First Lady Michelle Obama was out today, talking to a meeting of the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association. She said they need to re-formulate and repackage their wares so they are healthier for America’s children. While she has a great point, and improving the eating habits of America’s children (and their parents) is definitely a laudable goal, her contention that there “isn’t a moment to waste” in such matters comes off like so much hyperbole, as is the norm for those up on the hill these days.
She proclaimed to the assembled members of the association: “But I’m here today to urge all of you to move faster and to go farther because the truth is we don’t have a moment to waste — because a baby born today could be less than a decade away from showing the first signs of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, if he or she is obese as a child,”
We should be teaching out children about healthy eating, but sadly, in many cases, you can’t just blame the food manufacturers like they are simply so many drug pushers, interested only in profit, at the expense of our children’s health. With the free and easy access to information these days, and the success of TV shows like “The Biggest Loser”, should not parents take some responsibility for the food choices they present to their children? One would think the answer to that question can only be “Yes!”
I was in the market only days ago, and imagine my surprise when I found the shelves stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables, skinless chicken, fresh fish, and whole grains. To hear the first lady speak, you’d think that there was a dearth of foods that were actually grown in the ground, or caught in our oceans.
The problem is not that the food manufacturers have some sort of mind control device, forcing parents to purchase only sugar laden snacks for their little ones. No, it is that parents don’t have to wherewithal to take the 10 minutes it would require to actually look up what passes for healthy food. You don’t need to get a degree in nutrition, either. There are thousands of web sites and blogs (thanks for reading this one!) dedicated to health and fitness, and many old fashioned, paper based sources of information on the subject as well.
Ironically, they can be found at the same place one finds the food itself; your local super market. They’re typically one or two isles over from the candy and snack isle, in a part of an isle dedicated to magazines and paperbacks. As diet and nutrition books are a multi-hundred million dollar industry, there are invariably some of them in the aforementioned book and magazine isle. It would literally take less than 15 minutes to get enough of the basics to make a huge difference in your eating habits.
Here are some of my ideas for helping the kids to eat healthy:
1) Parents should take the time to educate themselves and their children on the virtues of healthy eating and how to achieve it. One worthwhile discovery would be that fresh fruits and vegetables are actually less expensive in many cases than much of the over processed, nutrient free, overly sweetened food they are feeding to their children now. Read the ingredients labels on the foods you buy, or better yet, buy foods that do not require them or list opnly one or two ingredients, such as apples, skinless chicken, and oatmeal (not the flavored kind, it’s loaded with sugar).
2) Schools should serve healthy, minimally processed foods for lunch.
3) We should stop subsidizing the corn industry so heavily. The price of high fructose corn sweetener would rise, providing less incentive for manufacturers to include this stuff in our food supply. (It’s great, we pay taxes so we can subsidize the corn growers, then we pay again to subsidize health care, and it is about to get worse. Some of the health problems we are paying to fix are caused by the tremendous amount of high fructose corn sweetener we are paying farmers to produce, so they can sell it at a price that makes almost certain the stuff winds up in many of our foods.)
4) Put PE back in our schools at least 3 days a week, so our kids know the joys of physical fitness. Too many of them now think that playing the Wii is a substitute for real exercise.
What we should not do:
Raise taxes on anything, especially in this economy, much less foods deemed by the government to be problematic. That is a problem with giving the government a greater role in the health care system. They will be in a position to proclaim what foods we should and should not be partaking in. They can then penalize us for what they feel is detrimental. They will be able to make the claim that because what we eat impacts health care costs (and it does) that are borne largely by the taxpayers, they are only protecting us from ourselves both from a health and a budget perspective.
I am not a mind numbed robot, blindly absolving the food industry of all guilt, see my post on Smart Choices food labels, one of the biggest scams I marketing history. The problem is that we should be demanding they sell us healthier foods by buying more healthy foods. Were we to do so, they would be only too happy to supply them.
Sadly, too few people seem to care about what slides down the old pie hole, so the food industry is thrilled to give them yet another package of Ho Ho’s, or donuts, since they are very profitable and people keep coming back for more. Educate yourselves, please, it’s for the children. (It really is this time)