As the article states, being able to afford really good food is a bit of a class definer, whether you like it or not. Let’s face it, being able to spend $150 on an organic, pastured, heritage turkey was probably not in a lot of people’s budget this year. If you enjoy organic food, you have most likely tasted the difference between organic and non-organic food and understand the nutrient differences as well. But not having all of the hormones and antibiotics in the poultry makes a difference as well; you have to wonder how those things contribute to disease. After all, you are what they eat. But being able to afford really good food is also becoming a "health definer".
I found the article interesting because it’s something I have been thinking about a lot for the past year. As a single mother, I work part time to care for Dear Son. There’s no other way to really do it, now that he is total care. As a result, I live on a very tight budget. I buy the very best food that I can and consider organic food not only as a luxury item but as a ticket to great health. Due to Dear Son’s fragile health, and since I don’t have a great health insurance policy, I have to work hard to remain healthy. I divide my grocery store dollars between Whole Foods and another local chain. I make nearly everything myself and you’ll never find a box of anything in my freezer. I do this because I want to know what’s in my food but also so I can spend more money on high quality, organic food. I have eliminated other items in my budget so I can eat higher quality foods. Certainly there are some weeks that I can’t buy as much organic as I want, but I have some foods that are non-negotiable in terms of buying organic. Other weeks, I just buy less or do whatever I can to make ends meet.
Over the years, I gave up different things, In the beginning, I avoided any foods with artificial sweeteners, msg and high fructose corn syrup then I eliminated processed foods, and genetically modified foods and oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean and vegetable). I eat whole foods and whole grains and aim for hormone free, organic, pastured beef and poultry fed without GM soybeans; this is very hard to find and I am still researching farms to find it. In addition, I’ve removed nearly everything with BPA in my kitchen and have eliminated nearly all canned foods. I am a firm believer in foods that reverse disease. I still have more changes I’d like to make but they take money and therein lies the dilemma. The problem is that I know that eating well prevents and reverses disease however what really bothers me is that I can’t afford to eat like I want to, at least not now. While Whole Foods isn’t the end all, it is the best health food/type grocery store on a mass level. If money weren’t an issue, I’d eat differently. I’d buy a share of a cow and drink raw, unpasteurized milk. I’d purchase organic bison from farmers who fed their animals a regular diet or organic diet excluding soy, that took the time to feed the animals right until it was time to slaughter and then used humane methods on their animals. I eat all organic fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and nuts and purchase them from local farms. I’d eat organic beef and poultry only from pastured animals. It also drives me crazy when people who can afford to eat better, don’t. I mean, if you can afford to eat organic, why wouldn’t you? There are weeks when I would love some organic brussel sprouts but instead I have to purchase the non-organic ones.
Even more important, is that I’d love to feed Dear Son differently. I’ve tried pureeing fruits and vegetables for him however it clogs the feeding tube. Without a high powered blender, like a Blendtec or Vita Mix, I can’t get the puree smooth enough for tube feedings.
If you really believe that food reverses disease and that food is your ticket to good health, being able to afford organic food and good food is definitely a luxury item since it costs more. Some people try to get around it a bit by paying attention to the “dirty dozen”, which is a list of fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticides or chemicals used and that somehow, fruits and vegetables that aren’t subjected to heavy chemicals can be purchased non-organically. Some new studies however show a vast difference in the nutrition between organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables. For me, this is important but equally as important is taste, and when I purchase an organic sweet onion, the flavor is amazing as opposed to a non-organic one. While I don’t notice that in all organic foods, for some fruits and vegetables, like organic bananas and organic onions, the taste is significantly superior and I have to believe the nutrition must be as well.
If you want lettuce or greens for a salad, you won’t find any spinach or romaine lettuce. The only lettuce on the menu is iceberg, which as you know, is practically devoid of any nutrition. Now I understand that they may not be able to afford to have all organic items, but I would hope that there would be some fruits and vegetables with a higher nutritional profile. And yes, I realize these are kids but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t offer higher quality food.
I guess what really bothers me a lot about Big Academic Medical Center is this. We go there because there are world class physicians that provide high quality healthcare and do research accordingly. However, there seems to be a large disconnect in the whole wellness category; on the one hand, you have world class physicians to fight diseases and then you have a hospital menu that contributes to them.
If you believe like I do that food prevents and/or reverses disease, then wouldn’t you expect that the menu would reflect that? Here’s what I’m thinking. When you are in the hospital for an infection, I’d expect a big spinach smoothie loaded with fruits and antioxidants. Instead, there are no fruits with antioxidants in them; there aren’t any blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, organic or otherwise on the menu. I am certain this is a cost issue for sure. Instead, you can get a banana or an apple. You can though, get milk in different colors and any kind of kiddie sugary cereal the kids want. If you believe that refined sugar lowers immunity then it would seem that foods with refined sugars would not be allowed on the menus. Somehow, disease prevention and using food to cure disease, doesn’t coincide with the hospital menu.
Nestle Compleat Modified Formula
On the topic of food and chemicals, are the infant formulas. Most of these formulas have 100% of the RDA and yet are in a base of corn syrup. I worked with a nutritionist at another Big City Children’s Hospital to find a better formula for Dear Son. I told her I wanted a “natural formula” and one made from “real food” but I wasn’t sure anything like that existed since formula isn’t really a “real food”. She recommended a “real food” tube feeding formula, made with traditional foods. It provides nutrients found in real food and contains chicken, peas, carrots, tomatoes and cranberry juice. All of that is listed on the front of the label. It sounds good and it costs about 50% more than the standard formula. It sounds great until you read the back of the label which lists the ingredients: the first item is water, the second is corn syrup, followed by another sugar and then the chicken puree, the tomato puree and then canola oil (which is probably genetically modified). The cranberry juice is made from concentrate. Is this really the best we can do for our kids? (Personally, I don't ever think that any nutritionist working at any children's hospital should ever recommend any formulas with corn syrup in them. Then of course, we wonder why the kids gain weight on them!) And yes, the formula comes in a can, which most likely has BPA in the can lining. And if we go down the BPA path, we can add the plastic tubing, the plastic feeding bags, plastic syringes, plastic extension tubes, all encased in plastic, along with plastic covered diapers and plastic gloves. Now we are completely off topic.
The bottom line is this…if you want to be healthy, you have to eat well. And the reality is that the more educated a person is, the better they can eat and more often than not, they have a better job to do that. And therein lies the great divide. While people with fewer resources can make better choices, the reality is that they will never be able to eat really well. And now that our food has changed, with an emphasis on creating “cheap, factory farmed food”, we now have changed the paradigm. To eat well and to prevent disease costs money. And for those who can’t afford to pay, they may pay an even higher price with poor health and more disease. And as the paradigm shifts, while more money won’t always translate to better health (meaning they have to want to buy healthier food), not being able to afford better food will make it tougher to achieve good health. In the end though, I think we should expect that all heathcare providers should provide food that helps prevent disease. Now, if only we could all agree on what that food should be.