Era of Processed Food Coming to an End?

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Introduction

For those of you who are new to Portable Practical Pediatrics, I am your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, a board certified pediatrician with 35 years of practice and a whole lot to say. From diapers to the diploma, if it involves kids, we discuss it here.

Americans parents have always been interested in providing healthy foods for their children but in the past, that desire has led many parents in some unhealthy directions.  Remember when we tried to remove fat from their diets food for fear of feeding them too much cholesterol (that didn’t lower their  cholesterols, did it?), or when we replaced healthy natural fats in our children’s diets with processed trans fats (now considered very unhealthy), or when we enhanced the natural flavor in food with sugar and salt to make the food more appetizing (wow, was that another colossal mistake).  And of course we can’t forget when we replaced real food with processed, bland, pureed baby foods. All of this backfired as we now know and have made today’s American children some of the poorest nourished kids on the planet. If you read my book, Can Doesn’t Mean Should, you will recall the appalling fact that the most consumed foods by American children are Chicken nuggets, grain based deserts, yeast bread, soda, and pizza.  So it was with great interest that I was reading my copy of the WSJ the other morning and what do I see on the front page but an article about how the American consumer is shifting their eating habits once again. Are we chasing another food fad folly or  this time, are things different?  Stay tuned to find out. Welcome to this trendy edition of Portable Practical Pediatrics.

Musical Introduction

Spreadsheets tell the Story

Corporate America watches us very very carefully. Their data banks are overflowing with information about our spending habits because our spending choices are their bread and butter.  In fact, they know more about us than we know about ourselves since they can watch our behavior as a group… a very large group. And believe me, when our behavior changes, they notice. That fact brings me to an article in the WSJ that made that point very clearly.  The article pointed out that profits, or lack thereof by the giant agro businesses, are telling these company’s executives that the tastes and spending habits of Americans are changing. And frankly, I think the executives are a little scarred. Consumers are spending less on processed foods, soda, chips, and processed sugary cereals– products that they have spent decades creating, marketing, and perfecting.  The data now show that water sales are outstripping soda sales in the U.S.!  Can you believe that!  What is going on here? Usually, the American consumer does what the advertisers tell us to do but could there be a new sheriff in town? Maybe information is flowing so fast and freely, so unfettered and so unadulterated by the influence of advertising, that people are beginning to see more clearly, the healthy choices for their family’s diet. Could the era of marketing be waning? Maybe so since consumption of processed food, sodas, and unhealthy cereal seem to be on the decline while whole foods and healthier options seem to be on the rise. Even doctors are beginning to see food as medications, writing prescriptions for fruits and vegetables instead of pills. That is truly amazing.

What will the Grocery Stores of the Future Look Like?

What does all this change mean for the future of food in the U.S.? Your guess is as good as mine but if the miraculous economic engine of capitalism is able to bless us with continued wealth like we saw in the 20th century, I’m betting that healthy high quality food will be making a comeback. That food is likely to be more and more international and diverse as time moves forward. I foresee a time when going to the grocery store will be much more like the experience our ancestors had when they went to the center town “market” to buy food for the day. Fresh, seasonal, real food may be put together into exact portions ready to prepare like many of the home delivery meal plans are beginning to offer. I see canned, processed foods, and heavily preserved foods disappearing and being replaced by fresh, or frozen, or dried, or even vacuum-sealed foods.  I foresee preservatives, food colors, and additives going away and being replaced by traditional seasonings. I foresee a time when real natural spices become the “magic ingredients” of a great meal. In other words, a revolution where the center of the grocery store disappears as we know it today. Baby foods will be history. Sugary breakfast cereals will vanish.  The word “instant” will become a relic of the 20th century just like “low fat” did.

Lessons Learned-Public Health Campaigns Work

During my life, I have seen a lot of change with respect to nutrition in America. What have been the lessons that I have learned you are wondering?  For me, there are a few. First, eating trends that are unhealthy and destructive will eventually disappear. Throw away the margarine please. Secondly, advertising is a powerful force that has a strong effect on our behavior. We need to be careful not to let it influence us too much. If you don’t believe that just recall that a major risk factor for childhood obesity is the simple act of letting your child watch TV.  Case closed. And lastly, public health campaigns that promote healthy eating are effective. Think of them as a form of marketing as well.  When public health experts tell us not to consume sugary drinks, we listen. When the destructive effects of tobacco are graphically shown to us, we stop smoking. I was born in the era of real food and real cooking, lived to watch the processed food trend max out and now I am watching it implode. Wow, I’m glad to be able to see that happen. Our children will be the beneficiaries.

Outro

If you enjoy learning about child health with pedcasts, please take a moment to write a review on iTunes, subscribe to my blog at www.docsmo.com, or even send in your thoughts and comments. I would love to hear from you. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, broadcasting from studio 1E, hoping that the good news about food, puts you in a good mood. Until next time.

  1. WSJ article -Kellogg in trouble-5/1/17

https://www.wsj.com/articles/from-diaper-to-soda-makers-big-brands-feel-the-pinch-of-a-consumer-pullback-1493223098?emailToken=JRryc/FyZn%2BVh9I8aMwyzlotK6UJAveEXBbLKzXRPUTF8Xncou%2B73OA/htTyq3mmQ0phot4J4mp6WT3cxXJrWsSR3rlx1F7hcH5btYzB3BfOIlnfmESDdulZ7/WEpXMztfEKSg%3D%3D

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2. Doctors prescribing food instead of medication

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/05/08/526952657/fresh-food-by-prescription-this-health-care-firm-is-trimming-costs-and-waistline

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