Monday, July 18, 2011

Fresh fruit and vegetables don't cost that much - its a character issue

I often hear in the media (though don't hear it from my friends) that fruits and vegetables cost to much. I went to the supermarket today, shopping for some basics and some meat that I enjoy cooking so I can get back into the rhythm of cooking healthy dinners.  (I don't often shop as Tiffany is a walking computer who knows the special prices, when the occur, what is a good deal etc. etc - I on the other hand have no idea of such details).

I wondered though the produce section of the supermarket, which is typically quite a bit more pricey than the local fruit shop, and was struck by two things. Firstly that broccoli was small, looked like dwarf broccoli ($1 each), and that leaks were cheap as they were cheap, being in season (between $1.50 - $2).

As I walked from the check out to my car, I got a thinking:
  • My chocolate fix was equal to five broccoli. That would feed a lot of servings
  • I purchased some pork chops as it is one of my favorite cuts of meat. We don't buy much pork as they are factory farmed (ironic that we don't mind factory farmed chicken) so this was a treat. Got me thinking though, I could have purchased five leeks instead.
So thinking again. If I was broke as broke can be, one could eat kind of ok.
  • A sack of potatoes (better than white bread if you leave the skins on) 
  • A sack of onions
  • A pile of in season vegetables
  • Topped off with what I would call "goodies"  little things that go a long way, and add variety, for instance some bacon, cheese, a sauce or a chutney, olives or sun dried tomatoes. You get the picture 
However when I look at what I purchase, and what others in this wider community, which has a large lower socio-economic group, this is what I would say people purchase from the supermarket:
  • Beer 
  • Potato chips 
  • Breakfast cereals 
  • Cheap / white bread 
  • etc
So why do we, why do others purchase such poor food choices. I would suggest the following reasons.
  • Humans are inherently lazy. Why do we choose as a family to purchase fast food, instead of cooking a vegetable full meal? Because we can't be bothered planning, preparing, cooking... its just easier when it all goes to custard to buy something. It's easier when rushing home to grab a simple semi-ready made dinner, rather than question why are we rushing home in the first place. Thus this is a character issue.
  • Habit / Routine / upbringing. I remember the horror at when Tiffany said her mum used to pop into the butcher on the way home to pick her meat for that nights dinner.  My family purchased in bulk, half or whole beasts at a time. Mum would plan out the week in advance. This was the right way to do it ! (LOL) In reality each way has its own strengths and weaknesses. However if you were brought up on low fruit and vege, high convenience, then you wouldn't know anything else. It has worked out well for us, Tiffany knows how to cook a gastronomic experience, I know how to quickly whip something up that feeds the masses, so our strengths complement each other (thanks parents). It takes a lot of sustained effort to develop a new habit that is counter to our upbringing. This effort, or lack of, is a character issue.   
  • Body used to high fat, high sugar. If you have ever been on a low sugar diet and then purchased a chocolate bar or a soft drink. Isn't the bar sickly sweet or the soft drink overwhelmingly sugary. Same with fatty foods, on a high fruit and vege diet after some fish and chips one feels really gross, ill in fact. However if you are used to a high sugar diet then it is only after the 5th bit of KFC that you start to think had enough. Or need some soft drink cause the water doesn't taste good. As a family, for multi reasons, we are in a poor diet phase. My body has adapted really fast to high flavorings, high sugar and high fat. Vegetables, unless they are covered in a sweet dressing or sauce, taste gross. Hence I would naturally stay away from them. It takes effort and determination to de-tox from the sugar and fat. So my lack of de-tox is an issue of character.  
  • Short term focus. I struggle with this a lot. The feel good factor of a chocolate fix, or my long term health. Unfortunately in my bad days the chocolate looms much larger. True I know that it is a slow suicide, yet I still do it. The stupidity of my own behavior amazes me. I am sure if you asked someone what they should purchase at the supermarket, they would tell you the right answers. However it is the implementation which has issues (the same goes for weight loss, everyone knows how, we just have the problem with implementation). Short term gain, or long term gain..... this is a choice of character 
  • Having no money. This is the problem of paid on Wednesday, broke by Friday. Often people can fall into the trap of hire purchase or overspending. Therefore we cut what we can. Often this is the food budget. These purchases may have to be deferred or eliminated to generate the cash needed to purchase healthy food. Again this is a lack of planning or impulse purchasing, both of these are character issues.        
So to blame the problem on high fruit and vegetables is to me a straw man. A smoke screen that hides the real truth and doesn't help anyone. I say that real reason we don't eat more fresh fruit vegetables is that we lack character. Until we address this issue, nothing we do will change our behavior. There are many things that can help, having a coach or mentor, a buddy to encourage you, focus on long term outcomes eg playing with grandkids........ Once I find my reason and success I will definitely share it here!  

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