We know more about food and healthy eating today than in any time in history. There are entire TV channels devoted to the art of cooking and eating well, and while what’s being cooked on TV often is not feasible, it’s still fun to watch.
Ours is the generation that made trans fats a dinosaur. We yap and yammer about “locally grown” and “farm-to-table.”
Food writing is no longer where you send reporters to punish them. It’s now a prestigious and influential beat.
Chefs have supplanted rock stars, with some even making the gossip rags when they get divorced or arrested.
We’ve become a nation of foodies and label-readers, always on the lookout for too much salt and sugar.
Well, sort of.
While the “foodie” part may be accurate, and while we know and understand these things are bad for us, the truth is, when no one is looking, we dive head-first into an abyss of bacon-sprinkled donuts any chance we get.
It is true that Americans are growing more sophisticated and discerning in choosing what to eat. It’s also true that a lot of us wouldn’t touch an artichoke heart with a dead man’s hand; not when there’s a pizza within reach.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, obesity is at significant levels. The agency reports:
- 36.5 percent of American adults qualify as obese.
- Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, are some of the leading causes of preventable death.
- The estimated annual medical cost of obesity ranges in the hundreds of millions; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
The problem of extreme obesity is so prevalent that it’s become “entertainment” in the form of reality-show fodder, making quasi-celebrities of the struggling people featured on “My 600-Pound Life” and “The Biggest Loser.”
We would be remiss in ignoring that poor nutrition and poverty often go hand in hand. In far too many cases, “organic” is just another word for “overpriced.”
People who need healthy food the most can least afford it. They buy according to their budget, which means no fresh fruit and highly processed and canned foods.
But even among the fortunate ones who can afford to eat better, we choose not to.
As America grows more diverse, perhaps the growing number of immigrants and the foods they’re bringing with them will serve to help us eat better by eating differently.
Thirty years ago, who could have envisioned that Americans would go gaga for sushi or Chipotle?
It remains to be seen if they can maintain their culinary traditions, or if their dishes will become more Americanized, as in biggie-sized, cheese-laden and deep-fried like a Snickers bar.