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Whiplashing down the “Food Movement” Roads – From Processed Foods to Impossible Meats

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. One thing that has certainly changed across generations is how we relate to food. But what hasn’t changed is that, despite our motivations or intentions, what we eat can definitely have an impact on our health

I grew up in the eighties where most of our meals came out of a box. I have fond memories of sitting on the kitchen floor with a spoon in hand and a can of Tang nestled on my lap and shoveling intensely sweet powder into my mouth. Back then, the only concern given to food by many was how quickly it could be prepared with little effort and minimal dollars.

As I entered adulthood, popular opinion chastised my childhood dinners and sugary drink mix snacking as overly-processed and lacking nutrition. There was a movement to shun the boxed meals and get back to the way “our grandparents used to eat,” which could be interpreted as fresh foods that one would find on a farm – any kind of farm. 

Today, the “food movement” seems to be hitting the road and traveling in a different direction once again. Agriculture now seems to be shamed for destroying the soil and polluting the air. Instead of convenience or grandparents, the new foodie buzz word is sustainability.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from agriculture production make up 9% of overall greenhouse gas contributions (transportation makes up 29% and electricity makes up 28%). I, personally, know several people who’ve adopted a vegan diet for environmental reasons. Even fast food restaurants are hopping on this trend and offering plant-based, meat-free options. The list of ingredients from Burger Kings’ “Impossible Burger”,  (Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols [Vitamin E], Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B1], Sodium Ascorbate [Vitamin C], Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Vitamin B12) sounds more like a science experiment than real food. But maybe that’s the point? (1)

I’m not knocking any of these food movements – truly. In fact, I feel very strongly that one should think about why they’re choosing the foods they’re eating and what potential implications may result from their choices. My main hope is that nutrition be factored into this decision process. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, diet-related diseases cause almost 700,000 deaths each year in the U.S. And while global warming has been steadily increasing, so, too, has the rates of obesity. What’s the point of saving the planet if we’re either not here or don’t possess the quality of life to enjoy it.

One barrier I commonly face as the Health/Food Safety Extension Agent for Johnson County is knowing where to start. How does one begin to eat healthfully? My advice is to make sure you’re actually getting the nutrients you need. A good starting place is to begin with the MyPlate: make have your plate fruits and vegetables and the other half grains and protein with a side of dairy. Visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ for more details on these food groups and how they play an important role in your health.

Another barrier people confront is the cost of healthy eating. Learning how to cook and plan your meals is one of the best methods for managing and stretching food dollars. Need help with those areas? Consider attending our September “Meal Planning” class taught by our Johnson County Extension Master Food Volunteers. Click here for more information and to register: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07efrb80ui6fa48377&oseq=&c=&ch=. Cooking at home with a meal plan also cuts out food waste, which is another contributor of methane, a greenhouse gas.

So, no matter if you’re riding the vegan train to a cleaner environment or pinching pennies with boxed dinners, don’t forget about your health. The earth and our budget may have certain demands, but so do our bodies. And they will thank us for investing in their sustainability – just like my teeth thanks me for giving up my powdery drink mix snacking. 

Resources:

  1. Burger Kings “Impossible Burger”: https://faq.impossiblefoods.com/hc/en-us/articles/360018937494-What-are-the-ingredients-

Contact Us

Crystal Futrell
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
crystal.futrell@jocogov.org