More than 90 percent of the food available at the grocery store is terrible for you. Because highly processed foods can sell for more money, food companies are driven to make them. The problem isn't that healthy food isn't affordable. It's actually a lot cheaper than processed foods. The real problem comes from the constant presence of highly processed foods at the grocery store.
We've all grown up on processed foods. At this point, we don't even know what it means to only eat whole foods. Even the foods we call "healthy," like salad and asparagus are so loaded full of salt, sugar, and fat that they're far from healthy. Our taste buds have become accustomed to overly palatable food, so we've come to expect a huge burst of flavor from every bite. If it doesn't have a bunch of salt, sugar, or fat, we turn it away.
And then there are the food deserts, places where a good grocery store is far away. The only foods available there are of the convenience variety, which basically means they are highly processed. When you can't just buy a bunch of chicken, potatoes, veggies, and oatmeal, for the week, you're driven to keep making poor food choices.
So what's the solution? How about a government regulation reducing the amount of floor space that can be dedicated to processed foods? Let's turn the tables and give the processed foods 10 percent of the space while the whole foods take up 90 percent of floor space. Grocery stores will balk, and food makers will cringe, but I guarantee we'll all be eating the right foods.
I think this should be accompanied by an education program featuring top personal trainers and professional athletes. If anybody knows how to eat for bodily change and how to cut the crap out of your diet, it's them. We need to publicly dispel the myth that you can't eat healthy on a budget. A bag of unprocessed potatoes costs $5. A big can of oatmeal that will last you 1.5 weeks costs $2. Enough chicken for 5 days? $20. And veggies cost much less than that.
But people don't want to buy these super healthy commodities because they don't even know where to start with them. They aren't marketed that well because of their low profit margin, and they lack shelf appeal. They are the 10 percent that's crowded out by the 90 percent. Most people walk right past the produce aisle and think nothing of it. That's what needs to change in America.
We can try to take on school lunch programs, but if we do so, we’re only chasing a part of the problem. The real solution needs to happen at home where the majority of the food purchasing decisions are made. Kids are fat because mom and dad are addicted to highly processed, “hyperpalatable” foods. And the companies responsible for making these foods are laughing all the way to the bank.