Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In Defense of Food Companies (sort of)

What? Defending food companies? In a way, yes. Hang on, I'll explain!

I've been watching The Weight of the Nation and I while I spend most of the time nodding my head and pumping my fist, there are some parts where I just want to scream out at the screen because I am so sick of hearing people say that they are victims of food marketing. I understand; companies spend millions upon millions of dollars to market food to us and our kids, and it is hard to tell the difference sometimes between what is really healthy for us and what is just marketing. I get that.

These companies do all of this and then say that our national obesity problem is one of personal choice because we choose to buy the food. It ticks me off to hear that after seeing how much they spend to convince us to buy it and then drop the hot potato when anyone accuses them of being the source of the problem.

But they're right, you know.

I've never seen a food company march up to someone's house, barge through the door, stock the pantry with junk food, and then proceed to open the mouths of the homeowner and cram it full of Oreos. The last I checked, children were not given debit cards.  At last measure, parents still made the rules of what gets served at mealtime. This food is landing in our houses because we buy it.

Why do we buy it? Because our kids want it. Well, of course they do! My kid would eat candy all day long if I let him do it. He doesn't, because I am in charge, not him. I buy the food and decide what we eat. Yeah, he grumbles about it but he also knows that I'm not actually being mean and hateful. I'm actually showing him an intense amount of love and devotion. 

What we need is better education about what is actually healthy (*cough* plant-based diet *cough*) and what is not (that would be pretty much everything else). Then we need to toughen up, grit our teeth, tell our kids NO when they want to fill the buggy with junk food, and stop blaming food companies for our own lack of restraint in the grocery store.

It is so so so hard to say no to our precious children. I hate doing it; I feel mean and crummy when he is disappointed and it takes everything in me to stand my ground and not cave to those pleading eyes. But here's the thing: he's six years old. He's not mature enough, knowledgeable enough, or remotely qualified to make our grocery list. A list of Legos we're missing to finish our Army fort? He's on it. Meal-planning for the week? As much as he would love the job, sorry. Not gonna happen.

Yeah, food companies spend millions to get you to buy their food. They're in the food-selling business, not healthy family-building. Turn off the TV, stop believing them, and stop buying it. 

Don't be a victim! Get out there and get healthy, even when your sweet baby wants to put frosting on their breakfast and dip their chicken nuggets in syrup. 

You're in charge. Not them. Rant over!


Anonymous said...

One of the more difficult things for me was the prices. I understand that in the long run, healthier food means lower doctor bills and all of that, but when you are on a tight budget and can purchase 3 days of food or 8 days of food, cost will trump longevity. The problem is not so bad for us now, but it still hurts to have a huge grocery bill when you know that the unhealthy stuff is sometimes a quarter the cost. And that's MY beef with the food companies. Not so much the junk food marketing, but the disgusting difference in price between food that is unadulterated and food that has been super processed, put in a bag/can/box, handled by machines and many hands and chemicals. $5 for a bag of apples? Or $3 for 5 big cans of "organic" applesauce? It's a hard mental battle. (D- K's niece)

Healthy Heather said...

Great point. It is so frustrating to know that so many families are practically forced to eat unhealthy foods because of the way our food system works. It is unfair and irresponsible! Some of our clean eating leaders (Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, and others) are starting a campaign to reform the Farm Bill, which governs what is grown and distributed in our country. Until supporting organic agriculture is government policy, I'm afraid that all the talk about needing to solve our obesity problem is just lip service.

Linda said...

You're absolutely right, Heather. There's always going to be crap food out there in abundance, but in the end it's about our own choices. My kids rebelled like crazy when I started cooking and eating clean. They've mostly come around, though. It seems to me that we can change our kids' habits - and our own - with time and persistence.

Healthy Heather said...

It takes a lot of patience and teeth-gritting to stand your ground as a parent and raise a healthy family. I am by no means perfect at it, and I stumble and hang my head in shame sometimes after letting my kid eat some kind of junk whatever. But 90% of the time, I hit the nail on the head and it feels SO GREAT!