Is it possible? There is a discussion in Free Clinic (beginning at #13) about this very topic. It appears that motivated adults can not only change bad habits, but can learn to prefer the new, more healthful eating style. Obviously adults have some control over what their children eat at home, but more importantly, the opportunity to teach them to like healthful foods.
Doctors at three health centers in Massachusetts have begun advising patients to eat “prescription produce” from local farmers’ markets, in an effort to fight obesity in children of low-income families. Now they will give coupons amounting to $1 a day for each member of a patient’s family to promote healthy meals.
...“The goal is to get them to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables by one serving a day.”
The effort may also help farmers’ markets compete with fast-food restaurants selling dollar value meals. ... But people tend to overeat junk food in higher proportion than they undereat vegetables, said Dr. Deborah A. Cohen, a senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation. So, unless people curtail excessive consumption of salty and sugary snacks, she said, behavioral changes like eating more fruit and vegetables will have limited effect on obesity. full article here
Frankly, haven't we all altered our eating habits as we have evolved in life? I think that just about everybody has had a go at most of the major items that are discovered to be good for us, and some of them have become regular items on the menu (and yes, others have been rejected -- I won't touch most granola anymore with a ten foot pole).
I kind of think that sushi could have never become so popular in the West if people had not been told first how good it was for them nutritionally.
You would assume that people alter their habits throughout life, but maybe not. Our (@1940--1960) generation was the "granola" generation as you point out. Even if we've become less earnest, most of probably still prefer whole-grain breads and lightly cooked vegetables. We were also the beneficiaries of the "everybody can be a gourmet" boom of the 60s and 70s, meaning that many of us learned to eat and cook outside the familial box.
It's hard to tell with the generations after ours, since they'd have grown up eating what our generation served.
I think "bad" foods overall are perceived as friendly and tasty more often than "good" foods. Many of the items shown in the Abominable Foods thread were probably created to be as delicious as humanly possible. I remember my sister and I taking our niece, then 15, to a Chinese lunch buffet. This was one of those places with tons of variety and we were dismayed to see that every single thing on her plate was beige because every bit of it was coated and fried. She was disgusted by the fact that we had pickled ginger on our plates.
Really, I don't agree with your last statement. I think it's more likely that sushi became popular because it was first a symbol of being in the know and sophisticated. Also, it was probably first embraced by people who were in fact more sophisticated in their eating habits.
I have naturally low blood pressure (110/67) even though I am a good 50 lbs overweight. I'm currently working on the weight issue and am losing very slowly - about 3/4 lbs a month. That's okay. At least it's finally coming down.
I have altered my diet gradually over time. I drink 1% milk instead of 2% (started drinking 2% when I was about 16, switched to 1% about 10 years ago). I am careful with salt. I eat chicken skin perhaps twice a year. I eat a minimum of 5 servings a day of fresh, raw fruit and vegetables. Most days it's closer to 10 servings. I'm gradually increasing our meatless meals, using legumes, fish, eggs etc instead.
Bixa, I'll have to skew the statistics about our generation preferring whole grains etc. My sister and I have three food dislikes, all because of what we had to eat in childhood - whole wheat bread (we'll happily eat rye or pumpernickel etc - anything but whole wheat), margarine and boiled potatoes. Going to a friend's house as a child and having Wonder Bread sandwiches was an incredible treat. A peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole wheat just isn't right!
I infrequently eat beef and pork. This is hard for me because pork is my favourite meat. I have also cut way down on processed foods - cold cuts and pâté are other very infrequent treats. Snacks like chips are out - we now snack on non-buttered, non-salted hot air popped popcorn. We will buy chips maybe once a month when we want to be bad - isn't that laughable?
When I think of how I used to eat 25 or 30 years ago, I've made a lot of changes. I do feel nostalgic sometimes, for a more innocent time when a white sugar and butter sandwich (white bread of course) was not regarded as an invention of Satan. Not that I want to eat that, just I'm tired of people demonizing (or glorifying) certain ingredients.
Gluten free diets are the latest fad. One of my great-aunts was a true celiac so I turn a rather skeptical eye on people spouting on about how they can't eat gluten & so forth. Same thing for the glycemic index, which was designed for diabetics and has been twisted into a more commercial shape.
I know what you mean about beige food. Aiming for brightly coloured food is all to the good. But once or twice a year, I will eat Kentucky Fried chicken - I become possessed & must have that taste.
