Nutrition Articles

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Create Change, One Bite at a Time

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One-quarter of Americans are obese. Sixty percent live a sedentary lifestyle. And this generation of kids is the first generation since 1900 that may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. The health of America, the world’s richest nation, is failing. And what we eat (or don't eat) could be to blame. A bag of Cheetos is cheaper than a bag of apples; unhealthy processed foods are more prevalent (and less expensive) than whole foods; families eat dinner away from home more than ever before. When you hear stats like this, it's easy to feel discouraged. But changing our food landscape isn’t just advisable—it is essential.

If you’re unhappy with the way things are, consider how they got like this in the first place. McDonald’s doesn’t make cheap hamburgers because laws require them to. They make cheap hamburgers because people buy them. Clearly, both the problem and the solution are in our hands.

The decisions we make every day—what to eat, where to shop, how to commute—may seem small, but they send a clear message about what is important to us. If you think that change only comes from the top, and voting only happens at the polls, think again. Every time you buy food, clothing, fuel, or entertainment, you are, in essence, voting for the company that produced, packaged, and marketed it. Every time we spend money, the recipient of our dollars gets the message that we approve of their product and we want more of it. But the inverse is also true. Some cases in point:

You might not be old enough to remember Rosa Parks and the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, but you certainly learned about the success of that 11-month nonviolent protest. People carpooled, walked, and biked to send a powerful message that it was time for change. Every dime that wasn’t tossed into the bus company’s coffers was a vote against racial segregation. In the end, the U.S. Supreme court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional. 

You surely aren’t old enough to remember the 1791 sugar boycott in England, but it’s another example of how small decisions can really add up. At the time, Britain’s largest import was slave-produced sugar, but there was a growing anti-slavery sentiment in the nation. When Parliament refused to abolish slavery, a boycott was organized. Sales of slave-produced sugar dropped significantly, while sales of Indian sugar, produced without slavery, rose exponentially. Women, who didn’t even have the right to vote, brought about awareness and change by simply buying a different “brand” of sugar.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • I agreed with a comment below that this is the best article I've ever read on Spark and I've been around a long time. I'm pleased at all the positive comments too although I have to disagree with the "anti-bottled water" post.

    Not everyone has access to a source of "pure" water during the day. I don't want to drink from the public water fountains that we have either at work or in other locations I visit during the day. Some are actually quite nasty.

    I always bring my bottle of filtered tap water from home to start with, but keep bottled water as a back-up for when that runs out.

    I always recycle and it's certainly better than a plastic bottle of soda or juice or an energy drink. - 9/20/2014 1:03:47 PM
  • Excellent article! The decisions are ours to make. Yep. A bag of apples may cost more than a bag of chips, but I bet that bag of apples lasts longer and makes more 'snacks' than those chips do! Everyone here is conscious of their health to some degree. Kudos to Coach Nicole for reminding us so succinctly how many times a day we have to make the healthier choice! - 9/20/2014 11:19:28 AM
  • FOXGLOVE999
    The majority of my kids friends parents don't cook. We have always eaten home cooked dinners at the table, apparently this is unusual. Many children just aren't exposed to healthy foods. It is sad. - 9/14/2014 12:25:07 PM
  • This article was an eye opener for sure. - 9/4/2014 1:27:35 PM
  • Since I've changed my "bad" eating habits I've noticed I spend less. I no longer by Chips, Cookies, Chocolate, Candy or processed foods. The money I saved is now going towards healthier choices like apples, oranges, organic poultry, lean meats and more vegetables. I am no longer craving the sugar and carbs and my grocery bill is lower and so is my scale. - 8/26/2014 10:39:47 AM
  • First, pre-packaged crappy snacks aren't that much cheaper when I buy a bag of Cheetos and proceed to eat almost the whole bag in a day. Several hearts of romaine lettuce probably cost as much but I certainly don't it eat all in one day. :)

    Second, I know this opinion is unpopular but I hate bottled water. "They" have convinced us we need to purchase "individually wrapped," water! Genius business idea but terrible for the environment. I cringe whenever I hear people talking about where bottled water is on sale - I'll tell you where you can find it even cheaper! Every day I pack my water bottle with ice, take it to work, and fill it up at the fountain for lunch.

    Okay, sheepishly stepping down from soapbox now... - 7/21/2014 3:41:45 PM
  • A really good article and it did some eye opening for me - Thanks - 12/18/2013 5:02:28 PM
  • I agree with SMUDDIE! Healthy foods aren't necessarily expensive. Processed convenience foods are expensive! I buy a lot of produce and find that it is a lot cheaper than junk food. If you buy basic ingredients and cook yourself, you will save a lot of money and end up with a healthier diet. If you don't know how to cook, please take a class or find a friend who can teach you or get a basic cookbook and start following some recipes. Cooking is a basic life skill that everyone should learn. It's not that hard, and it's a great way to use some creativity, too.
    - 3/11/2013 9:02:23 PM
  • A really GREAT article!!! - 11/6/2012 9:51:33 PM
  • DJDANCER
    I have always felt that how and where I spend money is a reflection of my values. This article really 'nails it' in describing how each of us makes choices that make our own lives and the lives of others richer or poorer, healthier or sicker. Conscious consumer decisions have impact but as Annie Leonard points out we have to do more than consume intelligently: we have to advocate and collaborate and educate to make our food chain and our environment and our communities more robust. - 11/6/2012 5:56:28 PM
  • Use this article at TOPS chapter meeting yesterday and we had a great discussion
    Every time you buy something from retail you do cast a vote for that product
    The reason junk sells is that people buy it
    One day at a time - 11/6/2012 10:08:35 AM
  • Possibly the best article I've read yet on Spark. Thank you so much. I'm going to bookmark, Tweet, Facebook, forward, and print this one. - 11/6/2012 8:56:12 AM
  • Possibly the best article I've read yet on Spark. Thank you so much. I'm going to bookmark, Tweet, Facebook, forward, and print this one. - 11/6/2012 8:56:12 AM
  • KATHIE_B
    There are lots of healthy & affordable foods available at the grocery store if people just (1) make a meal plan (2) commit to following their shopping list (3) cook from scratch or at least partially. Besides fresh produce, low-fat dairy products and lean fish/poultry/meat look for whole grains: brown rice, barley, etc, and legumes.

    The farmer's market and organic are great options if you can afford it. Produce in our small town's farmer's market is 2 to 3 times the cost of the same item at the grocery store. I do buy a few things every week to support the farmers but I can't afford to do all my shopping there. I know they are not getting rich. I do know the city is charging them a lot to be in the market & they have to pass that cost along to the consumer. - 11/6/2012 8:39:05 AM
  • TIGERSIS78
    Thank you for this timely and excellent article. Even if everyone only made one change suggested, it would make a big difference. We do have the power to make changes in society! - 11/6/2012 8:18:17 AM

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