When Healthy Wasn’t Trendy…

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It seems wrong that I’m 28 years old and have legitimate context to use the phrase “back in MY day”…but here goes.

Back in MY day, people didn’t know about nutrition. Regular people that is, not doctors and dietitians who get paid to know about it, obviously. I’m talking about normal members of society who used to shop at the local Franklins supermarket, who had 2.5 kids that they sent to school with $5 a day to buy lunch from the cafeteria. Regular people who used to eat generic white sliced bread because that’s all that was on the shelf. There wasn’t gluten free, lactose free, dairy free, 50% more fibre, salt-reduced, wholemeal, spelt, dark rye, light rye, pumpkin seed or folate-fortified. It was just regular bread for regular people. I remember going to high school and eating a chocolate custard for recess and a packet of chips and maybe a sprinkled donut for lunch. No-one cared, especially me. Back in MY day, you could eat whatever you wanted at school and there were no restrictions on what was on offer. Strangely enough, 15-20 years ago, obesity wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. But that’s another story. The point is, a couple decades ago, the idea of “healthy eating” was barely recognised by consumers OR retailers.

Then something happened – consciousness shifted. I don’t know how or why, but generally when things like this occur, it’s because of Oprah. Let’s just assume it was Oprah because, frankly, I don’t have time to delve into the past two decades to find out why society suddenly became clued in to the idea of “good health”. So, Oprah opened her mouth and suddenly the shelves were stocked with low-fat, no-fat, sugar-free, high-fibre, high-protein, gluten-free, wheat-free, salt-free and-so-on-free products. (Okay, so that’s clearly not what happened, but just go with it).

Right now, I feel like we’re going through a second wave of this health revolution as everyone freaks out about the obesity EPIDEMIC. Doesn’t the word “epidemic” just scare you? When I think of epidemic I’m conjuring images of the Black Plague and Dengue Fever…oh, Jesus! The whole world is so scared right now that everyone’s going to eat themselves dead (and it’s happening by the way). With people on such high alert, and with the media scaremongering consumers to believe absolutely EVERYTHING gives you cancer or makes you fat, society has become way more knowledgeable about nutrition. Enter the food companies.

These guys can smell a sale from a mile away. While the public is scared, their demand for health food products rises. Consequently, food companies jump on the health food bandwagon and sell as many products that are seen as “good for you” as possible. Cha-ching! Hey, there are probably people who are paid to look for the next new “superfood” in the mountains of the Himalayas or in some deserted part of India. All too often, the extent to which a food is deemed healthy can be very much related to how well it is marketed.

While this increased awareness of nutrition is definitely not a bad thing, it is worrying that food companies, in collaboration with the media, are using it against us to make millions of dollars. I’m not saying that the health products these companies produce are not of value nutritionally and of course, we have to buy our foods from somewhere. But I have a problem with the fact that sometimes we are manipulated into purchasing “trending” foods (at ridiculous prices) or dietary supplements which may have no proven health benefit at all for someone who is already eating a balanced diet. I do question how many food companies really care about our health and providing a quality product rather than how much money they can make by riding the latest health trend.

For the consumer, it’s a matter of doing your research and buying from brands with good reputations for delivering both quality and sincerity. Because if your hard earned dollars are going to go somewhere, they should go to people that deserve it and who really care about helping others get healthy and happy 🙂

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