Helping your waistline and your wallet

By Sydney Stokoe

We are a generation of fatties. Everything from the lifestyles we live to the food we eat is contributing to the extra weight we’re all carrying. Of course, the question asked by public health officials is why do we consciously choose things we know are unhealthy? Certainly everyone has a vague idea of which foods are making them fat, yet we continually choose to eat those foods.

The benefits of eating healthy, and in particular organic, have been increasingly apparent in our society, and certainly we are spending more of our money on organic products. A 2008 Organic Trade Association study reported that approximately 57 per cent of people choose organic products at least half of the time.

In a study conducted by the University of Buffalo, participants with a set amount of money were led through a mock shopping trip to determine the types of food that one would buy for a week’s worth of groceries for themselves and their families. During the different trials, anything classified as “junk food” was taxed an additional 12.5 per cent, and later 25 per cent, and the price of healthy or organic foods were lowered or subsidized. Results showed that when junk food was taxed, people chose the lower calorie options such as fruits and veggies instead. However, it’s interesting to note that when healthy foods were subsidized, participants were more likely to buy junk food with the remaining money as a “treat” instead of simply saving the money or stocking up on vegetables.

So basically we have this: we are aware that junk food is bad for us and generally costs us more than alternatives, and yet people are still buying it. Why? It just doesn’t make sense. The concept of a so called “sin tax” on high fat foods could certainly be an effective way to encourage healthier eating, but it’s sad that it has to come to that. One would hope that people would be able to make intelligent decisions on their own without monetary reinforcement. Unfortunately, that seems not to be the case.

As most of you are students, it should be mentioned that it is not difficult to make healthy decisions on a tight budget. When a bunch of bananas is cheaper than a bag of chips, it makes sense to go for the fruit instead. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you. Ultimately, we need to stop looking at junk food as a treat and start seeing it as a toxin. It’s not difficult to begin viewing things as simple as a mango or an avocado as just as much of a treat as a bag of chips. Next time you are in the grocery store, think about what’s going into your body– it’s as simple as that.

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