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Nutrition Articles  ›  Meals and Food

Vote with Your Fork

Create Change, One Bite at a Time

-- By Liza Barnes & Nicole Nichols, Health Educators
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Election Day happens every day. You have the opportunity to cast your vote and change the world at almost every turn—or at the very least, every meal. What would you vote for if everything was on a ballot: Lower rates of obesity? Healthy food that's affordable? Humanely raised meat? How about healthy school lunch menus, more accountability in the food industry, pedestrian and bike-friendly cities, or more community vegetable gardens?

Here are 10 simple ways that you can "vote with your fork" every time you shop, eat, or dine out.

Vote for lower health care costs. Most of our country's health problems stem from lifestyle diseases that are preventable. So let's all do our part to prevent them and cut everyone's health care costs. Feed yourself (and your kids) fresh, home-cooked meals more often. Exercise regularly. And don't smoke.

Vote against disposable bags at the grocery store. Keep paper and plastic bags out of landfills by bringing your own shopping bags every time you shop.

Vote for healthy food choices at restaurants. When you do choose to eat fast food or dine out, choose the healthy options. This helps send a clear message that people want healthy meals, making it more likely that restaurants will keep these dishes on the menu—and add more like them.

Vote against unhealthy food choices. Have you ever noticed that chips, cookies, sweets and candy take up more space in the grocery store than healthy foods do? If you're tired of unhealthy foods tempting you at every turn, then turn them down yourself. Part of the reason these foods are so prevalent is that people do buy them. Send your message loud and clear by not supporting companies who don't seem to have the health of their consumers in mind.

Vote for locally grown produce. Your local farmers market offers seasonal food that's fresh, healthy, and eco-friendly. When you spend your food dollars at your local farmers market, you're voting for the farmer, his farming methods, the farmers market and your community. Buying local food casts a vote against conventionally grown produce that's imported or shipped thousands of miles to your supermarket even though it's already available close to home.

Vote against the inhumane treatment of animals. If it bothers you to think about the conditions where your meat, poultry, eggs and milk come from, then don't support it. Choose meatless meals more often, or spend your dollars on companies and local farmers who raise animals more humanely.
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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

  • 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
  • I always vote with my wallet - if I don't support it I don't buy it, no matter what it is. I support natural, ethical, grown on the earth, not processed. Hope more start doing it. - 11/6/2012 7:57:43 AM
  • I think this is an excellent article on an excellent day. It is important that we all remember that though we might be individuals, that our choices make huge impacts. We have to stop selling ourselves short, ignoring the power each and everyone of us has. We have to take time to make decisions everyday, let's make every one of them count. - 11/6/2012 7:54:38 AM
  • While I'm not so optimistic as to say that we as consumers will "vote" places into being healthy, or put fast food chains out of buisness / change their menu... I would agree that all these tips are great in general and ones I try to adhere by! - 8/31/2012 10:58:40 AM
  • Gosh, it's funny how things change. I commented on this article three years ago, and said I agree with Jibbie, but now I kind of don't. I mean, I agree to a point about government interference, but I question how little they are interfering the other way. I think it's your right to know what you're eating, so you can make the choice, but allowing ingredients like "natural flavoring" or it's not-necessarily-m
    ore-evil twin brother "artificial flavoring" to be a catch-all instead of allowing you to see what ALL is in your food is one example. Allowing food companies to label foods 0g trans fat, when there IS trans fat, is another.

    There's also the matter of choice architecture. A great book on this is "Nudge." Check it out. - 11/13/2011 11:50:37 AM
  • Great article! - 11/8/2011 2:09:45 PM
  • This really makes me want to scream. STOP saying that healthy foods are more expensive than healthy. That's crap. Rice, beans, whole grains, etc. are definitely cheaper than processed stuff. What is really expensive is pre prepared convenience foods. What people really need to learn is how to cook and prepare foods that will fit into their schedule and adjust their tastes away from artificial flavors. Hand in hand with healthier eating is better portions. You may eat a dollar's worth of apple and be done, but it's much easier to sit down and eat $3 worth of Cheetos in a sitting.

    I ran the concession stand at my school this fall season and I was excited to offer some healthy options. I got carrots and dip, applesauce, and string cheese to offer along with the other standard offerings (pizza, hot dogs, etc.) You know what? For the most part, the healthier choices didn't sell. Companies who sell unhealthy foods aren't evil, they are trying to succeed in business and earn profits for their shareholders (which just might be you - check your 401k and mutual fund investments) and wages for their employees. - 11/8/2011 12:34:19 PM