Big Food, what are you up to? We may occasionally buy your products, but don’t ask us to buy your lies! Here are some of the misleading messages we receive on the daily from Big Food:
1. Cooking is hard!
Now, now. It’s not so bad. We don’t need to work our butts off making complicated five-course meals in order to eat (though sometimes that can be fun – Thanksgiving, anyone?). Simple meals can be wonderfully satisfying. Doesn’t nourishing our bodies – the means through which we experience everything! – deserve a little of our time anyway? If you’re still a bit overwhelmed in the kitchen, read these tips on how to easily cook healthy and delicious fare. Just remember that the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
The science out there can be exceedingly detailed, and that’s because that’s how science works. Science needs to look at very specific variables in order to piece together the big picture. But, really, we all know what we should be eating to be healthy, more or less. Eat your veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts; avoid the hyper-processed, the added sugars, salts, and fats.
3. Food exists to make you happy.
Big Food loves to tell you that if you just drink their soda or eat their potato chips, you’ll be on top of the world. Really? How quickly we forget the purpose of food. It fuels our bodies! It literally makes our bodies. Our bodies are constantly renewing and repairing themselves. What do you think gives it the energy and materials in order to accomplish this awesome feat? Food! Of course, eating can be a great source of pleasure, but it isn’t everything. Rather than eating our way to happiness, we’d be better off investing in our health and emotional well-being by eating well and cultivating our relationships with ourselves, others, and the world.
4. Big Food cares about you.
It’s becoming pretty clear to Americans that corporations may not have the public’s best interests at heart. Corporations exist to make profits for their shareholders. It’s a lost cause to implore a big business to consult its conscience. Though Citizens United suggests otherwise, corporations are not people and should not be expected to behave like them. In order to make a buck, they’ll do whatever they can to convince you to buy, buy, buy. This includes engineering products that make you want to eat more, funding scientific research to support the healthfulness of their products, lobbying to ensure policy making goes their way, investing in public relations to shape your point of view, marketing to children to secure consumers early, and more. With all this on their plate, where do you think you fit in?
5. Obesity is all about personal responsibility.
Big Food deflects blame for being a contributing factor in the obesity epidemic by insisting that everyone is responsible for their own choices. It’s true that we ultimately do make our own choices, but the reality is that we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in an environment that strongly encourages unhealthy eating and sedentary activities. It’s exhausting to continually fight against these kinds of pressures, which is why public health works to promote an environment that encourages behaviors and choices that improve or protect our health, rather than endanger it.
6. Food labels are informative.
The truth is that many food labels seem to be used more for marketing purposes than for informing consumers. “Natural” is a very minimally regulated term that has yet to even be defined by the FDA. Did you know that there are separate “100% organic” and “organic” labels? To qualify as “organic,” only 95% of the product’s ingredients must be certified organic. Regarding farm animals, here is a primer on “Free Range,” “Cage Free,” and “Grass Fed,” which may not mean exactly what you think they mean. Since the food labels can’t do it for you, it would be wise to keep yourself informed and be wary of food labels for the time being. Green Monster Erin Trauth has a heck of a lot more to say on this subject if you’re interested – and you should be!
7. Processed food is cheap.
The price tag on heavily processed foods made with corn, wheat, and soy does not tell the whole story. Government subsidies artificially lower the price of these staple crops, and taxpayers fund the subsidies. Not only that, but hyper-processed foods are not so good for us, and diet-related diseases cost us both in terms of our well-being and medical bills.
8. Healthy food doesn’t taste good.
9. More is better.
Big Food throws the concept of moderation out the window and dares us to do the same. Think Lay’s “Betcha can’t eat just one!” campaign or Pringles’ “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” Let’s reign it in and get back to eating mindfully, why don’t we?
10. Advertising to kids helps them learn about advertising.
Some Big Food spokespeople try to tell us that if we don’t advertise to kids, they won’t learn how to navigate ads at all. That’s silly. Kids would still have plenty of exposure to the ads that target adults, but they would have more emotional distance from the messaging, which would give them a shot at actually understanding what ads are all about (convincing you to buy!). Advertising to kids is great for the industry if they can hook a lifelong consumer at a young age, but it’s terribly manipulative.
As you can see, there are many reasons you may not want to be quite so trusting of Big Food. Keep your eyes and ears open, and always do your research because Big Food may be trying to feed you something other than fact: baloney!
Image source: Walt Disney / Wikimedia Commons