Thursday, March 26, 2009

Healthy is Not Hard

You've probably noticed that more and more products in the grocery are being marketed as "better for you". It has become a major part of marketing food. Every food manufacturer wants to define their product as more “healthy” than the other brand or just as healthy as fresh and naturally produced food. Companies are going crazy trying to label food products with all kinds of numbers or symbols, regardless of the truth, that their products are "better-for-you" choices.

It's really not all that hard if you just stop and think and do a little research plus throw in a bit of common sense. Thankfully (with a h/t Marion Nestle) the Strategic Alliance, a component of the Oakland-based Prevention Institute devoted to “promoting healthy food and activity environments,” has produced a working definition of a healthful food. Its report, Setting the Record Straight: Nutritionists Define Healthful Food, (warning PDF) applies three principles:


Healthful Food is wholesome.
  • It includes whole and minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, meats, fish, and poultry.
  • It contains naturally occurring nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients).
  • It is produced without added hormones or antibiotics.
  • It is processed without artificial colors or flavors or unnecessary preservatives.
Healthful Food is produced, processed, and transported in a way that
prevents the exploitation of farmers, workers, and natural resources, and
the cruel treatment of animals. The process of healthful food production:
  • Upholds the safety and quality of life of all who work to feed us.
  • Treats all animals humanely.
  • Protects the finite resources of soil, water, air, and biological diversity.
  • Supports local and regional farm and food economies.
  • Replaces fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.
Healthful Food should be available, accessible, and affordable to everyone.
  • Distributed equitably among all communities.
  • Available and emphasized in children’s environments such as childcare, school, and after-school settings.
  • Promoted within institutions and workplaces, in cafeterias, vending machines, and at meetings and events.
  • Reflective of the natural diversity found in traditions and cultures.
That's pretty succinct and easy to understand. It's actually just common sense and reflects a concern for the world we live in and minimizes the negative impact we have on it. Not so surprisingly you will also find that adhering to these principles will make your food taste better and make you feel better. It will also cause you to actually prepare and cook your food yourself instead of relying on someone else to do it for you. Most of all, in the long run, it will save you money and reduce your impact on the planet.

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