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Challenge of eating nutritious food in tough times

Food for fuel: it is often tempting for those in a hurry or on a low budget to grab “junk non-food”, but healthy food contains the fuel your body needs (Photograph courtesy of freepik.com)

This is the first in a four-part series on getting through the Covid-19 aftermath, global economic inflation challenges, family recovery and return to normalcy.

If it wasn’t enough to stoically endure the Covid extremes in grieving, employment, isolation, worry, prevention, education, childcare, savings sabotage, and just plain exhaustion, now food and oil costs are escalating rapidly again.

More than 13 years ago, similar conditions were impacting families – I know because I was writing about them then, too. Food inflation was kicking in, oil was projected to reach $100-$200 a barrel, serious enough but nowhere near the triple family whammy still struggling with a Covid economic recovery after losing fellow Bermuda islanders.

What is a family to do? The basics of planning, shopping, cooking, eating is a never-ending challenge at any time – it has just become even more important to provide nutrition, real nutrition, at a reasonable financial cost and ever another challenge – reasonably acceptable to family palates.

The challenge for families today is maximum nutrition for minimal cost – food is life-sustaining fuel, not treats.

Two illustrative situations:

One: It is later than you thought – your boss needed that report done today; you almost didn’t make it to daycare to pick up the children; everyone is tired and there is at least a 45-minute commute home. You rush into a convenience store and pick up a few juice boxes, a few bags of chips and a bag of cheese doodles. You think to yourself guiltily, it is only occasionally. Reality, this is happening more and more; the result, the children have little or no interest in (or taste for) real food upon arrival home.

Two: close friends, both exhausted-looking mothers, are pushing two food carriages around the supermarket, three small children in one, two in the other. In their baskets are frozen pizza, canned soup, baby necessaries, and assorted boxes/bags of chips, doodles, soda, and cookies.

No real protein in sight – is this a rash judgment on my part? No, because we all see this more than we would like because we do it ourselves – because we simply cannot do it all.

Covid’s harmful impact has distorted our sense of normalcy. Food, in general, became both a palliative to our concerns as well as physically harder to obtain. Endless lock-ups with little to no exercise lent to frustration snacking and highly excusable lapses in food normal.

Many have bemoaned the 20-30 pound Covid weight gain.

It’s a big, big business, the selling of snacks. Those little crunchy orange cheesy squares (the downfall for almost everyone in our household) are completely addictive. Factory production is a sight to behold, acres and acres of orange-looking carpet (so you think) until a bar comes down and millions of tiny (brand-names obscured) square morsels start bounding down the conveyor belt, on their way to you and me – at a premium cost with little health benefit.

Are we being fooled by the food industry into buying high profit items for them, not nutritional items for us?

Thousands of food ads in media and print bombard us every year.

Food is portrayed as an experience. Not much attempt is made to appeal to your body-fuelling routine to keep you from falling on your face when you have literally consumed your caloric intake.

Triathletes, who really care about good body harmony, call this “hitting the wall”. They are in the business of best food fuels for high productivity.

Are we unwittingly paying extra for shorter lifespans? What does a child know about nutritional content or the cost of food? They just know that they want something that tastes “good” and they want it right now.

Endless articles have been written by dieticians, nutritionists, and medical doctors warning of the effects of poor diet: early diabetes and high blood pressure seen in children as young as seven, poor muscle coordination, higher incidence of tooth decay, decreased learning power, all contributing to the higher future cost of health.

So what about the cost? I do not even pretend to be one of the health professionals listed above, for whom I have the greatest respect.

But, I do know that these recreational bites (more aptly referred to as junk non-food) are costing you dearly.

How many times have you had a discussion with someone about the cost of meat or fresh produce from a local Bermuda farm? Way too expensive, you say. Really?

What do you think the cost per ounce/pound/gram is for the protein content of a large size bag of potato chips?

Which has more life-enhancing nutrients and how do you differentiate the quality?

Food for fuel: by the time children reach school age, they are very much conditioned by their peers, who are also persuaded by powerful snack food ads.

As adults we succumb to temptation, too – it is too easy. I tried to limit junk food in our household when my children were small. Hah! They told me in no uncertain terms that I was a real mean mother.

At this point, some dear readers will put down this article feeling that I am infringing upon your right to choose to “have a food experience or a critical comment on how you manage your family’s diet”.

But, you see, I really don’t want to tell you what to eat.

Serving good, life-sustaining food is not easy to do. It requires planning, just like a vacation or a shopping trip. You can make good food choices, but I warn you they are not exciting and require a new mind-set.

So, you have to ask yourself – how do you want to achieve your goals? You can plan for a lifelong positive experience of reaching financial goals, and healthy lifestyles, no matter the circumstances, or stay the course for the momentary experience, for the refuge from the Covid fatigue, entertainment value, distraction value or whatever?

You decide. I’m on your side – always focusing on helping individuals and community to achieve financial security.

Part 2: – Stay tuned next week for the Foodworthy Quotient Score update and interactive help on eating better cost-efficient food for fuel.

Martha Harris Myron, a native Bermudian with US connections, is a qualified international cross-border financial planner, the author of The Bermuda Islander Financial Planning Primers, since 2016, a Google News Contributor (50+ articles), international financial consultant to the Olderhood Group Bermuda Ltd., and financial columnist to The Royal Gazette. All proceeds from these articles are donated by The Royal Gazette to the Salvation Army, Bermuda. Contact: martha@pondstraddler.com

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Published October 16, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated October 19, 2021 at 8:04 am)

Challenge of eating nutritious food in tough times

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