford/Polytechnic University of Valencia study about the link between presentation and perception.

I would love to see pics of your best presentation!  Send them to jennifer at <the name of this blog> and I’ll post some of the best!

CNN: Study Finds That World Wastes Half its Food

This is one of the saddest articles I’ve read in a long time: The World Wastes Half its Food.  And much of it due to blemishes or imperfections that the healthiest, heritage, organically-grown food will be more prone to … while the snack cakes live on.

As consumers, we are either part of the solution, or part of the problem.  What we can do:

  • Teach the market not to throw away viable food : insist on organically grown fruits and vegetables, and accept the imperfections that come with that. The worm in the tip of the corn, the dark spot on a banana, or the overripe leaves on the outside of a cabbage are normal and easy to strip away.  Accepting this small investment of time will help teach producers and grocers not to throw away these items (and drive prices up to cover the waste).
  • Be deliberate in your own shopping choices: think of the effort and work that went behind the vegetables you are buying, and the lives invested in the meat items.  Refuse to squander this – buy only what you can eat or store, and if you wind up with a surplus, invite a friend to share dinner, or pass the ingredients to a local food bank before they spoil.
  • Does your CSA or garden sometimes overwhelm even your hungry family? Invest in freezer space and dehydrating tools and challenge yourself to live with as little waste as possible.  Fruits can be made into fruit leathers, veggies into great soups for office lunches, and more.

Have other ideas?  Please comment below and share them … let’s work together to reduce this terrible waste!

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food – TIME

The High Cost of Cheap

Data from a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Thought I’d start the New Year with a post that holds extraordinary meaning.

Three and a half years after it was written, this is still one of the most important articles ever written on food.  I would love your thoughts … and if you think it’s important, please share it.  Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food – TIME.

The graphic to the right was originally published in the Time Magazine version of the story, but is not included in the electronic version … and I thought it was important.