What’s the #Alternative?

(This week our blog is authored by our Marketing Director, Kim VanGilder – who is working on pursuing a healthier lifestyle, even if she still eats the occasional Skittle). 

Every so often a new phrase enters our lexicon and there’s no unknowing it. This week, unless you happened to be somewhere without internet, radio, or television, the words “alternative facts” crashed into your world, spawning a host of internet memes, raising all sorts of havoc, and changing our culture.

But while #AltFacts is suddenly a “trending” thing now, the reality is that it’s simply a new catch-phrase for something that’s already existed. Other words used to describe it could be: lies, half-truths, or … to put it more creatively (and perhaps more poignantly) … marketing, spin, etc.

Why are we bringing it up this week on the blog? Just because it’s now a “thing?” No. We’re bringing it up because #altfacts didn’t suddenly burst onto the stage on the news or from a podium in Washington D.C. We’re bringing it up because much like the tobacco industry in the 1960s & 1970s, the food industry of today has been trafficking in #altfacts for quite some time.

Here at Quarks our message and our mission is that clean-eating, wholesome whole foods can be provided, packaged, purchased and consumed in ethical, cost-effective, and delicious ways. That it doesn’t have to be “hard” to incorporate a plant-based diet into your lifestyle. That it doesn’t have to be “gross” to eat healthy. That it doesn’t have to “take lots of time” to enjoy a good-for-your-body meal. We believe – not only because of the research and recommendations of scientists, but because of the effects we’ve experienced in our own bodies – that choosing a diet primarily made up of fresh veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins (with the occasional sweet or savory item) is the best way to live.

Today we’re pulling back the curtain on some of secrets of the food industry. We’re sharing a brief summary, but you can read the full report here.

Did you know that:

1. Each year kids see on average 5,500 commercials promoting processed, high-sugar, fast-food, or junk food. How many commercials do they see promoting fresh fruits, fresh veggies, or bottled water? Less than 100 a year.

2. Minimally processed foods do not produce huge profits for the food industry. Commodity crops (such as soybeans, corn, wheat, etc). are used by the food industry to produce much of our snack food and fast food. These foods are high in calories, low in nutrition, empty of body-benefiting vitamins & minerals, but rich in revenue for the the producers.

3. Applesauce and a fresh Granny Smith are NOT apples to apples. In a pitch to appeal to our desires to eat healthy while being busy, the food industry has put lots of marketing into convincing consumers that processed fruits and vegetables are a great healthy option. While they may be better than a cookie, processed fruits and veggies are often higher in sugar, higher in calories, and less filling than their fresh counterparts.

4. Our love of labels hasn’t gone unnoticed -and now we’re being played.  The food industry recognizes that as people start to care about what is in their food, they start to care about labels. Thus, we see a greater push in the marketing and packaging of products, boasting words like, “made with” and “contains” paired with the words whole grains, protein, fresh fruits and veggies. Reading the nutritional content and all the ingredients soon reveals that the actual portion of whole grains, proteins, or fruits and veggies may be quite small compared to the processed ingredients or sugars.

5. Many animals grown and butchered for their meat are still being fed ridiculous items to help bulk them up. We’re not simply talking about the “pink slime” panic that hit the nation a couple years ago, where meat was being “bulked up” by ammonia-infused scraps. We’re talking about what is actually being fed to livestock. Like skittles. Yes. Skittles. You have to read it to believe it. But it’s true, skittles, snack cakes, expired candy bars – all shipped to farmers to bulk up cows as a source of low cost carbs.

The truth is, most of us are aware of these  or similar things, so why do we choose to embrace the #altfacts? Why do we choose to rationalize our unhealthy choices?  Because change can be hard. It can be inconvenient. It can be costly. It can be overwhelming.

But what’s the alternative? Diabetes? Heart disease? Obesity? More surgeries? Shorter lifespans?

The choice belongs to each of us. And it can start with simply making one right choice or one small change today. Sometimes it even means putting our money where our mouth is. Investing in the better option – not the cheapest, quickest one.

It’s only our health that’s at stake.