Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Obesity Debate: Bad Food or Rents?

When I was a little kid, I grew up on a fruit farm in St. Catharines where I ate my snacks off various trees or plucked them from the ground. Each summer, there were baskets of second grade peaches, cherries and strawberries that my grandfather couldn’t take to the station, the same fruits that I now have to pay six bucks for at the grocery store.

In the winter, we ate jarred fruit put up by my granny over the summer. If we wanted another kind of snack, grandpa would climb down the rickety wooden stairs and toss a basket of popcorn – kernels he grew himself – into the furnace and let it fluff up.

I rarely got a store bought snack, unless it was a holiday. My mum bought pop, but we were allowed only one can a week, not because she wanted to limit our sugar but because she was poor and couldn’t afford to buy us more than that.

It was only when I went to my Auntie Aylwyn’s – every Friday night – that I was able to take advantage of the snacks that modern technology had created: cheese in a tube, various slices of prepared meats, those mixtures of Chex and nuts that were all the rage. And I could have two or three bottles of soda. Man, I loved going to my Auntie’s.

When my grandrents kicked it, my mother moved to the city. That’s when my entire life became a snack. In the BC (before city) days, I don’t think I had juice twice. AC, I had orange juice every day. BC, I ate food from the land; AC, a lot of it was mystery food which came in aluminum trays carrying the moniker “Swanson”.

My mother worked shift work, so it was left to me to prepare my meals. I got really tired of the junk food she was buying and decided that I preferred the real deal: food that didn’t come in a package, slathered with edible oil products.

Post-AC days, I’ve continued to eat real food, the kind that comes from the exterior aisles of the grocery store, not the middle. My kids rarely ate the bad stuff until they could choose it themselves and, even though they are slaves at the altar of Red Bull, they do eat better as adults than most kids.

Once in a while, Scott and I will break down and have fast food and we really pay for it. If we have Chinese or pizza, we both wake up in the middle of the night with mouths as parched as the desert and chug down gallons of water. In the morning, my skin crawls.

So I was interested to see read an excerpt from a new book which was featured in the New York Times on the weekend: Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.


The book explains the lengths to which the food scientists went to identify and target our bliss points with foods that take advantage of our brain chemistry and make us crave the salt, sugar and other additives.

If you haven’t read this article, and you’re concerned about your health and the obesity of your children, you should read it, or the book.

I strongly believe that a child who is taught to eat well from the beginning will have a better chance of avoiding the fast food pitfalls. It doesn’t mean kids should be completely denied the foods they crave; it’s just that we parents have a responsibility to cook for them, and show them how to cook for themselves. Seriously? I don’t think most kids know what real food looks or tastes like.

None of us are perfect. I’m over-weight and have high blood pressure but that’s because I’ve made other bad choices – like drinking too much and eating too many bad carbs. But yesterday, at a restaurant, we got talking to a total stranger, a man in his 50s, who didn’t believe that Scott and I were older than he was. He was convinced we were in our early 40s.

And that, I believe, is completely thanks to my early food imprint and my lifelong quest to eat the right unpackaged foods, without preservatives or high salt and sugar contents.

I thank my grandparents for that gift, so many years ago.

My mother, not so much.  

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