But after living in the US you start to understand that it really is not easy.
In other countries, bread is bread, restaurant food is one serving and the snacks your peers bring in are home-made sweets, or cheese and crackers, etc.
In the US, bread is sugary and dense in calories, restaurant food is in two salty-oily servings, and the snacks your peers bring in are donuts and cupcakes.
When I first moved to the US and lived as I normally would, I gained weight quickly. It sucked having to involve yourself mentally in something you normally don't have to think about.
When I tried to follow a 'normal eating pattern' in the US, it made me physically sick from the amount of food and sugar in the portions, so I had to forcibly reduce the amounts to not feel like garbage every waking day.
Maybe people just don't realize how amazing they can feel if they just size down the portions?
A lot of people seem to be genuinely afraid to not get enough "nutrients" or protein if they eat less. Living in the US for a while totally distorts your sense of the appropriate amount of food to eat. Even the ice cream cones kids are eating here are probably at least three times the size of what I got as kid in Germany. Candy bars are at least double the size.
A shop here in Ireland for me is a short walk down the road. A nearby shop in the US tends to be a lot further.
Snark aside, I think that if more of the societal costs of owning a bigger house were priced in to having a bigger house, fewere people would want bigger houses. There's no reason we HAVE to live in a society fueled by consumerist real estate envy.
EDIT: Forgot a word
If you take a typical median-income family, plot out a reasonable household budget and daily schedule, and then try to match it with every place in the US, most of the results will show that the family must own at least one car and spend an hour a day driving it. It's the only way to afford being there at all. The desirable areas are priced out of their reach, because there just aren't enough of them.
I'd love for all my daily transit to be on elevators and electric trains. But I also want my public school district to have enough money to pay its teachers without taxing me, specifically, into oblivion. For reasons I cannot comprehend, my employer wants to locate its workplace in the middle of a bunch of office buildings, where they enjoy lower facilities costs and a lower tax rate, while still benefiting from an educated workforce. So I pretty much have to drive a while between home and work.
If I lived close to work, I couldn't afford the place. If I worked close to home, the jobs nearby wouldn't pay enough to cover housing.
The median household income is roughly $60k. 86% of workers commute using a privately-owned automobile (ACS data), with about 3/4 commuting by driving solo. The mean commute time is about 26 minutes.
This situation might be exacerbated by the fact that the median tenure at a job is hovering just above 4 years, and home mortgages are 30 years. So if you buy a house and want to pay off the loan on schedule, you now have to make sure it is close to 7.5 different jobs in your industry. ...Per person working in your household. Married? Site your home near 15 jobs, some of which might not even exist yet. This doesn't even account for what happens when your company decides to build on a new campus for all of its workers.
By the home affordability rule of thumb that you can afford 2x to 2.5x your annual income on your mortgage loan, the median household can afford a house at $120k to $150k. Find a pile of those within biking distance of 15 different jobs in one or two careers that pay $30k to $60k per year.
You won't, outside a handful of large cities, and the majority of the US doesn't live there, as shown by the commuting data.
What percentage of the land mass of the US does that constitute? I bet less than 10% and that's being really generous.
3% as of two years ago, according to the Census Bureau.
But that's enough to accommodate the people that want to live there, or at least close enough to take public transport into the city. I personally dislike city living, so I'm happy I'm not forced into it.
I don't buy a lot of bread, but when I do, fresh baked real bread is readily available here always.
> restaurant food is in two salty-oily servings
That depends on the restaurant, but you can find good and bad food in any country. I easily get 2 or 3 meals out of a restaurant portion, so it's very economical sometimes (even more so than fast food options).
> the snacks your peers bring in are donuts and cupcakes.
Don't forget the abundance of home-made snacks that are common in US workplaces, depending on the individual workplace and the people in it, of course.
