Lately I’ve seen a whole lot of information on nutrition, the benefits of nutrition and how we can do small things to improve our health. But many times these are just sound bites at the end of the news, or articles to fill the quota of news in the ‘health section’ of sites such as CNN or MSNBC. Most of us, on a daily basis, do not really interact with a professional regarding our nutrition. And this is one of the most important things we can do on our own to improve our health and keep us out of the doctor’s office.
The ‘Clean Plate Club’
One of the biggest problems affecting young people today is the deterioration of the quality of food that American’s are eating these days. Up until the 1970s or so, American families, by and large, ate meals prepared at home with fresh ingredients. Meats, fruits and vegetables and grains were generally grown locally and prepared on a daily basis without the use of preservatives and other harmful ingredients. Today, households are turning more and more to cheaper sources of calories like fast food, processed snacks, meats and grains, genetically altered meats and vegetables and high sugar soft drinks. Add to this the American standard of over consumption, in this case The Clean Plate Club, a tradition that most Americans grew up with in one form or another, and we get drastic increases in overweight children, obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Every American can relate to the phrase “finish your plate, there are children starving in Africa who cannot afford this kind of food”. This type of incentive rarely worked to increase awareness of the poverty and strife in Africa, but it did have one generally overall effect on America. It taught us to overeat. We are used to putting more than what we need on our plate, then conditioned to eat it all. In fact, nutritionists and doctors are now encouraging parents NOT to try to get their children to eat when they are not hungry. It is now widely considered that forcing children to eat when they do not want to only adds calories that they otherwise do not need.
Now, for years The Clean Plate Club had very little affect on America’s health. Children could eat everything on their plate and still remain relatively healthy because, before the 1970s, the food they were eating was much healthier relative to the food that we eat today. Meals were prepared at home using real, healthy, wholesome ingredients. You can overeat fruits and vegetables all day long and all you’re really going to get is an upset stomach and multiple trips to the bathroom. Locally grown meat and grains are also much healthier than what we are usually able to buy in the grocery store today. Basically, The Clean Plate Club today is forcing our children to consume larger levels of the harmful ingredients that are harming them and making them fat.
Parents need to recognize this and make two changes. First, every time we purchase something from a store we are, in effect, ‘voting’ with our pocketbook. By choosing to buy one product over another we are voting for that product to be continually produced and sold and voting for what we did not buy to be discontinued. One primary problem is that healthy foods are more expensive than cheap foods. A bucket of KFC fried chicken and a 2 liter of Soda is cheaper and less cumbersome that preparing a meal at home with fresh meats and vegetables. Many low-income families cannot afford the time or money to fix meals this way. But something must change. Food producers must change the way they provide foods to Americans, and Americans who are able must vote with their wallets for better foods and beverages.
Although The Clean Plate Club was never a good idea, it is now poisoning us to a very harmful degree. We should know better by now. I see articles all over the place on better nutrition, but very few nutrition professionals in my community. Why does everyone want to tell me how to eat, yet nobody wants to tell me how to learn what to eat myself?