Monday, November 22, 2010

Food for Thought

Have you noticed the abundance of fiber infused products in the grocery store? There’s FiberOne cereals and bars, crackers with extra fiber, digestive cookies with fiber added, and of course yogurts like Activia that are marketed to get your insides moving. The end goal is to move food through the digestive system by adding the nutrient needed that many people are not consuming enough of: fiber. Without it? You might have trouble digesting. The main source of it in nature? Fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains.

So why, you may be wondering, are so many products with added fiber popping up everywhere, when it is naturally abundantly found in the major food groups you should be eating every day. Well, there are a few reasons. Numero uno is that Americans just don’t eat their vegetables. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out the results of a nationwide behavioral study a couple months ago that shows not only that American’s don’t eat nearly enough veggies, but that the consumption of them has not increased in any noticeable fashion since 2000 even with the recent attention to whole foods, healthy eating, and Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. Where have all the veggies gone? No one knows. Maybe it’s a resistance to brussels sprouts and lima beans as a vestige of being forced to eat them as children. OR maybe, it’s because in our culture of convenience, there just aren’t many vegetable and fruit options that don’t take a lot of peeling and chopping to get the nutrition you need.

I’ve been forced into eating out every day thanks to my travels with work, and quite frankly, I have been appalled at the lack of healthy options on the restaurant menus across the city I’ve been staying in.  I’ve sampled nearly every restaurant there, and these are the only veggies I’ve found:

-An assortment of salads that are not actually healthy thanks to the fried chicken, bacon, candied nuts, and creamy dressings they are topped with. The sad part is, that even the salads don’t have extra added veggies in most cases, but are just lettuce topped with meat, cheese, and sauce
-Seasonal vegetables: A combo of rubbery summer squash (out of season), broccoli, and carrots
-“Grilled” Asparagus, that was delivered to me literally dripping in butter, even though I requested none

Typically when I eat out, I’m not concerned with being overly healthy, as I know that day to day I eat a well-balanced diet with lots of fruit, and several servings of veggies. Without the green stuff, I find myself feeling overfull, tired, and lack luster. Yet when I had to eat out for every meal, it became apparent how non-nutritious, and overtly lacking in vegetable options the restaurants are. Only one restaurant had a full vegetable meal with options of veggies to add to the salad galore.

I find it alarming that when eating out at any of the major chain restaurants in America you are forced to choose high calorie or higher, and vegetables aren’t integrated into the menus. I’m sure there are many households that survive on take out and delivery services because of busy schedules. If people aren’t seeing vegetables on their plates as something appealing and delicious when they eat out, why should they think they will be good when they make them at home? Veggies are delicious when prepared properly, and don’t need to be soaked in butter to bring out their flavors. I know that fresh produce can be more expensive and has a shorter shelf life than most other grocery items, but when does it stop being about cutting costs, and start being about getting healthy and the nutrients our bodies need?

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