> you all just have to stop eating so much
It's true, and it's not that hard. You just have to want to be healthy and make the choices to achieve that goal. I lost 50 pounds doing strictly portion control and cutting out processed foods (unless I'm hung over - then hot pockets are my bestest friend). I choose not to eat my entire meal in a restaurant, and I choose to not to order salty meals (oily, yes, but olive oil is so good and good for you), and I choose not to buy bread full of preservatives, and I choose not to eat the processed snacks that my co-workers bring, and I choose to limit sugary drinks, and I choose to eat a scoop of ice cream every night (because it's healthy as long as I'm not overeating). I love living in the US because I get to make those choices for myself (i.e., not legislated), including "stop eating so much".
That being said, none of the things you mentioned are exclusive to the US.
And for the record, I agree with the article that it's easy to become obese, but it's more because of the choices people make and not the options they have.
The lowest amount of sugar in another drink that isn’t diet skim-milk or water is orange juice with 11-15% sugar.
We have ryebread which isn’t too bad, but the last time I was buying buns for burgers the lowest amount of sugar I could find were 10% in some gluten-free-eco-health buns.
Even candy has increased its sugar content by around 30% over the past 25 years.
It’s really crazy, but you’re right in that it’s way worse in America.
The seminal event for increasing per-capita sugar intake was the introduction of Coca Cola/soda.
If you aren't familiar with the tragedy of sugar on traditional Native Americans, introduction of processed American foods has created an epidemic on reservation.
"Type II Diabetes, the Modern Epidemic of American Indians"
Christopher McDougall's book "Natural Born Heroes" is about the heroes of Crete during WW2 who were able to fight off the Germans by putting up extraordinary resistance by doing, among other things, hiking for miles and miles over treacherous territory for 20 hours straight. It makes an argument that a paleo-based diet is the reason why they were able to do it. With this diet, they were able to run and evade for long distances without fatigue. Meats and other proteins provide a sustainable, longer-lasting source of energy in contrast to the spike of sugar.
Generally you are correct and protein shouldn’t spike insulin like sugar, but certainly some protein will spike insulin. For example I’ve been experimenting with various proteins in ketosis and even whey isolate spikes my insulin and knocks me out of ketosis.
Maybe they weren’t doing paleo diets so much as high fat diets and entering ketosis where the body stops using glucose/glucogon as primary source of energy and begins using ketones for cellular energy.
I weighed ~113kg at the end of high-school (c. 2005) and the first step I took towards losing weight was switching out regular soda for diet variants. People say 'diet' is still bad, but switching definitely cut down on my caloric intake. Slowly, but surely, I started paying more attention to caloric intake...which brings me to where I am, now.
The decision usually is between a cheap meat based meal and a non-meat based meal, and since meat is as cheap or cheaper than vegetables, it gets picked. Also, broccoli has more protein per calorie than beef.
It looks like this might be a myth. I'd never heard this claim before so decided to do some googling. However, I am surprised to learn that broccoli has a substantial amount of protein, regardless of whether or not it's "more than beef".
What you can do, and vegetarians/vegans have been doing, is to pair it with another plant product that is also non-complete, but has a different composition of these amino acids. Mixed together, they end up providing some sort of complete protein (meaning you have to know what to mix with what, in what ratio). Or just mix it with some animal protein.
That's why broccoli is dense with protein, but most if not all just goes through your body, depending what you consume it with.
This is my fitness-guy understanding, please correct me if it's incorrect.
"the results show that any single one or combination of these plant foods provides amino acid intakes in excess of the recommended requirements."
"A vegetarian diet based on any single one or combination of these unprocessed starches (eg, rice, corn, potatoes, beans), with the addition of vegetables and fruits, supplies all the protein, amino acids, essential fats, minerals, and vitamins (with the exception of vitamin B12) necessary for excellent health"
Even "chicken nuggets" are < 40% meat. They should really be called bread nuggets or something.
> high fat and high carb foods.
