You may be offended by the comic above, but it may be the fact that its true. We look at all other addictions and find fault, but when its comes to being unhealthy as a nation we choose to look the other way.
So why are we not eating fresh food anymore? I mean, admit it, a lot of us were raised in families where our meals could be thrown in the microwave or in the oven with little to no preparation involved. If it wasn't that, than it was your typical American plate with corn, meat and potatoes, smothered in salt and butter. With all the easy, cheap, pre-packaged foods on the shelves of our grocery stores, why settle for something that is going to take more time, work and money? - Especially if I've worked all day, have to take the kids to practice and have a list of chores and projects to do around the house. Americans are getting busier and busier, and there's not enough time to give priority to a "real" home-cooked meal anymore. Most dads and moms are both working and the kids are always going from one thing to the next. Where's the family meal? We don't have time for it anymore. What's happened is a society who is increasingly getting fatter, sicker and more toxic.
Get this: An estimated 125 million Americans (43%) have at least one chronic illness, and 60 million have multiple conditions. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will develop cancer sometime in their lifetime. Breast-cancer in women is 1 in 7, while in the 40's was only 1 in 22. Even men are now diagnosed with breast cancer with a growing rate of 25% in just the past 25 years. Asthma has doubled in 20 years. (The Essential Green You! Deirdre Imus) And lets not even discuss the huge rise of diabetes, where at one time was unheard of in children. Yes, we are becoming sicker and sicker. And I believe a huge reason is the food we eat and the toxic chemicals we are exposed to in our foods and products in our stores.
I realize that encouraging people to buy organic can be a huge step when there are several who probably have yet to even make the switch from white enriched pasta to whole wheat. Then I realized it's probably a whole other thought when it comes to figuring out what to put with that pasta - especially if your use to the Rice-a-roni, Chef boyardee or any other pre-packaged foods.
So, today I want to give some ideas on how to spring clean your cupboards and begin to fill them with foods that will actually give you more energy, help maintain a healthy weight and keep your body functioning at its best. We live in a "grab-and-go" culture ( I call it a microwave society), where if it's not fast, then its not worth it. Our impatience with good nutritious food is unfortunate because as we become less and less concerned about what's in our food, we are growing sicker and sicker as a nation. Apart from the increasing rate of obesity, we also have a scary increasing climb of people with cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Unless we change this pandemic, the next generation will be the sickest we've ever seen with some radical irreversible diseases. I want to inspire the average individual to go back to three or four square meals a day.
We easily fall into the "healthy junk food" trap because so many manufacturers know that if they add vitamins and minerals to our food, we are more likely to buy the processed food with the additives over fresh because of its convenience. "We're an unhealthy nation obsessed with learning how to eat better," says Michael Pollan. We struggle to put nutrition into our time-crunched lives. If you can begin to change the processed foods in your cupboard, then when your out and have to snack on pizza or a donut, its not a big deal because the majority of the time is spent on eating healthy.
It's no wonder the food industry introduces about 20,000 new products into supermarkets each year. Approximately 3,000 candies, 3,000 snack foods, 2,000 sodas and juice drinks, 1,000 backed goods and more than 100 new versions of breakfast cereals. These companies' marketers claim they're trying to help you fit nutritious meals into your busy lifestyle. But the middle aisles of every grocery store in the country are bursting with candies, chips, cookies, sodas, and other junk, all of which are loaded with way too much sugar, fat, and salt, not to mention synthetic chemical additives that are harmful to your health.
- What to Eat, Dr. Marion Nestle
Your processed foods contain saturated fats, trans fatty acids, excessive salt and modified sugars, along with some artificial sweeteners (to cut calories - beware of fat free and sugar free advertised foods) and other harmful chemicals like potassium bromate, propyl gallate and artificial colorings. If you can't understand what one of the ingredients are on the back of the box, then it probably shouldn't be consumed. Get in the habit of checking your labels on everything you buy. Your nutrition bar on the back is important. It's amazing to me how much high fructose corn syrup is in our food that should never be there (such as bread, peanut butter, cereal, juice, ketchup, even tomato soup!) Read your labels and buy food with no additives such as the ones I listed.
If your cupboards are filled with pre-packaged dinners, its time to start fresh. Learn how to bake mac & cheese and get rid of the box of Kraft. Try brown or yellow rice and beans with some seasonings instead of the Rice-a-Roni mix. Try replacing your cake and brownie mixes with some whole wheat flour and real cocoa. Start making some burritos from scratch instead of the quick hot pocket in the freezer. Replace your sugared cereals or instant oatmeal with bran-fiber cereals, home-made granola, or stove-top oats and add some honey and raisins. Count the white-enriched products in your cupboards and write them down. Try buying whole wheat, whole grain or raw in those products (pasta, noodles, rice, cereal, bread, sugar) the next time you grocery shop. You want to go for "whole wheat" and not just "wheat" because a lot of wheat on our shelves today are still refined and are more concentrated, with higher calories than whole wheat. Whole grains contain more fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium and other nutrients.
These are just a few ideas. In order to live healthy, you have to get creative. We live in a society where grab-and-go food is mass produced. To eat differently will fill awkward at first. But I promise, the more you stay true to changing bad habits to healthy ones, the easier it becomes. Good luck spring cleaning!