Why Americans Still Don’t Eat Fruits And Veggies (A Huffington Post Response)

Why Americans Still Don't Eat Fruits And Vegetables

If you haven’t seen the Huffington Post’s article Eating Enough Fruits And Veggies Isn’t Nearly As Expensive As You Think, then jump over and feel free to read it. It’s actually an interesting and well written piece. (I’d expect nothing less from the HP!) To summarize the article though, the author points out that a new paper from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service found that “the average person eating 2,000 calories a day could satisfy the federal dietary guidelines’ fruit and vegetable recommendations for no more than $2.60 a day (based on 2013 data).”

$2.60 a day! Awesome, right? Facebook readers didn’t seem to think so.

The [American] Public’s View On Affordable Healthy Eating

After reading the article, I scrolled down to see if the rest of the readers were as happy as I was to see researchers opening advocating that eating healthy isn’t just for the elite. I mean, this is what we were all begging for, isn’t it? I was very surprised that almost all the comments I was reading [at the time] were negative. Sure, I knew there’d be some nay-sayers, but almost everyone?

The biggest complaint people seemed to have with the data was that they didn’t see these affordable prices where they live. Commenters quickly took to social media to contradict the paper’s findings by quoting produce prices at their local grocery stores. Readers blamed the price differences on everything from living in the north to white privilege to less advantaged communities living in “food deserts”.

The general public still seems to think that eating healthy is too expensive and unattainable, despite the name of the article or the many other articles, videos, and studies which say differently.

Why The Disconnect?

Everyone has their own reasons why they think healthy living is socially unattainable, but it’s been my observation that there’s three main reasons that everything boils down to – none of which are money driven. The reasons why we’re not eating healthier food choices are that the public has been fed too much contradicting information; their upbringings have shaped who they are; and that they’re stubborn.

Information Overload

If asked, anyone with Internet access could pull up an article that says eating meat and dairy products are good for you, while simultaneously producing an article that says those foods are killing you. (Don’t even get me started on the debate over protein!) The meat and dairy industries have spent billions of dollars on research and marketing to keep people purchasing their products. Just turn on the TV and you’ll see ad after ad for sugary, meaty, creamy foods. Commercials were created for this kind of thing, after all.

And where does that leave the consumer? It’s these contradictions that have left people frustrated and unsure of what to believe. Are fruits and vegetables the key to a long and healthy life or does it lie in protein-rich meats and dairy? It’s easy to become overwhelmed. You are left no choice but to choose which side you’re going to believe and hope you’re right for yourself and your family.

We Are What We’re Taught To Eat

I’ll be the first to admit that my eating habits haven’t changed much from my pre-teen self. My favorite food is still spaghetti, I still don’t like brussels sprouts, and I am a chocolate fiend. Even with the small changes in my diet due to age and new information, I can trace my food habits back to childhood. Even my choice to cut meat and dairy from my diet wasn’t a huge surprise to my family, since I was never fond of them to begin with. (Except the protein, the protein is always a fear for people.)

According to Dr. Michael Miedema, a preventive cardiologist at Minneapolis Heart Institute, and TIME – I’m the norm. Dr. Miedema and his team did a study of 2,500 men and women in 1985 and again in 2005. He’s quoted as saying that “the data highlight how important it is to start healthy eating habits early—not only because they tend to stick around through adulthood, but also because they can actually make a difference in the state of your heart.”

Let me draw attention to that middle part again, in case you missed it. Your childhood eating habits tend to stick around through adulthood. If you think about your own eating habits, how many of you have a favorite family recipe that you still make? People are taught early in life what is healthy to eat, whether at home or at school, and then again what is acceptable to eat based on how they’re raised. It’s the reason why people know an apple is a healthy snack, but grab the same brand of chips their parents bought them as children instead. It’s a learned habit that’s almost entirely environmental and is most certainly going to determine your health for the rest of your life.

I Do What I Want

The third, and probably the strongest, factor as to why people are stuck on thinking fruits and vegetables are beyond their fiscal reach is the fact that we, as a species, are stubborn as hell. If we think we’re right, then we often don’t care how much evidence we’re shown that contradicts us. Think of healthy eating as politics. How many adults, who identify themselves as having similar beliefs as a particular political party, would ever change parties if a study comes out that says the opposing party is proven to be the best for governing society? Not very many.

A lot of people want to blame external factors for the reason why they don’t eat more fruits and vegetables, like money or availability, but their will power is more of a contributing factor than any other excuse.

Grocery stores across the country run sales that make produce just as cheap, if not cheaper, than many of the products down the junk food aisle. Is there a spike in produce and a noticeable decline in junk food those weeks? No. Why are the healthy choices not flying off the shelves? The average person doesn’t want to buy them.

We can blame the prices, blame the research, and blame our zip code for the reasons why we aren’t eating more fruits and vegetables but we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. We’re a resilient and highly adaptable species. If we really wanted to purchase fruits and vegetables over meat and dairy, we would! Critics, background, and job be damned, we would make that happen for ourselves. And in 2016, it’s really disheartening to see that as a society, we haven’t made that choice yet.

 


Side note: I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything! So many things have changed, yet it feels like no time has passed at all. One of my goals for 2016 is to become more consistent with posting to Fit & Fancy Life, and what better way than to start with an article about affording a  fit and fancy lifestyle? I can’t wait to share more with you! Let me know in the comments what you think about this article and the comments it’s received.

April @ fitandfancylife Signature

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