Food Processing, Eating-Out and related Health Issues

food-prices_fig03Fig. 1

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) only 10.4 cents of an average dollar spent on food within the US is spent on the actual production of the food. The other 89.6 cents are spent on processing, packaging, transportation and trade, food services and others. This numbers indicate that most of the food consumed within the US is already processed when the consumer buys it, often times it is a finished meal consumed at a fast food joint or in a restaurant. Therefore, the reverse argument is that only few people in the US buy raw products and cook at home. Evidence is provided by the USDA.

food-prices_fig09Fig. 2

According to Carlos A. Monteiro (2009), meals prepared at home out of whole foods and minimally processed products have adequate nutrient and energy density when they contain a varied combination of plant foods (grains, vegetables, pulses, fruits, nuts), only moderate quantities of animal foods, and little salt (see Monteiro, 2009). Ultra-processed food, such as Subway-Sandwiches, Dominos-Pizza and products in the freezer-section at the supermarket have a low nutrient and energy density while containing a lot of sugar and fat. Ultra-processed foods are often consumed in the US, as the above data shows. This leads to one of the highest per capita consumption of daily calories in the world. The health issues are evident: obesity and overweight are branded as diseases.

food-prices_fig11Fig. 3

Education is a key factor in changing this trends. People need to know how to cook and prepare meals at home, using whole foods and minimally processed products. Yet, education is not the only factor. People in the US hold the world record for spending the fewest time on eating.

foodfat-thumb-570x618-7738

Fig. 4: Graphic by the Atlantic (undated).

The US society needs to rethink the value of food and eating and change its way of life when it comes to food consumption. The government needs to take the right steps toward promoting healthy food by increasing access to whole food products, educate people about how to prepare whole foods and the importance of taking time to prepare food and eat.

Please visit http://www.slowfood.com/about-us/ for more information on this and related topics.

Figures:

Sources:

Monteiro, Carlos A. (2009). Nutrition and health. The issue is not food, nor nutrients, so much as processing. Public Health Nutrition, 12 (5), 729 – 731

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2 thoughts on “Food Processing, Eating-Out and related Health Issues

  1. This is a wonderfully balanced post on the food habits of America. Not only did you touch on the fact that education is a key issue when it comes to the choices we make as consumers, but you stated the important lifestyle factors. I have been a cook for the past couple of years of my life, and I have always noticed how convenience is the major motivating factor in peoples’ choices. I know that when I actually get a night off, the last thing I want to do is to spend an hour at home cooking. I want the quickest option available to me, and I have the knowledge to make good healthy wholesome food for myself. This country as a whole definitely needs a lifestyle change regarding food. We often see food as what brings us together, but it has become limited to special occasions and holidays. We need to take more time out of our DAILY life to make healthy food choices. I know this won’t happen over night, but if the points made in this post were common knowledge, we’d be well on our way.

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  2. I totally agree with the fact that education is a key part in solving this issue, but an obstacle that many face is that the price of healthy food compared to fast food is higher. It has been shown in many studies that unhealthy food is about $1.50 cheaper per day then healthy food. This can add up to be about $550 a year. Families with a lower income might not be able to afford this. Education will inform people of how easy and important it is to cook at home and buy less processed food, but there are other obstacles that prevent people from actually being able to afford healthier food.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/eating-healthy-vs-unhealthy_n_4383633.html

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