Saturday, September 8, 2012

Why Does It Have to Be So Hard to Be Healthy?

We all know that the "food" industry has lobbyists and ties to the government that make it harder and harder for us to have reasonably-priced access to real food. But it's not just the government and food manufacturers (I use that word intentionally) that are part of the problem.

We rarely eat fast food, because it's expensive, and it's not even remotely healthy. But on a recent trip, my choices were limited, so we stopped at Wendy's. It's the cheapest place that the boys and I can eat - at least on the list of places I'll eat. And they do have baked potatoes.

I worked at Wendy's when I was in high school. That was almost 20 years ago. (Ouch.) Back then, a small drink was 12 oz, a medium was 20 oz, and a large was 32 oz. Now a small is 20 oz, a medium is 32 oz, and a large is 42 oz. Yowza. We won't even talk about the increase in the serving sizes of the french fries. Wendy's is not the only fast food chain to "supersize" all their portions. What could possibly be motivating them? My first guess would be money, of course. Except that at McDonald's all three sizes of soft drinks are $1.00. So I have no clue, unless somehow, the fast food industry has a stake in keeping us all unhealthy and sick. I just don't get it.

Then we have the grocery stores. At least I get where they're coming from - they only stock what sells. But maybe if they'd consider stocking a few new items every few months, they'd find that most of it will sell. I do realize that not all grocery stores are in locations where shoppers have the extra income to buy better food. But even the ones that are, don't take full advantage.

I rarely shop at Publix because while they do have some "health food"* items, they're mixed in with the regular products. Which seems to make sense, except that I don't want to search through 15 different brands to find one that's made without preservatives or gluten-free. I love that Kroger has a special section for "health food". It makes it much easier to find everything. I have to admit, I've become totally spoiled by Kroger. There is not a Whole Foods or Trader Joes near me, so I have to just deal with whatever the local stores have. I know the internet is out there, but the stores pretty much have what I need.

But when I went to Arkansas this summer, I was frustrated to find that the Kroger that is right across the street from my parents' neighborhood only has a tiny "health food" section. As in, about one-quarter of one aisle. That's it. That's the whole section. Lest you think that none of their customers wanted that kind of products, let me tell you that every time I went there, the aisle was crowded. Obviously, there is a market for the healthier food. What was even worse was the location of this aisle. It was in the middle of the cookie/snack food section. I kid you not.

The end-cap
This is the view from the "health food" section.

I know it's hard and I know it can be expensive, but we have to let the entire food industry know that we want access to real food, healthy food. I know that not everyone can (or wants to) cook from scratch, but if you can start replacing just one meal a week with real food, cooking from scratch is actually much cheaper than buying pre-packaged food. (Of the health or junk food variety.)

*I use this term loosely. The food is still boxed and packaged. It's healthier than most of the products in the store, but fruits and vegetables are the true health food. Most grocery stores have plenty of those.