Monday, February 2, 2009

You Just Ate What!

As proponents of wellness we’re always amazed (OK, not amazed but continually surprised) by the nutritional, or lack thereof, choices such a large percentage of our population continues to make—on a daily basis. Each of us makes an average of about 200 food and beverage choices a day. Well, according to the Chicago-based NPD Group, here’s what some of these choices come down to, choices about what we decide to eat—not what we say we eat (and that’s key), but our actual culinary behavior.

For starters, there are some surprises here. On average, Americans frequent an upscale restaurant only about one out of every 100 visits. And, as for choice, we now have about 300 restaurant chains to choose from (with more than 2,000 locations). In fact, Applebee’s alone serves at least two million customers a day.

For the most part, our choices are sort of ordinary. Last year hamburgers topped the list of restaurant choices (we ate 13 billion of them). Next came french fries, pizza (about 23 pounds per person a year), Mexican food, and finally, chicken sandwiches.

Convenience and cost have a lot to do with these choices—and this brings us to “takeout.” Takeout makes life a little easier. It lets you take food home to eat with your family, but you don’t have to prepare it. Same with frozen and prepared meals-to-go. Just stop at the grocery deli.

We haven’t even begun to talk about serving size, portion size, calories, saturated and trans fats, sodium, high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients we would do well to watch when making our daily nutritional choices.

So, with all these choices, where do we go from here? That’s the question. Do we make sound nutritional choices? Do we try to improve our dietary behavior? Do we really just eat for convenience or do we stop to ask, “Is this even good for me?” And, if we’re going to ask the question, maybe we ought to be brutally honest about the answer. Seems like a good place to start. Anyone agree?

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