American Processed Food

My friend Oxana and I were talking and she mentioned to me how when she first came to America she ate the same foods as she did at home, yet somehow managed to gain 4 sizes in just under a year. Being the investigator I am at heart, I needed to find out why? For this month’s article on health and wellness I have been educating myself in the realm of food, food processing and the American food industry.. My findings have been astounding! Our way of eating is endangering our lives, how we feel, how we sleep, our energy levels and our overall health.

In the times before we had highly processed food and an exorbitant amount of foods to choose from, people ate simply. In the 1800, people ate their “dinner” which was a large meal in the early afternoon and supper was a smaller meal eaten in the evening. Fast forward to the 1900’s and a typical American family ate simple meals from scratch at home and many families lived off the land raising their own meat and cultivating their own gardens.

As early as 1931 we had already begun to see processed foods integrated into the food chain. We added snacks such as Lay’s potato chips, Oreos and Twinkies. In 1954 T.V. dinners containing high sodium and fat became an easy way to serve a household dinner and became a $9 billion dollar industry. We also added Cheez Wiz and Eggo waffles. In the 70’s snacks became a bigger part of the American household and continue into today. This was the beginning of the American downfall of food and nutrient based eating. We exchanged convenience for more dangerous foods with preservatives, chemicals and additives. Foods were marketed as convenient and affordable options, making them appealing to busy individuals. By 1992 we had the USDA telling us the Food Pyramid was the standard for healthing eating. As we all know, this carbohydrate based way of eating has caused the American public’s health to be put at risk: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, chronic disease and other health problems.

So how did this all happen and why? The food industry is big business. A large amount of effort is put in to lobbying to change the law around food of what we can and can not eat and what is deemed safe. That time, effort and money spent on lobbying is not always in the best interests of the people but for capitalist purposes. Large food corporations prioritize profits over health. Additionally, these corporations often have significant influence over government policies and regulations, which can further perpetuate unhealthy eating habits.

In the 90s, we were bombarded with tag lines of low fat, zero carbs, zero calories. The food was then filled with sugar, sweeteners, preservatives and cancer causing agents for taste. The industry is continuously coming up with gimmicks to sell to make you think you are eating healthy, they are using the same playbook as the tobacco industry when it comes to determining what people crave, what makes them addicted to food, and what makes them continuously buy them. The majority of chemicals that have been invented in the last 50 years or so have been invented for one reason: to improve the bottom line of the food industry, not to improve our health.”

So what can we do?

It used to be easier, grocery stores used to be small and local markets had fresh foods. Now 80% of the grocery stores are insanely processed high caloric and highly processed food that is most of our diet. I love the philosophy of eating from the perimeter of the food store. Starting with vegetables, fruits, meats and staying away from the center isles. Start to fill yourself with nutrient dense foods. Your taste buds will change and you will thank me. Food will start to taste like food again. Don’t think of things to take away, just think about adding more vegetables, protein and fruit. When you clean up your eating your taste buds become refined and if you go back to eating an oreo you will taste the chemicals. Your body will thank you. Start to look at ingredients, not just the fat and calories, but really start to read the labels and understand what you are putting in your body. Stop filling your body with highly processed foods. Most of us don’t even realize what we are doing. We need to re educate ourselves and start listening to podcasts about food and the industry and health. Our body is hardwired for health and it craves the foods we would eat 100-1200 years ago without all the chemicals. Turn off the T.V. and stop letting it program you with the fads and lies. Stop snacking and give yourself time for your body to reset and readjust to your new habits. Try eating your big meal in the middle of the day and have a small dinner and give yourself a cut off time for food.

And if you are only ready to make one change Kelly LeVeque suggests starting you day with protein. The smoothie turns off the “hunger” hormone. Her Fab 4 routine includes the following. A vegan based protein powder, 1-2 tbs of a fat such (ex .avocado / coconut oil), 1-2 tbs of fiber ( chia / flax ) and greens.

We truly are what we eat and food was made to nourish and sustain our bodies. It is up to us to make informed choices about the food we eat and to educate ourselves on how to choose, eat and live healthy lives.