Health starts in the kitchen
Health starts in the kitchen
Between 2010 and 2019, 28% of Americans reported that they weighed over 200 pounds—a four percent increase from the previous decade . Even with these staggering statistics, fewer Americans now consider themselves overweight or obese. Additionally, fewer adults hope to lose weight than in previous decades, demonstrating an overall social complacency when it comes to personal health.
Although the causes for changes in these statistics—as well as for individuals being overweight or obese—are complicated, the statistics reflect the wide-ranging impact of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. In fact, more than 70% of U.S. adults are currently overweight or obese.
As mentioned previously, a range of factors contribute to individuals becoming overweight or obese, including genetic, socioeconomic, and lifestyle factors. But one contributor to these numbers is not like the others: culture. Cheap and highly-processed food is readily available in the U.S. compared to other countries, and urban areas in the U.S. are designed for cars, rather bikes or pedestrians. So, in the U.S. a condition that has a wide range of other contributing factors can be significantly exacerbated by U.S. culture surrounding diet and activity.
So, overall health is affected by a combination of genetic predisposition, socioeconomic status, and lifestyle habits but is also a matter of culture and personal choice. Given these statistics, it seems that even individuals who have the ability to take ownership of their health are avoiding taking these steps, which is partially a function of living in a culture that fuels this complacency and promotes convenient food and a sedentary lifestyle.
Changing Culture by Changing Mindset: Steps to a Healthier You
Changing this culture is about reframing individuals’ mindsets, but not to one that is drastically different. Convenience is a relative term, and although fast food might seem convenient and cheap, in the long run, preparing healthy, nutritious meals at home ends up being cheaper, healthier, and just as, if not more convenient. Most importantly, opting for these healthy options allows you to take ownership of your health and work towards becoming a healthier you.
Let’s break down the steps. Ordering fast food either involves driving to the nearest fast-food restaurant, which requires two expensive resources: gas and time. Then, there’s the price that you pay for the meal—and who knows, you might be roped into getting more than you anticipated because of advertising strategies designed to make you buy more. And then there’s the price of the impact of that meal on your health.
Of course, fast food once a week or a few times a month isn’t going to be detrimental to your health, but eating processed foods lacking nutrients and filled with sodium and saturated fat adds up. So, not only are there tangible costs for this trip, but there are important, abstract costs. And if you’re sitting in traffic on the way there or going to the drive-thru during the lunch rush, you might be spending half an hour or more just for a burger and some fries with little nutritional value and that’ll leave you feeling hungry within a few hours. And even if you’re ordering food for delivery, there’s still the time component, now coupled with delivery fees, a higher cost for the food itself, and the cost to your health.
Now think about the time and cost associated with preparing meals on the weekend for the entire week. First, you can purchase food to prepare in bulk, which can significantly reduce costs, especially with products that will not expire for a while, like grains, condiments, or frozen produce—which has the same nutritional value as fresh produce .
Once again, you invest some time—probably a few hours that can likely be spent multi-tasking since you’re in the comfort of your own home. Once this process is completed, you have the same convenience as fast food, if not more given that there’s no need to commute to purchase fast food, coupled with nutritious meals that allow you to invest in your health.
This side by side highlights the idea that determining what kind of food—home-cooked or fast food—is more convenient is a matter of mindset. When the processes are actually broken down, preparing food at home doesn’t have to be a less convenient option. Still, many individuals have reservations about cooking at home because they feel like they don’t know where to start. The key here is, once again, realizing that your health is an investment, and spending this little extra time to learn about how to nourish your body with food that fuels it will pay off in the long run by benefitting your health for years to come.
Start with looking up simple meal prep recipes, or visiting some of your local grocery stores or farmer’s markets to scope out which ones have the cheapest prices. Then, start cooking. It’ll take some trial and error to see what dishes you don’t get tired of eating for a few days, or which ones keep the best, but once you have a routine going, you’ll feel the health benefits of eating nutritious, whole meals, invest in your health, and work towards becoming a healthier you.