Making junk food giants redundant

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Chloe’s career choices so far have included: princess, hairdresser, jewellery maker … and now (drumroll please), nutritionist. Let me savour this tiny little moment where she wants to be just like me. I know it will be over soon and I should probably drink it in. She’ll be stomping up stairs and applying for a job at KFC before I know it. Maybe! Or maybe not. Is it possible that her acceptance of “healthy stuff” will be life long? Will roles like mine be as necessary as they are now, or will our health crisis have turned a corner by the time she is in her teens?

I attended an interesting obesity symposium earlier this week. During question time, one of the doctors asked the speaker if fast or processed food manufacturers would be held accountable for their actions in the same way that tobacco companies have been. The premis is that these multinational corporations deliberately manufacture their products to be biochemically addictive, and market them aggressively to both children and adults, despite knowing they are catastrophically unhealthy.

I think the problem is that although it would be relatively easy to identify extremes where this has occurred (and just because they are extreme, does not mean that they are rare), the tricky part would be knowing where to draw the line. Who gets fined and who doesn’t? Smoking tobacco is categorically “bad for you” no matter which brand or type. But what types of sugar are a problem? All of them? Just high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or sucrose too? At what point does a little become too much? When a drink contains 10 teaspoons of sugar or 22?

Although I like the sentiment and think the indignation over the callous disregard for health (in the face of profit) is warranted, I am worried that pursuing legal cases would be a waste of effort and resources. I am almost tempted to say “what’s done is done” and just suggest we focus on undoing the damage and implementing change instead. The biggest blow to the junk food giants wouldn’t necessarily be a fine, it would be to make them redundant. Wouldn’t that be amazing if we could make that happen?

You know, people are smarter than we give them credit for. I genuinely believe that if “healthy” was cheaper, easier and more accessible, more people would willingly make healthy choices. And that’s what we need to happen, we need people to feel able to achieve and maintain a healthier life. If being healthy is more expensive and time consuming, it’s just simply not going to happen on any meaningful scale.

That’s not to say addiction isn’t an issue, it is. The symposium this week has presented plenty of evidence demonstrating that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. What that means is that if people are to change their lives, they need the resources to be able to do it. That necessitates a supportive environment at all levels — a better understanding of food addiction, updated food education in schools, family and community awareness, healthy workplaces and healthy public figure role models. I also feel passionately that we have to enable our grocery stores and restaurants to offer cheaper healthy options. I’ve said this before, but if it means taxing junk food to transparently subside fresh produce, then all the better. Remember — being healthy has to be cheaper, easier and more accessible. In the same vein, making junk prohibitively more expensive would be great. If you think that sounds like too much of a nanny state, then fine. Good luck affording your health insurance in 10 years time.

I have said before that every time you buy something, you are essentially casting a vote about what you want. This is great in theory as because grocery stores supply what you demand, you really do influence the profits of the multinationals. This can fall down though where shopping isn’t just about what you want, but about what you can afford too. If your budget is tight, it can be harder to stop lining the pockets of the junk food industry. Just know that the more profitable they get, the more expensive (in contrast) healthy food gets. At some point we have to make that stop.

In the end, the way we eat will change. It has to, because what we are doing right now will break us socially and economically. If you want it to happen in your lifetime, it’s going to take a radical shift in public policy AND individual responsibility. While we figure it all out, how about a healthy recipe for an affordable family meal? This one is great because it’s super quick to throw in the oven and you only have to tend to it once. I have used organic chicken (no growth hormone please!) but choosing thighs makes it cheaper. They are less lean, but this is offset by tons of vegetables and no bad fats or added sodium. This is a really good crowd pleaser and very flexible, so don’t hesitate to switch out the veg for what you have in the fridge already. Enjoy.

Chicken and pineapple tray bake

Ingredients (serves 4)

∑ 1lb organic boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs

∑ 1 tbsp light olive oil

∑ 1 tsp paprika powder (or cayenne pepper if you prefer)

∑ 2 red onions , cut into thick wedges

∑ 2 cups butternut squash, chopped into one inch pieces

∑ 2 red peppers , deseeded and cut into thick slices

∑ 1 garlic clove , finely chopped

∑ 1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped

∑ 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes, or 2 tins

Method:

1. Heat oven to 390F.

2. Place the chicken, onions, butternut squash, peppers and garlic in a large roasting pan (greased) and rub in the olive oil and paprika (or cayenne if you prefer a spicy dish) til evenly distributed. Lay the mixture flat in one layer.

3. Scatter the tomatoes and then the pineapple over the top. If you use fresh tomatoes, catch the juice as you chop them by chopping them on a plate or in a large bowl. Add the escaped juice too.

4. Roast for 40 mins, turning the chicken over after 20 mins, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with a large green salad or steamed green veg.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the Managing Director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a Registered Dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda

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Published Jun 14, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm)

Making junk food giants redundant

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