As for more sophiscated habits, I think our generation certainly tried more than our predecessors did.
Mick, Don't worry, I believe you. I see you're a Brit.
Bixa, Mick is from the country that gave us chip butties. And actually that condensed milk & onion sandwich rang a bell. Someone somewhere told be about a condensed milk sandwich with I think sugar. Not certain though.
Also, Bixa, I'm not rebellious, I'm just cantankerous. When I was a kid (long ago, in a galaxy far away), I decided on the things I wouldn't have to do as an adult - eat wholewheat bread, boiled potatoes or margarine, shop at Woolco (I have always had upmarket aspirations) or make my bed in the morning.
When my husband and I first got together, frankly he was horrified I don't make my bed in the morning. I told him he could do it if he like. Needless to say, the bed only gets made once a week when I change it. ;D
Let me recant, yes, I guess I am rebellious in a silly way. Don't care, though.
Back to the original thought, yes I think we can change our eating habits but that point about curtailing excessive consumption of salty and sugary snacks is very much the heart of our problems. Adding fresh fruit & veg on top of eating junk can't do much. Cutting junk out is the key and getting more exercise. Simple cheap exercise like going for a brisk walk.
Another guilty food pleasure I had as a child & still do once or twice a year - mix peanut butter and molasses together and eat with a spoon. Heaven!
Ohmygosh! I had forgotten about peanut butter and molasses. Now I want some, and I want it bad.
Personally, I only wanted to grow up so that I could wear high heels and lipstick and stay up as late as I wanted. The rest of adulthood remained mercifully foggy right up until the time it hit me in the face.
Your story about making the bed is the flip side of something a rich woman I knew told me about herself. She'd grown up with maids, gardeners, cooks, etc. so everything had always been done for her. Shortly after she was married, her husband asked her if she ever planned to clean the tub. She laughed merrily and said, "Clean the tub?! It's full of water when you bathe, you pull the plug and the water goes away. What needs cleaning?"
yes I think we can change our eating habits but that point about curtailing excessive consumption of salty and sugary snacks is very much the heart of our problems.
That is very true, along with the fact that sometimes people don't realize that "real" food can be a problem when used for snacking. There are people who sincerely think that nuts or cheese are okay because they're natural and nutritionally valuable. I know someone -- highly intelligent and educated -- who was shocked when I told her that changing her usual potato chips for peanuts was not going to help her weight-loss efforts.
I also know several women who eat sparingly at mealtimes, but snack throughout the day and say they don't know why they don't lose weight, since they don't eat much.
I had a boss who used to order 3 Wendy's triple burgers and a diet Coke. He had terrible eating habits - mostly way too much. He died of a massive heart attack at the age of 56. He was playing raquetball, fell and was dying by the time his partner (ironically, a doctor) got to him.
One of the problems I find with this whole good eating habits thing is they keep changing their minds. For instance, it has recently come to light fat and cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease, it's sugar, particularly fructose. Or so they say. I guess I would sooner buy into the sugar thing than the fat, myself, based on my family history. My grandparents' generation tended to limit sugars quite a bit, but ate a lot of fat. Pretty typical, I think, of farm families of their time. Although it should be noted what was considered a proper helping of meat was a lot less in their time (think of how much smaller the average chicken of the day was!), I swear saved bacon fat was added to everything. My grandparents' generation of our family all lived at least to the late 80s remaining spry and perfectly intelligent, then died usually peacefully in their sleep. To put this in perspective, remember old farm families had a lot of kids. One grandfather had 13 siblings, the other 9. No cancer or heart disease popped up in our family until my parent's generation, which oddly enough is also the generation where sugary sodas began to enter the picture as a frequent meal companion in my family.
I wonder how many people ever believed that those Slendertone (is that the name?) machines that are supposed to torture your flab while you lie on the sofa eating chips really work. The fact that the company is still in business would tend to show that people still believe anything.
He was a Frenchman who invented a diet that disassociated foods, claiming that eating certain foods together and others separately made you lose weight. I actually met someone who claimed it had worked for him, but I think he put it all back on afterwards.
The real key to writing a diet book is being able to ramble on breathlessly and enthusiastically for at least a hundred pages. Incorporate moving stories of people with initials for last names who went from [insert pathetic example of tubby sluggishness/medical condition here] to something vibrant and life-affirming and ever so good looking.
