The issue of obesity isn’t one that will be going away any time soon. Two editors at Meister Media Worldwide hone in on the subject and what is being done in the U.S. and Mexico to combat the issue.
Rebecca (R): Nearly one-third of Americans are considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With the effects of such an issue being as heavy as diabetes and heart disease, one has to wonder what led to this scary statistic.
Lauren (L): Obesity in Mexico is a problem too. It has tripled since 1980 while currently 30% of the country’s population is obese and 70% are overweight, according to national statistics. Furthermore, Mexican president Felipe Calderon recently announced that Mexico had the highest rate of obesity for children between the ages of 5 and 19.
(R): Mexico? Whatever happened to the traditional and healthy Mexican diet? You know, corn, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables?
(L): Apparently a great deal of the population is now favoring a processed diet comprised of fast food, sugary snacks, and an endless supply of soda. Sound familiar?
(R): Livestrong, a health-conscious group dedicated to fighting for a healthier world, suggests that this high obesity percentage is due to the fact that Americans eat more carbohydrates than any other food group.
(L): Other countries consume high levels of carbs, and they don’t have this problem.
(R): Well, it would be one thing if we were consuming whole grains and fiber-rich foods, but let’s be honest, we’re not. We love our sugary and salty snacks but the fact of the matter is, they don’t love us. Our habits have to be broken on a larger scale, so what are we doing about it?
(L): The Mexican government is already taking steps to challenge the statistics through a variety of national programs and guidelines. “The Plate of Good Eating,” which was the country’s first dietary guideline designed in 2000, illustrates a diet consisting heavily of fresh produce and low in fat. The government has taken even more positive steps by enforcing all public elementary schools to ban the sale of junk food, and to replace their earlier breakfast programs with dishes rich in produce and whole grains.
(R): Yes, but maybe the real change should come from within. The Obama administration, and others before it, have also been actively working on making school food healthier. Now look what just happened, the spending bill will allow tomato paste on pizzas to count as a vegetable.
(L): Nothing new there – the Reagan administration proposed to allow ketchup to count as a vegetable in school meals. There are lots of tomatoes in tomato paste and ketchup after all.
(R): It takes more than one pound of potatoes to make one pint of vodka, and you don’t see it promoted as a healthy food. Okay, that’s a stretch… but speaking of potatoes, remember the “peel back the truth” campaign back in ‘08? The industry did a pretty good job on educating consumers about the nutritional benefits of potatoes then.
(L): Agreed, but that started only as a reaction against the effects of the low-carb fad diets. What needs to happen for our industry to really start tackling the issue of a growing society of obese and unhealthy members? Other than the obvious reasons, increasing consumption of fresh vegetables is good news for growers.
(R): Things might be changing as we speak. One sign is the back-to-basics diet trend is on the rise. Broccoli consumption, for example, has more than doubled in recent years, and McDonalds has switched their side dish in Happy Meals from French fries to apple slices, now requiring customers to directly request a substitute of fries instead of fruit. Lauren and Rebecca: These developments mean good things not only for waistbands, but for growers’ pocketbooks, as well. Bad habits are tough to break, but by taking steps in the right direction, we as a nation can improve our quality of life and keep the agriculture industry booming one healthy choice at a time.