WHY DON’T WE VALUE OUR FOOD ANY MORE
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Those of us who still have children in secondary school will know what I mean when I say that children look ‘different’ to how they used too when I was at school – and I don’t mean the mullet haircuts, or any other dodgy 80’s fashion statement.
During the 1980’s the girls looked like super-models (most of them), and the boys were generally athletic with a few skinny geeks thrown in. I remember in my year at school that there was also one fat kid – but compared to fat kids nowadays he was more well-built than anything else (and - as skinny as I was - he still beat me a tennis on a regular basis).
And here lies the difference. In my minds eye, all the children who were at school with me were thin, but in today’s reality most of the children seem to be fat – depending in which part of the country you live in.
So what has changed? Well with the advent of modern technological advances our children spend much of their free time either on the computer, watching TV or playing computer games. And while a more sedentary lifestyle is certainly a major contributing factor to childhood obesity, our 21st century diet has a lot to answer for too. You may be surprised to read that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that older kids should not watch more than 1-2 hours of TV or video per day, and that kids under age 2 not watch any television at all!
WHERE IT STARTED TO GO WRONG - THE TV DINNER
We live in an age of consumerism, were life-style and possessions are how we measure success against our peers. But with the high cost of property, foreign holidays and the periodic expectation of a new car, the pressure on a single income family is usually two much to achieve, so for the modern dream to become a reality the ‘double income’ family has become the only viable option.
And here lies the problem. With both partners out at work - and usually too exhausted to become involved in house keeping when they are at home - cooking becomes an inconvenient and time consuming activity when most hardworking folk just want to relax in front of the Telly. Why go to the bother of shopping for individual items, which then need to be prepared and then cooked when you can pull out an easy ready-meal from the freezer. If you really want to push the boat out then you could always buy a takeaway. And remember; think of all the washing up you would be saving on.
Take a look back to the 1950’s 60’s and 70’s when cheap processed food was all about burgers, fish fingers and a tin of beans. Imported food was still expensive and the ‘all year round’ availability of fresh produce was a thing of the future. With most homes having just the one bread winner ‘mother’ had time to cook and prepare ‘proper’ meals. Food was valued because it most of it was only available for short periods during the year (its natural harvest season) and it was expensive – in fact the cost of food shopping during these decades represented an average of 25% of the family budget! At the beginning of the 21st century this has dropped dramatically to an average of just 10%. How many times do you remember being told to ‘…finish you plate because there were starving kids in Africa...’
Food just wasn’t wasted because – quite simply – it was too expensive. You ate what was put in front of you and you didn’t leave the table until it was gone.
WHY IS TODAY DIFFERENT?
The vast majority of our population is isolated from how our food is produced, but perhaps worst still, they are ignorant of where our food comes from or how it is processed.
There is the old joke of asking a city based school children.
“Where does your milk come from?”
Only to receive Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s as a reply. The very thought of milk coming from a cow generally give an air of disgust but nowadays it is not so much a joke as a serious concern.
Our culture is obsessed with making food cheaper and cheaper – devaluing one of our most precious commodities. In addition, the food that we do put in to our mouths is usually manipulated to taste better than it actually is. The question is would we actually eat it if it wasn’t processed. The answer is probably - No!
Processed ready meals can contain a range of trace chemicals ranging from insecticides and fungicides, to colorants and preservatives. Unfortunately the downside of 'lack of taste' and 'flavour' often coincides with a significantly reduced nutritional value, but not to worry as this is replaced by Mmmmm - flavoursome fats and sugars, often with a heavy sprinkling of salt. Is this a healthy option or just a convenience option?
But surely the farming industry in this country is heavily regulated to make sure that the food we produced is of the highest standards. It is, but many companies buy their food from countries where production methods are less regulated and therefore cheaper.
The business practice of Bernard Matthews - a well known producer of turkey based products - is a good example. The company imports turkeys from countries with 'cheaper' production costs. However, by processing these ‘foreign’ turkeys into twizzlers or burgers etc in this country they can be legitimately sold as a British product. Unfortunately importing cheaper foods can have additional risks such as bird flu. Bernard Mathews made the headlines in 2007 when claims were alleged that lethal bird flu may have been brought into Britain on a lorryload of their imported turkeys from Hungary.
The effects on our bodies of a diet high in processed food are well documented. High blood pressure, obesity, increased incidences of cancer and heart problems. Whereas a diet containing a high proportion of organically grown fresh produce eaten raw or properly cooked show substantial health benefits.
The condition of your body has a direct correlation to the quality of food that you put into it. Ask your self this question.
Do you want your children to eat the best quality food, or food that is produced at the cheapest possible cost where its quality – or your children’s health - is not a factor?
WHAT IS A HEALTHY DIET?
The food standards agency states that a healthy balanced diet contains a variety of foods including plenty of fruit and vegetables, plenty of starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and lentils and some dairy foods. It should also be low in fat (especially saturated fat), salt and sugar.
Of course there is one way that can guarantee that your food has been locally grown and produced without being sprayed with a cocktail of insecticides, molluscicides and fungicides. The answer - Grow you own!
Quite simply, it all comes down to this simple and rather obvious statement.
‘IF YOU VALUE YOUR BODY, VALUE YOUR FOOD!’
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