Make Knowing Where Food Comes From a Priority

“Don’t eat anything your great great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” — Michael Pollan

Do you brown bag? Do you send your kids to school with a packed lunch? Does your child buy the school lunch? Do you go out to lunch at the local restaurant? These are the choices we all face every day.

Many people who are reading this try to do the right thing and make better choices for lunch.

The first problem is that marketing of food can be deceptive. You can’t believe all the health claims you read on packaging.

Another issue is that our children want to eat like their friends and it is hard to send them with a healthy lunch every day. And, truthfully, most of us have so many issues going on in our gut that we often have cravings and are powerless to actually make a healthy choice.

Big food companies have caught on to the trend toward healthier eating. Many of the companies that used to provide healthier food choices in the grocery store have been bought out by larger corporations. Many of the foods that are advertised as healthier alternatives or “natural” really are not.

Have you looked at the school lunch menu recently? Mini tacos, pizza, hamburgers, cheese-filled breadsticks, chocolate milk — and the list goes on. Is it any wonder childhood obesity is on the rise? The worst part is that this menu is required to meet government guidelines and it does!

Lunch meats are not good for you. Lunch meats contain nitrates and are high in sodium. These processed rolls do not resemble the animal they came from. Boar’s Head and Applegate Farms brands provide better options. Boar’s Head makes an all-natural ham, turkey or roast beef that is about the best you can get in processed, non-organic lunch meats. Applegate Farms also has organic lunch meats. Even though they are better choices they are still processed meats.

Restaurants of all types and price ranges are in the business of buying food at the lowest possible prices. Even places that market themselves as healthier alternatives to fast food serve conventional vegetables and meat and poultry products from the same factory farms that supply the fast food industry. A good rule is the more convenient the food, usually the worse it is for you.

So what is a person to do? Know where your food comes from! The most important thing is to make knowing where your food comes from the No. 1 priority. Until you make this a priority, you can’t take charge of your health.

How was it grown? How was it raised? What was it fed? Which pesticides were used to grow it? Which chemicals or medicines were used to raise the food? What was the environment like where the animals were raised? Has this food been genetically modified? Has the animal been raised on genetically modified food? How has it been processed?

These are not always pleasant things to discover but all of these things matter and directly impact our health. When did not wanting to know what we are eating become the norm? Truthfully, we ask more about our sports teams and ask more questions of our car mechanics than we do about the food we put into our bodies every day.

We need to look at the cheap food we are consuming. We use the term “cheap” as a derogatory term for everything except food. We get excited when food is cheap. Cheap food is cheap for a reason. The good news is that once you make the decision to prioritize your food sources, better options are available.

Lunch choices need to go back to what people ate in the 1950s. Try cooking organic, antibiotic-free chicken the night before or in the morning and make a salad or sandwich from that. Leftovers make great lunches and save money.

How much are you spending per day per person on lunch? Organic fruits and vegetables are great lunch options and pack easily and do not require refrigeration.

So as the school year winds down and your child is at home for the summer, take the time to evaluate your health priorities. Start thinking about where your food comes from and look for better options. For most people, lunch is the most challenging meal of the day to try to eat healthy. Try making your own lunch and start getting ideas for what you can pack your child next school year.

Use the summer break to build healthier eating habits for your child so that he or she will be more willing to accept the lunch options that you pack for them during the coming school year.

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Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.