Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle_Part Three

According to Paul Berton, the editor-in-chief of The London Free Press, "We're killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle."

Paul sees the problem as stuff like snow blowers, food processors, prepared foods and professional sports (we watch 'em, we don't play 'em.) Sounds good except that the obesity epidemic is often growing faster in developing countries. There are not a lot of snow blowers and food processors in those countries. But they do have prepared foods and each year they have more and more of them.

Maybe we should be putting more attention on prepared foods. If we consume more calories than burn, we gain weight. It is that simple. Today's prepared foods make it far easier to consume more calories than are needed. Packed with fats and sugars, many prepared foods propel your calorie consumption into the stratosphere long before you feel full.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. Paul Berton asks: "What can be done? . . . We need to do something about this ourselves. And we need to do it soon. We can't afford --- physically, economically or socially --- to ignore it any longer," he says.

And what does Paul suggest? One of the answers he apparently likes is: ". . . make cities more walkable . . . " (This is actually weirder than it sounds on first reading. If we make our cities more walkable, we put the stores, etc., closer to the homes. Walking to the store becomes attractive because it doesn't entail much of a walk. I live in the suburb of Byron in London Ontario and I have no problem walking. Remarkably, my legs work just as well here as they did when I lived downtown.)

Let me suggest another approach: I believe many Canadians, if given clear, healthy choices, will choose health. But the marketplace, when it come to food, is anything but clear. Often food labels are downright misleading.

For instance, Campbell's Healthy Request Chicken Noodle Soup contains 480mg of sodium which they list as 20% of your daily allowance. But Health Canada says 1500mg is about right for an adult. My math says a cup of this soup contains 32 percent of your daily salt allowance. This is not healthy.

I could go on and on about this. I could list lots of food products with healthy sounding names but containing massive amounts of fat. Or others with healthy sounding names but packed with a variety of sugars.

I try and stay away from those prepared foods. Do you know what helps me accomplish this? Let me surprise you: food processors, bread machines and massive stand mixers. For me, these are all part of the answer and not, as Paul argues, part of the problem. It is the year 2010 and we live busy lives. It is not 1910 anymore.

But, thanks to my bread machine, I still have the time to bake my own bread. I control the fat --- French bread has none --- and I control the sugar, too. The flour for this loaf came from the Arva Flour Mills and the flavour of my bread, forgive me, but it came from heaven.

My next and last installment will look at the excellent recommendations of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and how these dovetail nicely with solutions being suggested right around the world.

I'm going for a walk,

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