On June 28, 2015 I published an article entitled “Is Eating Healthy a Foreign Concept?” In this article I described the encounter that I had with a cashier at my local grocery store. The cashier questioned why the staples I purchased were all healthy options. He commented that I needed more balance in my diet, thus he suggested I purchase the fresh baked oatmeal cookies that were on sale. I walked away from that encounter thinking how eating unhealthy is more the norm than not.
A thoughtful reader to SistersInHealth.com commented that the concept of healthy eating is a foreign one because of economics and convenience. In addition, the visitor pointed out there is a lack of access to whole and fresh foods in poor communities. All great points. Eating healthy is expensive. Purchasing a $1 dollar burger at a fast food restaurant is convenient, easy and cheap. I was asked to comment on what people can do to overcome theses barriers.
As with many things I think the first step begins with education. As a physician I am exposed to many people and I am always amazed at how much my patients know very little about proper nutrition. Thus along with all the points mentioned above I believe the lack of education about proper nutrition contributes to the problem as well. Without knowledge consumers will not know that there are healthier options to be made. That education can begin in schools, church and community outreach programs. Even still with knowledge for many the broader problem about cost and lack of access is a barrier to healthy eating. Here in the US, the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA) has a health initiative entitled “Eat Right When Money’s Tight.” The USDA offers many tips for how to stretch your food dollars through budgeting, food selection and low-cost recipes. A simple example is buying frozen vegetables, purchasing store brand foods or buying only the amounts of fresh foods you can use before it spoils. The tips are too numerous to mention here in this post, thus I refer the readers to the following link: http://snap.nal.usda.gov/resource-library/eat-right-when-moneys-tight. Also, for folks struggling to put food on the table the USDA offers nutrition assistance programs that may be of value.
The socioeconomic disparities of the “haves and have nots” is a real problem here in the United States and around the world. The solution to correct this disparity is complex. But we can begin with education and with education we can do better.
by Marjorie Binette, MD