Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Food, Inc – it may change the way you think about food

“The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years, than in the previous 10,000.”  And so, the movie begins.  I finally watched Food, Inc. by Robert Kenner, last weekend.  Wow.  What a great film.  Before seeing it, I knew the idea of the film, had seen it advertised and expected I would agree with many of the messages in the film.  I was right.

It is unfortunate that we are in a society where it often costs more to eat natural, whole foods, eat slow (as in the Slow Food Movement of which I have written) and just simply to eat more healthfully.  I hate when I see a client who chooses to buy more highly processed foods simply because they find them to be cheaper than their less processed, more natural counterparts.  In turn, I hate that there exists an enormous economic burden of rising healthcare costs as a result of how unhealthy Americans eat.  So, is the less healthy food really cheaper?  And, is it possible to eat healthfully on a low income?

We are and always have been a product of what we eat.  When you nourish your body well, you reduce the risk of illness and chronic disease.  As cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity increase in prevalence in America, we can link them all back to what we eat.  Chronic inflammation (a factor in chronic disease) exists in staggering levels in our society and is often a result of high fat, high sugar diets that lack balanced nutrients.  Of course, physical activity plays a significant role here too – something we can all aim to incorporate well into our daily lives.  Physical activity and eating will certainly always go hand in hand when it comes to our health.

I find that the movie, Food, Inc. has many good suggestions as to how we can improve our health and reduce the economic burden of not eating well.  There are certainly different sides to every story and I know there can be exceptions to “the rule.”  For instance, many school systems are making great strides in improving the food selections for their students.  Take the Mooresville Graded Schools and Iredell-Statesville Schools, for instance.  They have implemented the Winner’s Circle Healthy Dining Program, offering well balanced, nutritious breakfasts and lunches to school children.  Additionally, I do find that with proper planning and education, consumers can be taught to shop more economically at the grocery store (and even farmers markets) so that it can be possible to feed a family with fresh (and sometimes even local) foods, in addition to foods that are simply more natural, while trying to stay within a reasonable budget.

There are many other issues addressed in the movie, from food safety to animal welfare, and you will have to watch it to see how you feel about them.

I will say, I found it wonderful to learn that Wal-Mart brand milks are now all rBST-free (rBST is a growth hormone which can allow cows to produce milk at unnaturally high levels).  And, you can find more and more free-range, organic, natural and local foods at more and more stores in our area – including big retailers like Wal-Mart!

If you have not seen the movie, I encourage you to do so.  If you want to watch the movie trailer or learn more, visit www.foodincmovie.com.  And, if you take any message away from watching the movie or reading this article, take this – you have the power to make change!  You have the power to make positive changes in how you eat. You have the power to elect informed politicians who support policies to improve our food system, making it safer and healthier for all of us.  So, no matter how you take it, always know the power of a few can make positive changes for many.

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