Thursday, June 21, 2012

Grocery Spending in America

The chart below from the Bureau of Labor Statisitics has some intriguing data on what we spend our money on in the grocery store.

You would think with more farmers markets and CSA's emerging, and with the general trend of eating real, whole food, that Americans spending on processed food would have decreased. Unfortunately as this chart shows, we are spending more on processed items than ever. Since 1982, our spending has just about doubled in this area. What does this tell us? Our reliance on processed food is too high. It is another contributing factor to the health problems we face here. Processing any kind of food, regardless of how healthy it is, strips it of many key nutrients. Not only that, but they contain many added preservatives and chemicals to enhance the flavor. These are things that do not occur naturally in real food. Some examples are xantham gum, yellow #5, and of course high fructose corn syrup.

A quick glance at this chart may seem like meat consumption has decreased since 1982. This is not true. Instead, the price of meat has decreased, and we are eating about the same amount of it as 30 years ago. So, why did the price drop? Large, factory farms have taken over the market, they feed their animals cheap corn, grow their animals larger than what is natural, and have increased that rate of which they can slaughter.

The best way to combat processed food spending is to buy as much as you can from farmers markets and local producers, or grow your own food in a backyard garden. Choosing meats from a farm you know feeds their animals grass is another step in the right direction. If buying processed food, it is always a good idea to read the ingredients and make a choice from there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Soda Ban

By now I am sure most of you have heard about Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban to limit the amount of sugary beverages sold in New York City. It prohibits the sale of these types of drinks larger than 16 ounces. By sugary, they mean sodas, iced tea, and energy drinks, but it does not include diet sodas, fruit juices, milk-based beverages, or alcoholic beverages. This ban would take place at movie theaters, restaurants, sports arenas, and fast food chains.

This proposed ban has been the source of a lot of debate over the past couple weeks. Many see this as one step too far and that we should have the right to drink whatever size drink that we want. In reality, there are ways around this. No one is stopping you from buying more than one drink if you really wanted to. I think the important thing here is not that it is taking away our rights, but that it is making consumers more conscious of their drink purchases.

Soda has been a big target in recent years when talking about the causes of obesity and this is another plan to combat it. It is the largest source of empty calories you can consume, having no real nutritional benefit at all. It has many adverse health effects and is a big contributor to the obesity epidemic. This ban is another step in the right direction. Of course if you want to continue drinking a lot of soda, this is not going to necessarily stop you. Although, it will hopefully make people think twice about what they drink and help to limit consumption in at least some people.