Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thinking About Our Commonhealth

It’s April 15. But, today’s not just “tax day.” For better or worse, today (or today 56 years ago) represents a milestone in history. Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald's franchise, in Des Plains, IA, on this day in 1954. McDonald’s, which officially opened its doors in 1940, was the first “fast food” restaurant to use an assembly-line system, even though the White Castle restaurant in Wichita Kansas is credited with being the first fast food restaurant (although the term “fast food” wasn’t even used yet when the restaurant opened in 1921).

And where are we today?

Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music - combined. And, if you look at all the components in a fast food meal, you’ll find that much of it is actually “processed” food.

Today, the U.S. leads in processed food consumption. As Americans we eat 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food, and we consume more packaged, processed food per person than our counterparts in nearly all other countries. All of these processed foods contain large amounts of fat, salt and sugar—it’s why they taste good.

In fact, on average we buy 787 pounds of processed food a year compared to only 602 lbs. of fresh food (produce, meat cuts, eggs, dairy, and nuts). Yet, by now we should all be aware of the connection between processed foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium and our increasing size, clogged arteries, heart attacks and the spike in new cases of type 2 diabetes.

Well, today is tax day, and taxes are due—even the ones we self-impose. And, we are "taxing" ourselves. If you think about it, “the alleged convenience, time-saving and cost-saving benefits” of fast, processed foods is in reality a myth. What it will cost in terms of our future health—and our children’s future health, is anything but affordable or convenient.

Why are we doing this to ourselves? What are you having for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

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