How Food & Advertising Industries Influence our Food Choices

I recently listened to a very interesting interview with Dr. Mark Hyman about the, dare I say, criminal tactics of the food and advertising industries to shove harmful food down our preverbal and literal throats.

He began the interview by saying, “The worst foods are the ones that are most heavily marketed to kids, the poor and underserved, and minorities.  Which are disproportionally affected by disease and obesity.”  These foods that are being pushed on us are creating our country’s ever-rising rates of disease and obesity.  Their tactics are working: the NUMBER ONE line item people on food stamps buy is SODA!  Our government spends $4-BILLION (yes, thats a B you see!) on soda for the poor.

Based on all we know about the science of food addiction and how adversely our health is affected by processed, sugary foods, these actions are simply inexcusable.  Putting massive profits above our nation’s health is disturbing.  Dr. Hyman states that over 50 developed countries regulate food being marketed to children, but not the US.  Anybody else think this needs to change?

In the interview, he mentions a book by Michael Moss called Salt, Sugar, Fat; How the Food Giants Hooked Us Sounds fascinating; I may just have to read it.  In it, he talks about how these foods are actually designed to addictive.  The food industry has scientific taste institutes where craving experts design foods that reach what they call bliss points, which is the point at which foods activate the addictive areas of the brain.  With that information, they strive to create what they call heavy users.  HEAVY USERS!  That’s their actual industrial term!  Not that I hang out with many drug dealers, but that sounds like drug dealer lingo to me.  Don’t even get me started on these fast food chains that are now the norm on school campuses; they’ve got to start those “heavy users” young.

With the food industry’s pervasive tactics such as paying grocery stores a premium to be placed in more eye-catching locations (yes, they have experts for that as well), featuring candy and junk food at every checkout in nearly every type of store, and placement within our favorite movies and TV shows (because who watches commercials anymore?), how are we to stay strong in the middle of this food-circus?  Dr. Hyman suggests creating a safe-food “bubble” for yourselves.

Be prepared:

  • First of all, don’t allow junk food in your house.  It’s impossible to “blow it” if it isn’t there.  Make your home your safe-haven from harmful foods.
  • If you know you tend to rush through your day or are traveling, for example, have a safe food stash with you at all times (like in your office drawer) to avoid grabbing junk food in a pinch.  Dried fruit and nuts are my personal favorite go-to.  You can make your own trail mix (sans the M&Ms) or bars, or choose some healthy options from a health food store.
  • If you are having dinner out, rehearse what you will order beforehand.  Most restaurants have online menus, so you could even decide before temptation (and yummy smells) are in front of you.  If you know your friends/colleagues tempt you with dessert, ask for some fresh berries instead.

Hopefully this awareness and these tips will keep you from giving in to bad food choices, but also help you be mindful about your food shopping choices.  Don’t let those scoundrels pull a fast one on you.

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