The pandemic has changed the way the nation shops, and in turn, eats. Supermarkets are no longer pleasant and the closure of restaurants and takeaways, has left us less options but to prepare food at home. What a novel idea, don’t you think?
As we take the time to enjoy home-cooked meals, at our own kitchen table, surely it’s unveiled an opportunity to rethink future habits. Should we really go back to eating nutrient-starved convenience food, presented in plastic and reheated in a microwave? This could be the beginning of a change in our relationship with food. I live in hope.
A time for change
Let’s take a closer look at food in the modern world. It’s manufactured. It’s mass-produced. It’s a far cry from nature. In a typical supermarket, the relatively small percentage of fresh produce sits modestly around a vast expanse of processed food, known as the middle aisles. Strategic marketing lures us from the outside in; it’s not easy to escape unscathed.
Cleverly concealed in cans, bottles, foil or plastic, aside from the label, we often have no way of judging the quality of what’s inside. Words like ‘natural’, ‘nutritious’, ‘healthy’ or ‘wholesome’ are very convincing. All meaning is lost beyond advertising. In our collective innocence, we naively assume these profit-fuelled companies have our best interests in mind.
We need to think again. Low-fat products are compensated with sugar. Reduced-sugar foods are artificially sweetened. Our health is at the bottom of the priority list. Unless you are cooking from scratch in your kitchen, you don’t actually know what you’re eating.
Through years of practise and perfection, the food industry knows how to make ‘fake’ food look good and ironically, taste fresh, through the use of chemical additives and mechanical processing. Peas that turn grey in processing can be dyed a bright green. Unsellable tomatoes can be made into ketchup and sauces; artificially coloured, flavoured and thickened.
Manufactured food is a chemistry project
Providing it has a long shelf life, looks good and has an acceptable taste, it’s a winner. Oh, and predictability is a bonus. As McDonald’s discovered, consumers like to know what they’re getting. Artificial and natural flavours are added for consistency. They are produced in a different factory to the end product. Frozen food is a subject in itself. Do you see the pattern? Our time-poor culture has sacrificed the kitchen for convenience. We asked for this.
But eating pre-packaged foods deprives the body of essential vitamins and minerals. This is particularly worrying for our future generations. The dramatic rise (pre-lockdown) in the consumption of ready-to-eat fast foods has led to increased nutritional deficiencies. One study showed that half the food energy children consumed was from fast foods eaten in the home. At a workshop last year, my husband showed a loaf of bread to some children and asked where food came from. He then showed them slides of soil and growing crops, to which one child responded, “My food doesn’t grow in dirt, it comes from the supermarket”.
As a society, we lost control of our nutrition when we allowed industry to produce our food. Food made in a factory, instead of a kitchen, puts the power of healthy eating in the hands of those who have profit, not health, as a motive.
Nutrition has no place in the middle aisles. The middle aisles have no place in our health. Your body was not designed to survive on chemicals.
So as we contemplate the future, over freshly prepared food around our own kitchen table, it’s worth considering that in our efforts to avoid the middle aisles, we should perhaps avoid supermarkets all together. To be continued…
Have your say
How have your eating habits changed during lockdown? Have they changed at all? Are you desperate to get back to the supermarket, or are you ready to take a different path?
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