Our Toxic Food Environment
We live in a poisonous food environment, meaning that that we're surrounded by high-fat, high-calorie foods that taste good, are easy to find and are relatively cheap. At the same time, our environment does not promote exercise and physical activity. The combination can be toxic to our health.
Consider the following:
- You drive down the road and see more fast-food restaurants than you can count
- At stores, high-calorie foods are placed at eye-level and you face rows of candy at the check out
- Vending machines are everywhere - at work, school, the zoo, the park, and even at the doctor's office - filled mostly with junk food
- Fund raisers make you feel guilty when you don't buy high-calorie treats to support their cause
- Parents bring high-fat, high-calorie snacks to sports practices and class parties
- When eating out, you're told that "supersizing" is the better food value
- You start to believe that large portions of food is the appropriate amount to eat
- You're too busy to cook, so you "pick up" dinner 3 or 4 times a week, and it rarely comes with vegetables
- You drive yourself everywhere, park close to entrances, and take the elevator or escalator to your desk, where you probably sit most of the day
- You're afraid to let your children play outside unattended
How Did This Happen?
Experts blame a combination of factors for our toxic environment:
- Processed foods are heavily marketed to the public by food manufacturers
- Chain restaurants heavily market fried "fast food" to consumers
- Americans spend about 46 percent of their food budget on restaurants and take-out
- People in industrialized countries do very little physical work
How to Protect Yourself- Awareness:
For one week, write down what you eat and drink and where it comes from. See where you can make changes to regain control of your food environment.- Planning:
Healthy eating and exercise habits are under your control. Consider some of the many small choices you can make:
- Make a list before you go food shopping and stick to it
- Cook over the weekend. Freeze portions for meals during the week.
- Pack and carry your food for the day: lunch, snacks and even breakfast
- Be the parents who bring cut-up fruit and water to practice or events
- Make exercise dates with your friends
- Keep sneakers and comfortable clothes in the car
- When eating out, split an entree or appetizer with a friend
- When eating out, take 1/2 of your meal home
There are so many things you can do to control your toxic food environment. Start by exercising the power of choice.
- Brownell, Kelly, Horgen, Katherine Battle. Food Fight. McGraw-Hill, 2004.
- The Keystone Forum on Away-From-Home-Foods - Final Report, 2006