When did obesity become such a mainstream condition? The numbers of people being classified as obese, morbidly obese or severely morbidly obese are increasing at alarming rates. Children are being diagnosed with obesity related conditions at younger ages than ever before. To me it seems this really started to become an issue about a decade after healthy eating started to decline. When did we stray away from healthy eating? Many lifestyle factors played into why; working mothers, busy kids schedules, quick easy pre-made meals, fast food and the new availability of treats, snacks, junk foods and more income to spend on it all. Diets, diet products, restrictive food fads, and weight loss quests came and went. Many pounds were lost and gained back soon after.
I remember when the TV Dinner commercials first came out. This was probably around 1960. What a marketing plan. Promote it to people watching TV as an idea to keep them around the TV. I had to wait for months before actually having a TV Dinner. They were an extra, a luxury, not something to just have for no reason. I wanted to have a TV Dinner so bad, the commercials made them sound so great! Turned out the dinners were horrible. They came in Fried Chicken, Turkey, or Salisbury steak, as I remember it, those were the only choices for years. Oh, the excitement of finally pulling the foil off the piping hot rectangle. The thrill of having that special trendy new meal. So modern...the TV Dinner….. that fatty skin, the over cooked soggy frozen & thawed veggies, the instant mashed potatoes, yuck. We were lucky then, the junk food didn’t taste like food yet, it looked like it tasted or maybe even worse. It took a few decades to get us to where we are now. Now we have fabulous tasting, well disguised crap posing as healthy food. The ads and labels have catch phrases telling us how healthy, low fat, low carb they are. Dangerous additives are disguised as healthy sounding ingredients. It’s difficult to know what to eat. One source says eat this another one says don’t eat that. Conflicting information seems to be everywhere you look. Just walk around in a supermarket and see all the displays promoting “healthy” products. Back then it was unheard of to have a soda with every meal, let alone every day or even every week. Now it seems to be almost expected that kids have packaged beverages, even right down to the water. Give me a break—vitamin water, carb free water, flavored water! How about plan old Adirondack water? We’ve got it right here.
Chef Jamie Oliver of ABC TVs Food Revolution (Tuesdays 8 pm) says America is on our third generation of non-cooks. Many young adults don’t know how to cook “real” food or how to create a nutritious, economical meal. Their mom’s didn’t cook, their grandmothers knew how but were just getting into the working world and suddenly didn’t have time to cook as it had been done in the past. His program is working on changing school lunches. Involving the students and using the school kitchen to not only produce the lunches but to educate and train the students on how to prepare those meals. Rachael Ray recently said on a talk show that our students are not learning skills needed for daily survival. They study to pass tests, but can’t cook a meal using whole foods.
The movies “Super Size Me” & “Fast Food Nation” brought the publics attention to the health dangers of fast food on a daily basis. Those meals do appeal to our taste buds & pocketbooks. What could be better than fast food that is cheap and also tastes good. The movies go on to expose what is so bad about that. Wouldn’t it have been truly great if we had been a nation of the healthy fast meal, a dish of rice, veggie and bean stir fry or a hearty soup/chili containing a balance of nutritional whole foods. I still think a fast food joint that served “real food, done fast” or “whole food meals ready now”, type of fast food place would thrive. Jamie Oliver recently made over a long time burger joint to bring their special burger meal platter down from about 1400 calories down to 485 calories while keeping it the same price, making it healthy and keeping it delicious. The owner and customers didn’t want to give up their by-products / saturated fat / sodium filled burger and fries. The owner needed to keep it affordable, the customer wanted it tasty and nutritious. He came up with real beef burger and side salad for the same price but with that huge calorie difference. He’s working on changing one community at a time into healthier school lunches as well as healthier eating at home.
Our grandparents ate in season, fresh, whole foods. They knew what was in their food. Rich meals were reserved for special occasions. Desserts were moderate, tasty dishes with moderate amounts of sugar, not the ultra rich desserts of today. They knew they needed to eat a good breakfast to begin their day. Eat your three squares was a saying. Water was the favored beverage. They walked a lot more in daily life, lifting clothes to the line, hand moving the lawn, real labor just around the house.
Now with rising food costs it makes even more sense to get back to basics. Save money and get healthy at the same time. What is more economical than a rice, bean and fresh veggie dish. How about a nice homemade soup, chili or beef stew? Nutritious and tasty also. Soon fresh produce will be available at farm stands. Yes, it can be a slow process to make the changes… a lifetime really. While it took our nation fifty years to get into this state, I believe it could be turned around within 10 maybe even 5. Each small change produces some results and as those results add up, better health risks reduce, better health results……….. yes it can be turned around.