Early this morning my husband handed me his Fortune Magazine (June 1st issue) opened up to an article entitled “The War on Big Food” and said “you should write about this!” So I read the article and thought “wow”. Just as in the world of “weight management” and “dieting”, the world of big food manufacturers is undergoing a paradigm shift.
The article goes on to describe how big food industries are “like a melting iceberg…every year they become a little less relevant”. Who are they referring to? Think Smuckers, Campbell’s, Hershey, The article points out that the idea of “processing” started with the ancient idea of salting and curing to the “modern arsenal of artificial preservatives” which arose to make sure the food we ate did not make us sick. Now we worry that it is the processed food itself that is making us unhealthy. Consumers are responding and big food industries are losing out, or forced to make changes.
In fact, big food companies are paying attention and making changes since organic food sales has more than tripled over the past decade with an increase of 11% in the last decade alone. Consumers want to buy foods with ingredients they can understand (flour, wheat, yeast, sugar, etc) instead of words they can’t even pronounce. The simpler the label, the better. The article describes a “new language” around health that has emerged which includes terms such as “natural”, “organic” and gluten-free”. Interestingly, anything having to do with “dieting” is out! Products with the words “diet”, “light”, “low” or “reduced” experienced an 11% drop in sales in 2013. Even Lean Cuisine is rolling out a new product called “Marketplace” line which will offer gluten-free, organic, high-protein or extra-veggie options.
What does this mean to you? Well, I admit to feeling conflicted. I believe in a non-diet and intuitive approach to eating which involves “listening” to your body, and working toward honoring and respecting your body’s signals of hunger and fullness. This also involves truly enjoying the food you eat. At the same time, taking care of your health and your body by getting the nutrition that your body needs to feel good and have energy. We are all different in that we all need to learn what we like and how much we need to feel good and have energy. Is it too restrictive to read every label and avoid any artificial ingredients altogether? I can only speak for myself and feel everyone has to make their own decisions about what to eat. I may not have the energy to worry about every single item that crosses my lips however may prefer to make all my own foods from fresh ingredients because I love food that way (but yes, I will eat whatever anyone serves me and not really worry about it).
I think it is smart to educate yourself and use the freshest and least processed foods you can afford. However, if you find yourself expending too much time and energy reading labels, and use it as an excuse NOT to eat foods on a regular basis, then it could mean you may be focusing on eating “natural” and “organic” as a way to distract yourself from something else. Remember, eating healthy most of the time and having a mostly healthy lifestyle will promote health. Having a “perfect” diet or striving for a “perfect” lifestyle is kind of stressful! And that is not healthy at all!!! For more information, check out the article yourself- Fortune Magazine, June 1,2015, Volume 171 Number 7.