Good News – A healthier Food Culture is taking shape.
Everywhere you look right now we are bombarded with information on what’s making us fat, what’s causing cancer, what’s creating a type II diabetes epidemic, and what exercises we should and shouldn’t be doing to rip our abs and bulge our biceps. In and amongst this information overload there is a new “food culture” taking shape.
I’ve noticed over the past while that the people I talk to have started to slowly eliminate processed foods from their diets and are making strides in breaking their pop and diet pop addictions. It doesn’t seem to be about just eliminating bad eating habits either. It seems we’re starting to get smarter about what’s healthy – it’s not just in the choice but also in the preparation. For example, juicing vegetables and fruit have thankfully gained in popularity. We’ve got a long ways to go but there is definitely a trend beginning to form.
Over the last few decades we’ve become reliant on the highly processed, convenience products that we now call food. We use them to help with our busy schedules – working, children’s activities, etc. – an endless merry-go-round of instant entertainment and perceived need. I think the original intention of factory food was to help the average family get quality, convenient food that was manufactured safely with few impurities. Having a few of these food products available for purchase, however, did not create the current problem.
We’ve been consuming so much of the factory produced products that practically every conceivable entree we can imagine comes in a frozen, reheatable form and we’ve all but eliminated real, whole food from our diets. We’ve gotten very efficient at sterilizing it, bleaching it, coloring it, texturizing it, flavoring it and making it smell delicious. So much so, that some kids don’t even recognize vegetables or fruits as food and can’t even tell you where they come from. Even the packaging is trying to tell us it’s from the farm. They don’t show a picture of the factory line with your food-like material being stuffed into plastic containers and then surrounded by cardboard packaging and stacked by the thousands in warehouses.
The box displays a pretty picture of a green pasture with a red barn and a dairy cow dropped in for good measure. What once was a good thing has gotten way out of control and is now jeopardizing our health and wellbeing. Remember the warning behind the old saying “too much of a good thing?” We can also reinterpret the saying “good things come in small packages” to “good things don’t come in packages, period!”
Even though we’ve continually tried to perfect the North American diet, the rate of chronic degenerative disease has increased substantially nonetheless. From supersized portions, chemical flavor enhancements and “enriched” staples to artificial coloring – we’re constantly “adding”. What was harvested from the earth and eaten shortly thereafter, is now taking a long trip down a factory line, sprayed with innumerable additives and preservatives along the way, and then reformed and repackaged for convenience and appeal. What we’re now “feeding” is diseases like cancer, coronary disease and diabetes.
Add to this the stresses “we manufacture” in our lives. How we speed up our assembly line by pushing ourselves to our limits – we make ourselves move faster, do more, work harder, play harder yet, etc. Just because a person has a “six-pack” does “not” mean they have a healthy body. We want to cram it all in but what we end up cramming in is fuel depleted of most of its nutritional value – nothing that can actually act as a counterbalance to our overextended lives. It’s little wonder we “live so short” and “die so long”. We spend a good portion of our time on this earth trying to lose weight, fight chronic pain and disease and make ourselves healthier “because” we’ve lost touch with what good clean real food and water are and how they fuel our bodies. We’ve got to stop “adding” – it’s time we started “subtracting.”
It’s going to take years to return to the farm-to-table culture but I do see glimmers of it in today’s news headlines, documentaries, blogs etc. Quietly bubbling up through the endless amounts of information we’re exposed to and have to sift through every day. Recipe books, canning and preserving websites, farm-to-table restaurants, farmer’s markets and organic gardening blogs are popping up more and more. This new culture is steadfastly growing if the millions of readers who add comments and Pinterest photos of the latest batch of tomatoes they grew and preserved etc., is any indication.
Generations young and old are participating in this move to living a more authentic life versus one of over consumption and mass production. More and more people want to know where it comes from, how it was made or grown, and what was added to it, “before” it makes its journey from fork to mouth. It’ll be interesting to see how a world that eagerly anticipates the next iPhone release and the automobile that parks itself, will reconcile itself with a farm-to-table “slow food” culture. We don’t need a new iPhone release or a car that parks itself (some of us anyway), but our bodies do desperately need good clean unprocessed food. What will take center stage in the future? So far our “wants” have overshadowed our “needs” – perhaps it time to “want” and not only “need” clean whole food. Maybe that’s what we “need” to make the shift.
As our “wants” grow, it will be fascinating to watch how food companies respond to this trend. It’s already starting with large companies buying smaller organic manufacturers and growers. These large food producers do see a growth in the new consumer and are adapting accordingly with the addition of more organics and non GMO labelling in their product lines. Conflicts will emerge about where to concentrate their resources – with the health conscious consumer or the convenience shopper? As demand changes and grows toward healthier food choices, producers will be forced to respond or lose consumers to local farmers and backyard growers.
I don’t think the large food manufacturing companies are going anywhere, but I do believe that with a steadily growing movement toward healthier options, buying local and farm markets, the food giants will be increasingly happy to give us more and more of what we “want!” This will eventually trickle down to supermarkets who will strive to buy from health conscious producers so health conscious consumers will shop in their stores. So, in the end, it’s all about the money – who has it and how do we get them to part with it! But we shouldn’t mind if it’s for a good cause, right?