I went into a supermarket the other day and had an interesting experience. It’s not that I don’t usually go into supermarkets, because I do, but I happened to find myself in a supermarket that belonged to one of the three main supermarket chains in Australia and there were some things that I noticed immediately.
Firstly, the food on the shelves was relatively cheap (in comparison to my regular). Secondly, there was very little choice.
Having limited choices when it comes to shopping isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The fewer decisions we have to make in life, the better right? But it’s the quality of the options that I found interesting.
You’re probably thinking that I’m some kind of food snob at this point, and you may be right. But over the years I have come to believe that we are in fact the outcome of the food we put into our bodies. Type the phrase ‘You are what you eat’ into Google and you get over 4,860,000,000 results!
But why does it matter and how does my experience at the supermarket play into this?
The cost of living is going up, not down, so people need to ensure they get more bang for their buck and find cheaper ways to feed their families.
In come the supermarket chains and food companies who offer discounted prices on all manner of things to entice shoppers to part with their cash. You see the ads on television, in magazines, on social media, billboards, bus stops. You name it, they’re out there trying to sell us something - and it’s usually something processed, preserved and packaged.
A look at one of the major supermarket chain’s online catalogues says it all. Of the 47 pages in the catalogue, a whopping 13 pages were devoted to packaged foods including confectionery, snacks, bakery items and condiments, 8 pages to meat products, 4 to dairy products, 6 to alcohol and soft drinks and a mere 2 pages to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Obviously more money goes into selling processed foods because food processing companies are trying to sell us foods that are ‘value added’. According to the College of Agricultural Sciences at the Oregon State University, value-added food products are:
“…raw or pre-processed commodities whose value has been increased through the addition of ingredients or processes that make them more attractive to the buyer and/or more readily usable by the consumer.
Let’s break this down.
Produce that has undergone fresh storage, drying, freezing and canning processes are considered value added. This is great. The ability to buy frozen vegetables, a prepackaged bag of spinach or a tin of chickpeas isn’t such a bad thing as the processes involved help ensure the foods retain their nutritional value.
But what about the products that have the most advertising dollars behind them? What value has been added there?
It definitely can’t be nutritional value when the majority of these products are processed with extra salt, sugar, fat and preservatives - an intoxicating mix of flavours that can be highly addictive.
I know we live in a fast-paced world and not everyone has the opportunity, desire or willingness to cook for themselves and their families and the convenience of processed foods makes life easier. (That’s one of the key elements that the food processing companies rely on to sell you stuff.) But with the knowledge that we are what we eat, if we continue to outsource our meals, then the future health of our community isn’t looking good.
This is why I’m so passionate about teaching people how to cook simple, quick and tasty home cooked meals from seasonal whole foods. Yes, cooking is a form of food processing but the benefits of doing it at home means we know exactly what is going into the meal.
We are using the raw ingredients that have been sourced locally - from a supermarket, farmers’ market, or even our own garden.
We are physically involved in the process of creating a meal using our own hands - chopping, measuring, stirring - not leaving it up to some machine in a factory.
Through this process we are supporting the nutritional needs of our family and adjusting seasonings according to our taste.
And we can infuse our meal with loving energy, feeling a sense of gratitude for the farmers who grew the produce, the truck drivers who delivered it to our supermarkets, and even the people at the supermarket who stock the shelves and work the checkouts.
What we put in our shopping trolley counts. Our choices not only impact our own health, but the health of our families and community. More and more money is being pumped into creating and marketing processed foods. It’s a massive industry. At the very least, if you’re buying packaged food, start with reading labels to see what’s in it. The longer the list of ingredients, the more processed the food, and if you don’t know what some of the ingredients are, I highly recommend you put it back on the shelf.