My passion for food is no secret, but it goes beyond simply enjoying a meal. Since arriving in Belgium I’ve changing my entire outlook on food. I know I blather on about sustainability in food, eating local and avoiding the processed stuff and I hope it doesn’t all sound too preachy. The thing is, I’m angry.
- I’m angry the American (and to a lesser but no less detrimental sense, the Canadian) government has made it difficult for the average person to understand where our food comes from.
- I’m angry that food labels reading “light” and “heart healthy” don’t mean what we expect them to mean.
- I’m angry that enormous animal factories are allowed to churn out chickens that can’t walk and never see the light of day.
- I’m angry that it’s cheaper for a person on a limited income to buy a Big Mac than a bag of carrots.
- I’m angry that many school children have never seen a meal being prepared from scratch.
- Most of all, I’m angry that we think we are making good food choices, based on what we read or are told about certain food, but we are being mislead.
I’ve been reading more and more about the industrial food system in place in the world today and its effect on our bodies and health. Currently I’m in the middle of The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan. (I’ve also read his latest book, In Defense of Food and it’s fantastic as well). The book looks at the food we eat, from its beginning days as a grain of corn, to its end as a meal on our plate. It’s pretty disturbing stuff.
The most frightening statistic I read the other day is 1 in 3 children born after 2000 in America will have type 2 diabetes… 1 in 2 if they are from a minority group. How can we sit back and let this happen?
This morning I was curious to find out how bad the situation is in Canada and Belgium vs. the United States. After a bit of digging, I found some statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), taken in 2004.
The following stats are based on the Body Mass index or BMI, which is a person’s weight in kg divided by height squared (m²). According to the WHO “Analysis of the relationship between BMI and mortality and morbidity suggests that the theoretical optimum mean population BMI is around 21 kg/ m².”
Percentage of people who have a Body Mass Index greater than 30 kg/m², making them obese:
- The United States – 32.2 %
- Canada – 23.1 %
- Belgium – 12.7 %
That’s a pretty vast difference and I’m curious about all the factors that may cause those particular numbers. My gut tells me it has to do with the amount of processed foods that are consumed in each country (although I am sure there are many other factors as well).
The truth is, it takes work not to eat processed food.
- It takes work to find local producers.
- It takes work to educate ourselves about what we are eating and what those labels really mean.
- It takes work to figure out the food-miles involved in our meal.
- It takes work to cook a meal from scratch.
Although, it’s not as much work as you would think. The best thing is – if we do the work now, maybe the next generation won’t have to.
Before you throw up your hands and say it’s too much work, I would highly recommend watching one or both of the following films.
I would also highly recommend these books: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, and Fast Food Nation.
It’s never too late to start eating real food again.