Depending on the susceptibility of the reader, he or she will either be quivering with hope or numb with fatigue by the time they reach the instructional section and will not notice it's the same old thing that Joanne just summed up in two short sentences above.
There is also the subject of forgetting good eating habits. As my parents got older, they pretty much forgot that vegetables existed, but when I would come and cook for them -- and especially make salads -- they loved them.
My father would drink too much wine, and my mother was always eating candy, but I pretty much felt that since their health problems were not food or drink related, they should consume whatever pleased them beyond the age of 80.
Any thoughts about depriving the elderly of what they love, even when it isn't good for them?
Actually there have been some benefits to the Montignac diet. The disassociation is nonsense, but the GI aspects of it aren't nonsense for everyone, and have made it much easier to find whole-grain breads and certain other nutritious foods in France.
kerouac, it is also that preparing fresh foods can simply be very tiring for elderly people, even if they don't have memory loss. There are some very good meals-on-wheels schemes here, in particular Santropole roulant, for such people and people with chronic or long-term illnesses.
I have read the article linked below more than once. It's easy to be cynical about it, and certainly the motivation for this change is profit-based. It should bring Wal-Mart an entirely new group of customers, those people who now drive further away in order to have better food choices.
Still, since Wal-Mart or other giant chain stores are the only shopping option for so many people, this can only be a good thing. Simple market competitiveness should make other chains follow suit. Also, Wal-Mart claims it will pressure major suppliers such as Kraft to create more healthful products.
I was a somewhat iffy about the First Lady appearing to throw her support behind a particular company, but the way it's explained does make sense.
WalMart is a very powerful company and has great ability to force its suppliers into doing what they want. If Walmart drops a supplier, it could be the end of the company.
Personally, I'm a little bit suspicious because legitimately healthy prepared food does cost more to produce. I'm really interested in how the Krafts of the world will come up with lower cost healthy alternatives.
Really, IMO, the best way to eat is to avoid, or at least minimize, prepared foods, certain types of snack foods, and sugary drinks.
I sort of wish that greater efforts could be made in educating people in how to prepare meals from fresh foods - meals that don't take a lot of time or skill. They are always cheaper and they taste better.
By the way, I am constantly amazed by the number of people I come across who continue to buy fat-free items such as sour cream, thinking that they are being healthy - but never reading the label to see that in order to make fat free sour cream palatable, how much sugar has been added.
eta: In case anyone is reading this post after my post in the What's for Dinner thread, yes...on occasion I need a heavy butter and cream fix. It seems this weekend is looking like a fat weekend for Cristina.
The big thing in France now is reduced salt in the packaged foods. Horrible low sodium cheese has been available for years for people with dietary restrictions, but now it is products like sliced ham that have "25% less salt!" displayed prominently. Cold cuts and pâté are the main salt demons of France, that give all regular eaters a salt overdose.
Meanwhile, the Quick hamburger chain stopped salting their fries more than a year ago already. They have little salt packets available, but they make a big point of telling people to taste them first because they are just fine without salt.
You all make excellent points. Sugar and salt have long been the cheapest preservatives. You can even argue that they're less dire for the human system than other "chemical" preservatives (yes, I realize sugar & salt are also chemicals).
As Joanne and Cristina point out, the real key is in educating people to want to eat in a way that is both healthful and interesting to the taste buds. That would cause them to select the cheeses that are naturally lower in salt, rather than some gummy concoction touted as low sodium. Cristina is so right about people not reading labels. Avoid the "healthy" processed turkey luncheon meats, eat sensibly on a regular basis, and you'll be able to enjoy the occasional high-fat/sodium/smoked meal with impunity.
The main problem is that all the "bad" stuff is presented as treats, and vegetables as something that must be gagged down in order to get your dessert. Thus, you have people who even as adults will only eat broccoli if it's smothered in cheese sauce, or okra fried in hard little jackets, etc. The whole family needs to learn how good real food can be even if it's not heavy.
Have any of the school lunch programs with more healthful food choices succeeded, or have the kids fasted until they could get to a snack-food or burger chain fix?
Probably the ploy of reduced prices on produce is the one most likely to have an immediate impact with people who'd love to include more vegetables in their families' diets, but whose budgets don't currently cover the pricier, less-filling options.
I think the Quick hamburger chain is also on the right track. They didn't alter the fries, just cut out one step that the customer can easily do instead.