FOOD CHOICES, CONTEXT, AND QUESTIONS, OH MY!
One of the main reasons I became a dietitian besides learning about nutrition and the science of food for myself was to help inform and inspire others on personal quests for health and wellness.
Recently, farmers with Illinois Farm Families and I took a group of college students studying dietetics on a crop farm tour and did this very thing. We helped inform learning literally from farm to table. So much good dialogue happened that the conversation continued after we left the farm.
One of the questions we got involved our diverse and abundant food supply, getting at the topic of choice and the expanding definition of food safety.
Why do we eat what we eat?
Why are there foods available for purchase that aren’t nutritious, or contain ingredients that we don’t need to live?
A NUTRITIOUS AND SAFE FOOD SUPPLY
Regardless of the primary reason we choose to eat what we do, there are almost always multiple factors involved, and as we have more access to information, we start to think of more reasons to choose something. In years past, people often separated the concepts of food safety and health. These days, not only are these conversations coming together more than ever before, but how we use these words to describe our food has evolved, too.
- Are your food choices driven by taste, nutrition, and/or cost?
- Do you choose foods for their personal and cultural meaning?
- What other factors come into your decision-making process when you shop for food?
If you visit the snack aisle, for example, you may consider convenience, packaging, ingredient list, and whether it is a “treat” or “every day” food, or what food group it fits into. Is it meeting your needs and aligning with your values? All of these and more are important in varying degrees depending on our goal for that meal or snack.
WHAT ABOUT FOOD SAFETY?
Imagine getting in a car or plane to head to an exciting destination. Whether driving yourself or as a passenger in a car or plane, imagine doing this with no rules or regulations. No order to the planes taking off. No expectations for stop signs, stoplights, or even which side of the road to drive on.
Would you still be excited to go? Probably not.
That’s the thing about rules and regulations. We don’t notice them when they are there and doing their job and helping keep us safe while navigating the imperfect world we live in. We do, however, notice when they are missing. Regulations and rules are there to help us.
The same is true when it comes to food.
- Farmers have regulations to follow regarding their land and farm practices.
- Food and beverage companies, restaurants and grocery stores have regulations regarding their businesses.
Consider that how we define what is good for us (nutritious) can and should include an awareness of systems and guidelines that are in place to look after the other details (safety). We can also feel good knowing that no matter how we choose to eat or what type of food we want, all of those choices support farmers.
How do you define health and safety and what is “good for you”?