Here’s the scenario: You know who I am. I come up to you, put out my closed fist, and ask, “Would you eat what’s in my hand?” You say “No” and then reply with the question, “What is it?” Even though you know me, you immediately refuse to eat it and then take action to find out what is in my hand.
Here’s what blows my mind about this scenario – it does not represent real world choices. Most people actually say “Yes” to eating unknown foods, do not take the time to find out what they are eating, and they do it every day from the hands of complete strangers who are profiting from their choice to eat blindly. Let me explain…
When people consume a processed product, most often they do not read the ingredients list. People often eat processed food products from a food producer they have never met, who most likely lives thousands of miles away, often in another country, without ever knowing what they are eating, where it comes from, or who made it. This means they are eating blindly.
People eat blindly for several reasons and the most obvious is because it’s fast. Fast processed food gets the job done! You just grab and go, no thinking required. Everyone is busy, so busy that finding out what they are putting in their body, and in their child’s body, falls last on their list. Ouch! But it’s true, and it needs to be said, and it needs to change.
Another reason people eat blindly is because food producers do an excellent job of marketing their products, luring the consumers in, and gaining their trust so they buy their product thinking that it’s good for them and their family. When people are busy, and don’t take time to find out what’s in their food, they trust these companies producing fast processed food to be telling the truth so they can feed their families without stress, without worry, and without extra work.
Unfortunately, most food companies do an awesome job at marketing but a poor job of telling the truth about their products. These food producers are not concerned about the consumers well-being as they are primarily focused on making a profit. Therefore, people need to start taking greater action in finding out what’s in their food. It’s our right to know EXACTLY what we are eating!
Why is knowing what we eat so important for us? Well, because what you put in your body ultimately affects your health! Most of the processed food products available to us are laced with unhealthy sugars, fats, and salts, not too mention the preservatives, food colourings, and other chemicals which do not belong inside the human body. Eating foods like this on a regular basis over a period of time contributes to the early onset of disease and illnesses. Processed food has become the everyday “go-to” food, and unfortunately making the choice to eat this type of food is causing a lot of harm, physically and mentally.
Our children also deserve to know what they are eating. They are the ones at the greatest risk here because levels of obesity and related illnesses are rising. What kind of example are we teaching when we don’t take the time to learn about our food, what it does for our body, for our health, and how to make better choices? When one is too busy to cook homemade meals, make homemade snacks, read ingredients lists and labels, learn about nutrition, and teach this to their kids, then I say they have a very serious health problem on their hands and it needs to be addressed immediately.
I personally feel food and nutrition should be a required subject in school from elementary to grade 12. Unfortunately cooking classes are not providing the necessary information children need to make informed decisions. I’m also a substitute teacher and I have been in these cooking classes, and wanted to bang my head against the wall. Anyway, that’s another topic.
There is no doubt that it can be confusing and overwhelming to learn about the food you are eating, but it’s a necessary task to live a healthy and better quality of life. Here are 5 steps you can take to eating smarter instead of eating blindly.
Make It Yourself!
You can make anything at home. One can even make homemade marshmallows (click here for the recipe). Do not make the big mistake of buying a bunch of processed components and putting it together at home and saying it’s homemade, because that’s not homemade! Use fresh whole foods and low processed foodstuffs. Remember stews, roasts, peas, carrots, pot pie, soups, salads, homemade pie and cookies, homemade apple cider, sauerkraut and sausage, etc.? Here’s a great recipe website for good ol’ fashion cooking and baking – click here. Think “eat whole, live, and local” and you will be well on your way to making better choices.
Grow a Garden!
Start a farm, or take up “hunting and gathering” (I’m serious), and utilize the fresh food that you collect to make homemade meals. Now that sounds like a lot of work and money, doesn’t it? Add up the hours it takes you to create a weekly grocery shopping list, collect coupons, read flyers for the sales, drive to all the stores, collect the groceries in your basket, stand in line at the checkout, bag the groceries and bring them home, and all the money it takes to do this. Now add up the amount of time and money it will take to create a garden, buy seed and fertilizer, store the food properly, and so on. Compare the two side by side. It’s amazing what you will discover. Click here for tips on how to start your own garden.
Support Your Local Farmer and Farmers’ Markets!
I spend way less money at the farmers’ markets than I do at the grocery stores. It’s a good feeling to know that I am supporting the local food system and food producers. Best of all, because it’s locally grown food, it’s fresh and therefore packs more nutrients. You can also work for your food on a local farm that offers this opportunity. I worked at Watershed Farm one summer for a food-share. It took me half a day to earn a week’s worth of vegetables, berries, herbs, eggs, and whatever was available that day. If you really want to get to know your food, that’s a fantastic way to learn. Involve your kids and they would get an valuable lesson that would last a lifetime.
Click on the name of the market below to go to their website. They have newsletters too!
- Lunenburg Farmers’ Market
- Mahone Bay Farmers’ Market
- Bridgewater Farmers’ Market
- Riverport Farmers’ Market
- Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia
Know the Company Making the Food You Are Eating!
Use the “information highway” and access their websites. Read their ‘About’ page. Find out what they put in their food products, where do they get their ingredients, what conscious efforts are they making to create a healthier population, and so forth. Doing this helps me decide if I want to support a certain food producer or blacklist them. If I have blacklisted a company, it is first due to the fact that they do not use healthy ingredients and so their product is void of nutritional value. Therefore I do not need to read their “About” page or investigate these companies further because I don’t care what else they do. If they can’t start with the most important thing, which is providing nutritious food products that do not contain harmful ingredients, then I don’t want them to even exist on the shelves.
Read the Ingredients List!
Here’s how I have grown into the habit: instead of researching every ingredient on the list for every single product I pick up, I started by getting in the habit of just reading the list, even when I had no idea what the hell I was reading, which eventually signaled me to put it back on the shelf until I learned more. But whether you put it back on the shelf or not, at least make it a habit of reading the list of ingredients After a while, certain ingredients will stick out and you will recognize them on the news, in articles, or in discussion with others. This information will help you make better choices when buying food for you and others. This is especially important for your kids who really need all the help they can get today as there is so much going against them.
Learning about your food doesn’t have to be stressful, nor do you need to learn about every single ingredient right now. That’s impossible! It will take years and years. Instead of looking at it as something you have to learn right, at this very moment, make it a life-long study that you do in small doses. It’s amazing what you will learn over time.
So there you have it – 5 ways to help you transition from eating blindly to eating smarter: make it yourself, grow your own, buy from local food producers, know the food producers you buy from, and read the ingredients list. It’s not that difficult, and it’s your responsibility. If you want to take better care of yourself, and your family, then start first with knowing exactly what it is you are putting inside your body. Don’t eat blindly. It can make you sick.