Summer is upon us and it’s a reminder that we’re halfway through 2010. How are you doing on those goals that you set at the beginning of the year?
On January 1, I set a goal to be committed to clean eating and remembering to vote with my dollars for clean, sustainable, non-GMO and organic foods. I’m now six months into it, and I must admit that it’s been a challenge. For the most part, I’ve done fairly well, but where it’s been the most challenging is dining out.
Most restaurants fail miserably in offering healthy and clean-eating options. What I mean by “clean” is organic produce and grains that are free of herbicides, pesticides and GMOs; seafood that’s wild caught and not farmed; organic meat from grass-fed cows and free-range chickens fed certified-organic feed and animals that are not pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. Sadly, most restaurants serve the antibiotic and hormone-injected animal products that are fed unthinkable feed, and grains and produce from GMOs that are full of herbicides and pesticides.
For the most part, I buy organic whole foods that I prepare at home simply because there are so few choices when it comes to dining out and sticking to my clean eating diet. On occasion, I go to vegan restaurants that buy organic, local and do their best to serve healthy dishes. However, I do break my rules sometimes when I eat out, simply because there are so few choices.
It’s unfortunate that most restaurants serve unhealthy dishes, but they do this for a variety of reasons from wanting to keep cost down and profit margins high to giving people what they think they want. Most people prefer to eat out and select high-calorie dishes laden with sodium and fat, so the restaurants cater to this.
As a marketer myself, I get that. And I also understand the economic realities of keeping food costs down, but that doesn’t make it right. It just makes it a sad reality because more than half of Americans are unhealthy due to being overweight and poor food choices.
I personally welcome the new legislation that requires restaurants to post calories on menus. It’s not perfect, but it’s one baby step in the right direction. I’m hoping it will raise awareness and help people to start taking responsibility for their health, which starts with every bite we take and drink we sip.
The folks over at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) are helping raise awareness of this issue. CSPI is a nutrition and food safety watchdog organization that’s doing its part to transform the American diet. CSPI recently announced its Xtreme Eating awards, which spotlights the unhealthiest dishes that are served up at some of America’s favorite chain restaurants.
"One might think that chains like Outback Steakhouse and The Cheesecake Factory might want to lighten up their meals now that calories will be required on their menus, courtesy of the health care reform law signed in March," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson in a recent article. "But these chains don’t promote moderation. They practice caloric extremism, and they’re helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the Earth."
Jacobson is right! These restaurants do practice caloric extremism. When I’m dining out, I use the Lose It! and/or Restaurant Calorie Counter iPhone apps to look up calories and other nutritional information as I peruse the menus at restaurants and I’m always shocked at the amount of calories in some of these dishes. A lot of dishes have an entire day’s worth of calories in one dish. That’s not only unhealthy, that’s insane!
Of course, calories are just one factor to consider when trying to eat healthy. Food choice is far more important than caloric intake, in my opinion. It’s critical to our health to select whole foods with high nutritional value and stay away from foods that are highly processed and laden with chemicals and other unhealthy substances.
Honestly, it’s a daily battle for me. I use the word “battle” because I’ve had to become a wellness warrior fighting to stay healthy in a food system that's filled with unhealthy selections. I hope if you’re still reading this it’s because you care about your health and want to join me in being a wellness warrior fighting for our health and the health of others!
iPhone Apps to help you stay healthy and/or lose weight:
Restaurant Calorie Counter
Resources and Related Links:
LA Times: And the Xtreme Eating awards go to ... really fattening restaurant food
Environmental Working Group: “The Power of Information”
Monterey Bay Aquarium: SeafoodWatch