Keeping the Joy in Learning

January 16, 2018 in Food Economics, Foodland, Health by Joyce Bunderson

Is lifetime learning one of your goals for the New Year? Or is it already one of your treasured passions? If yes, I’m with you. Like you, I love learning. Sometimes, what I learn is painful and sometimes it’s joyful. Today in a very short length of time, I experienced both emotions.

I was reading about a new study about food swamps (“areas with a high-density of establishments selling high-calorie fast food and junk food, relative to healthier food options.)” The term food deserts (an area, frequently urban, in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh or healthy food) has been around for quite a while; but the food swamps term out of the University of Connecticut is new to me; and maybe to some of you. In essence, the study found that food swamps contribute more to obesity than food desserts; I can only imagine that if you have an area with both situations existing at the same time; the people living there are at extreme risk of obesity and/or malnutrition.

Needless to say, it did not make this dietitian/nutritionist very joyful to read the research about food swamps. In reality, reading about the food swamps actually, took my already negative concept of Burger King to a new low. While reading the study, I came upon some writing about one of Burger King’s offerings: Flamin’ Hot Mac N’ Cheetos ($2.69 for 5 pieces). Holy mackerel!!! In case you don’t know what this product is I’ll describe it. The inside is macaroni and cheese, covered with crushed Cheetos and spice. Hopefully, you’re not imagining something far less processed. This is cheese dust and food coloring in its glory. A food (using the word very liberally here, we’d classify it as a “fude”- fake, fattening processed cheap stuff) so highly processed it’s bizarre. One order is 390 calories; 50% of the calories from fat; and 41 percent from carbohydrates (all processed, of course); 1170 mg of sodium – and all in one serving. I’ve always considered Cheetos as my poster child for junk food; but adding all the other ingredients definitely elevates a new fude champion.

If you’re wondering when the joyful emotions began; it was in learning that CoreLife Eatery is opening 40 new stores across the country. Why does that bring so much joy to my learning? It’s that the trend in healthy eating is growing. I’ve not eaten at a CoreLife Eatery yet – emphasizing the “yet” here. The menu sounds great and there’s one not too far from me. The fact that the number of establishments that are recognizing that many people want to eat healthier are increasing brings joy to me. There are quite a few individual places popping up near us; but I’m especially excited to see chains that are available; hopefully, infiltrating the food swamps and deserts. Recently, Vic and I ate at Slapfish – fabulous!!! Others that can support goals of eating healthily are: CoreLife Eatery; Chipolte; both The Protein Bar and Native Foods Café are not in our area yet – but keeping hope up). Some places that do not concentrate on an entire menu that is healthy are Pizza Hut (has an item called Garden Party Thin Crust Pizza – good choice); Wendy’s has some good salads; Starbucks has a Spinach/Feta Wrap; Chick-fil-A has a grilled chicken wrap. If you’re with a group that frequents these places, it’s always nice to find something on the menu that works with your eating style.

Naturally, I hope that the healthy places will become more and more convenient and in my dream more available than junk food and junky fast food. The food processors and fast food establishments will listen if that’s what we’re buying. My theory is built on economics 101; supply and demand still work together. When the customer is demanding healthy options, that’s what will be supplied. When we are effective at telling (by not buying) the food industry that we don’t want high fructose corn syrup or trans fats, for example, many companies find a way to rid their products of it.

It’s joyful, good news to learn about the growth in the healthy eating sector. We can continue to learn how to identify foods that will optimally nourish our bodies and where we can buy them when not cooking at home. Learning can be a joyful experience.