How has society become so unhealthy?

Prior to the growth of industrialised food production, the majority of the population bought their food from local sources, cooked at home and overall had a more varied diet.

Today, food is at our convenience and our busy, ‘on the go’ lifestyles are making our eating habits worse.

The busy lifestyles we all lead have resulted in us wanting food to keep up with us. If we want to eat as a family there is no time to slave over the kitchen hob for hours – it is more convenient to drive to a restaurant or a fast food outlet.

These ‘convenient’ foods are full of sodium, fat and sugar – three ingredients that are delicious on the palate but have negative impact on the body and our health.

In supermarkets, food is pumped with additives and preservatives to ensure easy, long-lasting produce. While these can be quick and taste appealing, they hold little nutritional benefits. Even our main sources of protein – cows, pigs and chickens for example – are more commonly being fed processed diets. As a result of this, the calories we are consuming are empty and without much nutritional value. We are eating what we believe it good for us, but many of the vegetables, fruits and protein produce are being genetically modified and therefore losing the vitamins they once offered.

Should there be a pharmaceutical-style disclaimer beside the ingredient list?

Maybe every processed, ready-meal type product should be labelled with a health warning such as, ‘side effects may include weight gain and high blood sugar’.

Food advertising

Healthy food appears to have been segregated. The shelf space in supermarkets is designed for popular foods – for example the ones we see advertised on television; children’s cereals, microwave ‘vegetable’ rice or the latest flavour of alcohol.

As a result of this, we are attracted to the things we see more often, purchasing the quick and easy meals are filling the shelves. It is now much harder to find the ‘healthy’ foods, or there may be a single small, dedicated aisle.

Secondly, advertising focuses on packaged foods being affordable and quick to make – this results in healthier, fresh food appearing expensive and difficult to prepare. Although this is partially true, there has not been an effort to change this opinion and promote fresh cooking on television adverts.

We see a person adding protein to a boxed meal or a microwave side dish – these are named ‘part of a healthy dinner’ but often, for people with a busy lifestyle or pressed for money, it is the only part.

Can we move forward?

We are already making a positive change, whilst fast food restaurants and colourful, additive-filled foods are still popular; the new trend is to have an interest in nutrition and to live a healthy lifestyle.

‘Healthy’ foods are more readily available and becoming more affordable. The growth of social media means there are endless lists of fitness blogs and health tips all over the Internet, meaning our interest in healthy eating is growing too. The food industry is taking this on board, offering ‘healthier’ alternatives to their previous recipes and a calorie count is beginning to appear on every menu.

Cooking from scratch or introducing superfoods to our diets is returning to popularity, it is once again becoming cool or admirable to be cooking or eating tasty, fresh foods, rather than eating a quick greasy burger and fries.

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Ellen Hoggard

Written by Ellen Hoggard

Ellen is the Content Manager for Memiah and writer for Nutritionist Resource and Happiful magazine.
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