I wish I could say that reading this post was a shock to me, but it wasn’t. The author described how McDonald’s was marketing itself as a “healthy food” company at a nutrition fair to nutrition health professionals. Now, these are people who look at nutrition for a living, and yet they were eating the food at the McDonald’s booth that was being thinly disguised as healthy. Shouldn’t they know better? Aren’t these people in the health industry because they know something about where to get proper nutrition? It seems obvious enough to me, at least, that McDonald’s is not the place to go if you are looking for healthy food.
Then the author described a panel session that she attended that was described as a discussion on how fast food restaurants are becoming more nutritious but ended up being pretty much just PR for McDonald’s and their “healthy” options. If it wasn’t so sad, I would have laughed when I read that they said that putting apple slices in Happy Meals makes parents feel better about feeding their kids Happy Meals. In what ways are happy meals more nutritious now that they have the option of having apple slices? There was no removal of fried chicken or fatty hamburgers or fries from these meals, just a “feel better” solution: adding apples.
I’m actually one of those people who likes vegetables and healthy stuff, purely on a basis of taste. So when I do my lap of the cafeteria before choosing what I want to eat, I go from left to right (healthy to unhealthy). First I glance at the minuscule vegetarian/vegan section that usually has dried out carrots and pasta of some sort. Then I take a look at the salad bar to see whether they have romaine or mixed greens. Iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value except for maybe giving you a bit more water in your diet, and the spinach sometimes tastes/looks like someone carried it around in their pockets for a while before putting it out. Seriously, what do they do to that stuff? Anyway, my next stop is the MTO salad bar, where they’ve seriously upped their game since last year. Now there’s all sorts of different varieties of salads with walnuts and fruits and fancy dressings. I always hope that I can stop my trip here and just grab something healthy and delicious and go. When I do, I usually hop around to the other stations anyway to grab some extra veggies like squash, green beans or broccoli. The servers are generally confused by the fact that I don’t want a new plate for my vegetables, but in fact want them *gasp* on top of my salad. Its not like it isn’t all gonna get mixed up in my stomach anyway. I skip the hamburger station entirely and might grab something not so healthy from the mongolian grill. On Friday, it was a stromboli. I found it interesting that I stopped to think about which stromboli would taste best (vegetable, cheese steak, or buffalo chicken), and which would align with my values. The vegetable would align best with my values but taste the worst (they seriously overcook those vegetables until they are limp and droopy), the cheese steak would taste the best but not align with my values of consuming as little red meat as possible. So I chose the buffalo chicken one, which ended up being too spicy. In the end, I’m glad I thought about my decision in a sense of enjoyment and values, but I’m sad that I ended up throwing out the stromboli anyway and wasting food.
I’m very interested to see how this class will affect the way I think about my food. I would consider myself already a pretty conscious eater, since I maintain a mainly vegetarian diet, with the exception of a little bit of chicken or fish. I choose to eat this way because of the adverse effects of large-scale beef and pork production, both for the animals themselves, as well as the environment. Because of my environmental concerns, I also try to be conscious about eating locally produced food. It is a challenge when eating from the food services at school, as I reflected upon this week, since I have little to no control over where my food comes from. However, I can say that I am happy to have slightly more knowledge about which foods are local, because I work closely with Bob Ginader, the director of food services, to increase the sustainability of our food services. Therefore we have discussed which foods are local (the bagels, the mixed fruits, some of the vegetables). I found myself thinking about this when I was making food choices this week, which lead to me eating a LOT of bagels. I really can’t complain, since they’re both local and totally tasty (I was pleasantly surprised to find blueberry and cinnamon raisin bagels along with plain this week!).
A Tale of Two Cities
Though this article was pretty short, it gave me a lot to think about. I think most evocative was the comparison between the resistance to Prop 37 and people’s dislike of mandatory seat belt laws and bans of smoking in public places. In the end, both of these policies greatly helped to improve public health overall. Bittman makes the point that two California counties’ nearly 30% support of the soda tax shows their interest in protecting their children’s futures by self imposing a tax on themselves to decrease the consumption of sodas and sugar-filled soft drinks. Though the laws didn’t pass, the recognition of these drinks as unhealthy is a big step in the right direction. I am personally in favor of higher taxes on beverages like soft drinks, because by increasing the prices of these drinks, perhaps healthier options will seem more attractive cost and health wise. This would definitely help to combat the issue of extremely cheap but unhealthy diets consumed by people who do not have much money to spend on food. I’m very excited to see public support of this policy since I think it will have the same positive public health repercussions as the seat belt and no-smoking laws.