August 20, 2014

Supermarkets devote only about 25% of their floor space to healthy fresh foods, yet their tag lines and TV ads indicate that they supply predominantly fresh food. Their marketing geniuses recognise that we want to be healthy, yet our purchasing habits don’t reflect this.

Supermarkets stock what consumers buy. Food manufacturers produce what supermarkets buy. Supply and demand, or demand and supply?

Neither supermarkets nor food manufacturers have our health as their primary concern. Their main priority is sales and profits, so they won’t make changes unless we demand it. If we bought more foods from the perimeter of the supermarket, food manufacturers would notice and make changes, forcing supermarkets to follow suit.

Yes, this is very simplistic and idealistic, but for the sake of our health and the health of our kids we need to start somewhere.

With increasing rates of allergies, disease, obesity, inflammation and environmental concerns, it’s clear that medicine alone is not keeping up with demand. We need to take our health into our own hands.

Traditional cultures have always used food as medicine, and that was on the rare occasion they needed medicine. It’s past time those with typical Western eating patterns took note. Here are 5 simple changes:

1. Limit processed foods. Food manufacturers add ingredients to their foods that, if considered alone, would not be a voluntary part of our daily eating. Would you seriously choose to eat E102 (Tartrazine, or Yellow 5)or E110 (Sunset Yellow, or Yellow 6) off a plate? What are they? They’re colours, and we happily eat them attached to corn chips. Fresh foods are single ingredient foods, usually with no ingredient list, which you then combine with other single ingredient foods to create delicious healthy meals.

2. Eat fresh produce in season. Supermarkets supply the highest selling produce year round. Consumer demand does not coincide with seasonality, so supermarkets buy in season and keep ‘fresh’ foods in cold storage, sometimes for many months, ready to be transported long distances to the stores. Better options for purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables are to buy from the local greengrocer, as they buy daily from the markets, or go to a farmers market. Even better would be to grow your own – even a small amount of a few different ‘crops’ would make a difference.

3. Where possible, select meat, poultry and fish from animals raised humanely. Feed lots, sow stalls, poultry cages and fish farms may produce more food and it may be cheaper, but the cost is in the quality of the food. Animals raised in this way are often fed foods that are not natural to them, so their meat is not the same as meat produced using traditional farming methods. Of course, if you can’t afford the more expensive options, regular supermarket meats etc are far better than eating processed or junk foods.

4. Pay attention to how your food choices make you feel. If a food made you sick you wouldn’t eat it, but many people have low-level effects from foods and so barely notice that they don’t feel great. Bloating, skin irritations, fatigue, and lack of concentration are just some of the common side-effects of poor food choices. For most people, eating fresh foods can resolve many of these symptoms and feelings of ill health.

5. If you’re changing your diet, make sure you can continue it for life. Just because something works for your neighbour or sister or favourite celebrity doesn’t mean it will for you. Find what works for you, remembering that there is no quick fix! Sure, you might see quick results, but if it’s not sustainable what will happen when you go back to ‘normal’? Adopting an approach to your eating patterns that involves more fresh foods is something your body will thank you for, and many who make this change would never go back to ‘normal’. They have discovered a new normal.

If every supermarket trolley was filled with fresh foods, and processed foods (eventually) went out-of-date on the shelves, both supermarkets and food manufacturers would take note. They’d be forced to make change so they could stay in business.

Perhaps then, the supermarkets could legitimately attach the term “fresh food” to their name.