In a recent blog post, I discussed California’s ban on foie gras. The post sparked a terrific discussion about the government’s role in what we eat. While I don’t like to mix politics and food, the truth is that food is inherently political. We cannot survive without food, and eating and drinking are two of the most fundamental choices of our daily existence. The foods we consume have social and political ramifications that stretch far beyond our dinner plate.
As I’m sure many of you know, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg has recently proposed banning the sale of large sugary drinks (over 16 ounces) in restaurants, sports arenas, movie theaters, food carts and delis. Councilman Mitch Englander has proposed a similar ban of soda sales at California parks and libraries. These proposed laws have naturally ruffled some feathers. Some are calling it the “War on Soda.” Many point out that this type of legislation is a slippery slope… first we ban large sodas, what next? Americans understandably become squeamish when their choices are taken away from them. Just look at how well Prohibition worked.
While this soda legislation is well intentioned, I don’t feel that the government should be able to legislate what we choose to eat and drink. That said, obesity is an epidemic in this country, and we do need to make some fundamental changes in the way we eat. A better solution, I believe, is education… helping people to understand the consequences of their choices. No, it’s not healthy to drink 48 teaspoons of sugar in one sitting (that’s how much sugar is in a Double Gulp from 7-11). That said, it’s a choice, and consequences factor into every choice we make. Education and awareness will help Americans to better understand the consequences—both short term and long term—of our eating choices.
As a nation, we obviously need to take better care of our health, but I feel that comes down to personal responsibility. If the government wishes to take a more active role in making our country healthier, perhaps nutritional education should become the focus. Even at the elementary school level, we could be doing a lot more to encourage healthy eating choices. Have you looked at a public school lunch lately? Pizza, chicken fingers, fries and brownies make regular appearances on the menu. With public schools cash-strapped and the economy in dire straights, I realize it’s difficult to make sweeping changes to an already stressed system. That said, we could (and should) be doing more to help children understand the importance of healthy eating. Even better, let’s start in the home by cooking more meals from scratch using healthy ingredients that taste great. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or complicated or expensive. See my Healthy Food category for some great ideas.
Side Note: just in case you’re new to my blog, I’m not a total health nut… my motto is, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” I’m not opposed to the occasional caloric treat now and then. That said, I do eat healthy, flexitarian, and Mediterranean-style most of the time.
My bottom line when it comes to the soda ban: I feel we should educate, not dictate. As an American, I appreciate the freedom to make my own eating choices, as long as I am not physically harming others. I’m sure some will disagree with my standpoint. How do you feel about it? Is the soda ban a good idea? Do you enjoy a sugary Big Gulp now and then? How does the rising cost of health care play into this whole scenario? Do you feel that Bloomberg has gone too far?