I read a very interesting fact today. In the 1960′s Canadians spent on average 18.7% of their total spending budget on food. This percentage dropped constantly to just over 10% of total spending by 2008. And yet, despite spending less money on food our society today is grossly overweight? Why? Certainly we are not eating less. My belief is because more and more Canadians are passing over expensive fruits and vegetables, opting instead for cheaper, processed foods full of calories and and low on nutrition.
In the 1960’s people were not as fixated on ‘healthy lifestyle choices’ as we are today. There was not a plethera of articles in every magazine and newspaper about dieting, better eating choices or exercising; reality shows about losing weight; or, as I remember it, so much material in the school curriculum about diet and exercise. In the 1960′s people ate well, very well – and yet they were in much better shape and weighed less than we do today. What did they do right that we are not doing today?
As a start, breakfast was often cooked, not just heated up. No cereal, instant oatmeal or frozen waffles. So an interesting question — is homemade french toast, complete with the sugar and maple syrup and a few blueberries on the side, a better option than low fat Special K today. Probably. I mean it is more satisfying so you enjoy what you have and don’t crave something else. It has less artificial ingredients. And since it tastes good you are not looking for that next ‘quick fix’. No temptation to snack and blow that unsatisfying low fat diet.
Now let’s move on to lunch. A sandwich — holy cow how many kids take a sandwich to school today. Nope, it’s heat up boxed lunches, snack bars and perhaps a piece of fruit. Now in fairness kids are barely given 15 minutes to wash up, get their lunch and eat today before the teachers kick them outside. Compare this to walking home (man I’m hungry), having lunch with mom to talk to and not 25 other kids, then leisurely walking back to school. Soup anyone? So we were more likely to eat a well balanced meal than the diet we feed our children.
Then came the evening meal, call it supper or dinner, whatever you like. Potatoes or rice, vegetables and meat followed by dessert. I mean really, this is so looked down upon today. Carbohydrates! And yet consider, this was serious food, organic and filling with little, if any, artificial ingredients. Lot’s of cheese, meat, bread and other unpopular choices by today’s ‘healthy’ standards.
And yet — we were on average more than 25 pounds lighter in the 1960′s than today. Could it be that more enjoyable, filling food, eaten with family, meant less in-between snacking and overeating and thus less calories consumed in total?
The problem? This style of whole food eating is expensive or time consuming. Preprocessed food is readily available today and it’s cheap. Unfortunately it depends on artificial ingredients, corn syrup and artificial or heavily processed protein sources to keep the cost down. Even low fat ‘healthy’ foods are cheap today compared to fresh whole food options. Compare this to the higher cost of purchasing quality fruits and vegetables at your local market or the time commitment needed to grow your own vegetables. Yet none of these preprocessed options really satisfy our desire for food. Perhaps that is why we are eating more.
I wonder if our parents had it right after all?