How to be conscious of what’s on your plate

By TINEER AHMED | December 7, 2017

In this digital age, it’s becoming more and more convenient for college students to order food via UberEATS and devour their Big Mac, all while lying on their beds watching BuzzFeed videos online. Yes, you also have a fridge full of healthy food. Yes, you have an overpriced college meal plan. Yes, McDonald’s is cheap. But look at this situation through a different lens. The Big Mac costs less than $5. Realistically, the amount of labor put into the burger is not valued at $5.

The LA Times overviewed our diet’s water footprint, which is the amount of fresh water directly used and incorporated in goods and services: The production of one pound of beef requires 1,800 pounds; one pound of cheese requires 600 gallons; and one pound of wheat requires 132 gallons of water. Your reaction to these figures could be surprise, disappointment or indifference.

Either you thought more highly of the food industry, or you are not sure what this information means. Are you supposed to grow all your raw foods in a farm to insure everything is grown ethically? Answer: No, McDonald’s will continue to mass produce all their ingredients for as long as college textbooks will be considered the biggest scam ever. Instead, you should be conscious of how your food is arriving on your plate.

Many people are taught at a young age that anything ending in .org, .edu or .gov is trustworthy, and Wikipedia is as reliable as the FFC’s mislabeling of the cherry-flavored ice cream.

Unfortunately, the ideal of a capitalist country is to make money, which sometimes conflicts with morality. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine uncovered that mega soda businesses Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have funded more than 90 U.S. public health groups, including National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association.

This conflict of interest could be one of many. Remember that learning about your food from genuine — no, not your Twitter feed — sources is not going to pressure you into veganism. People do research before investing in cars and computers, so our health should be no different.

There are hundreds of documentaries that illustrate the truth of factory farming, like Food, Inc., which notably uncovers America’s large-scale meat and vegetable manufacturing. Watch some that target our extreme sugar intake (Fed Up) or the conundrum behind GMOs (GMO OMG).

It’s a great conversation starter to have when you are at the mailroom waiting in line. Awareness of our food production goes beyond buying meals that have a small water footprint. It also encompasses the artificial sugars, the foodborne illnesses and antibiotic use of the products marketed on grocery store shelves.

A major step one needs to take is to avoid processed foods. It’s pretty sketchy to buy SPAM from a dollar store, but reading the ingredients list on a box of Pop Tarts is even more freighting. Thiamine mononitrate? Yum. Although deli meat subs are the go-to lunch in elementary schools, and hotdogs with ketchup and mustard are included in every Fourth of July picnic, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a branch of the World Health Organization) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen.

When it is proven that 50 grams of processed meat every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 percent, it is almost as if schools should add “and processed meats and cheeses” to their Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program.

It is understandable that college students definitely do not have the time to make a baked ziti. However, many people do not realize that there are a tremendous amount of recipes online that need only raw foods. Adjusting to a raw food diet takes a lot of willpower, but simply blending up bananas and spinach with some chia seeds is as easy as finding a seat in Brody on a Friday night.

I will not convince you otherwise: Eating locally is definitely a luxury. Going to the farmer’s market to actually buy the items instead of taking pictures that will fit the aesthetic of your Instagram? What a phenomenon. However, it is a wholesome practice to buy in-season fruits and vegetables from a local market, because you know the food was not shipped with synthetic pesticides from Bolivia.

If you do have the finances and resources to eat organic foods, then do it. Organic produce usually does not contain preservatives, so it is fresher and richer in certain nutrients than conventional produce is.

No matter how conscious you think you are about your diet, it is essential to follow up on current issues with food and consider easing into more sustainability. If a policy passes that disadvantages people living in a food desert, write a thoughtful, detailed email to a public official. It is important to interact with people, other than your lab partner, to learn about their food experiences. Food is a necessity to living your best life, so make an effort to learn about it.

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