> and since meat is as cheap or cheaper than vegetables
I take issue lumping a lot of these things. Vegetables are not a significant source of calories in almost any diet by their nature, except vegetables like corn, potatoes, etc, which are definitely not helping Americans.
Americans do not need starchy vegetables. They need eggs, meat (real meat!), cheese, quality yogurt like skyr, butter. Calorie dense, fatty food. Not bread and corn and rice, no matter the vegetables its paired with. If they ate well in the first place, whatever veggies they pair it with are rounding errors and I think a huge canard in dietary discussions.
Vegetables are expensive because of not having realized the efficiencies of grain. Production of corn (and grains in general, and meat by extension) is almost entirely automated these days, while vegetables still require a fair amount of direct human involvement. Less efficient processes mean more cost to the consumer.
By the way, when I talk about "double income households" I'm not saying that women shouldn't be equal in the workforce, I'm saying that maybe men and women should both be working somewhat shorter hours so that they have time for their home lives.
Another reason to save a large fraction of your income- to pay off the house quickly and get back down to a single income household, or have both people go part time. Very liberating.
The big thing working against it though, is that land and luxuries are positional goods, and people will continue to work hard in order to outbid eachother in order to have more of these positional goods. This is why I'm afraid the dual-income trend will not reverse.
The one modern problem is "land". It's not even just that. Land is actually very plentiful, the problem is the small amount of land available in desired places. And it's again not what it looks like, because desirability is not some intrinsic characteristic of the land anymore, instead the land is desirable because for some reason all the employment opportunities are there.
I really don't understand how employment got to be so much geographically restricted. But it is about this that people are fighting at current positional markets.
I was looking for this uninformed and incorrect statement.
"Junk Food" and Fast food tends to be between 100-300 Calories Per Dollar. Fresh Fruit and Vegetables are in this same range.
This doesnt include that homecooked meals are 200-300% cheaper than junk food. A meal with Chicken Rice and Veggies are closer to 600-700 calories per dollar and have protein and nutrients.
There is obviously a time aspect, but that isnt what is discussed in the quote.
My expertise is food, source- http://efficiencyiseverything.com/food/
Is that median or average? Because from my understanding, that may be true at a large supermarket in a wealthy suburb, but at a small corner market in a poor neighborhood, which is often the only market a poor person has access to, the veggies are far more expensive per calorie than junco food, if they even have the fresh fruits and veggies, which they often don’t.
There arent junk foods that score above 400 calories per dollar. They dont exist from 5 years of searching(and if they do, let me know, I would like to study it).
Those corner stores will have Apples, Oranges, and Bananas. There is a reason, they are cheap and similar cost to these junk foods.
> small corner market in a poor neighborhood, which is often the only market a poor person has access to, the veggies are far more expensive per calorie than junco food
This seems like an impossibility. Junk food requires a multiple stage manufacturing process, while vegetables only need to be shipped and sometimes refrigerated.
The big thing is to look at the price you pay. Paying 1 dollar for a bag of carrots is cheaper than a 15 dollar tray of mixed veggies.
As previously mentioned, if you have ideas for low cost foods, let me know, we study this for Efficiency Is Everything.
Top Ramen chicken flavor is 190 calories per package, 48 packs look to be available at around $10 (the lowest I can find right now is actually $8.78, but $10 is a nice round figure.) So that's $10/9120 calories or 912 calories per dollar.
Slim Jim Smoked Snack Sticks I can find for $20 for 120. They are 160 calories each. That works out to $20/19200cal or 960cal/$.
That all took about 5 minutes of searching. Your five years of searching don't appear to have been spent very efficiently.
> Junk food requires a multiple stage manufacturing process, while vegetables only need to be shipped and sometimes refrigerated.
Shipping and refrigeration and allowances for damage and spoilage and paying for shelf space (raw veggies are bulky per calorie, which affects in-store or, for direct to consumer delivery, in a warehouse, inventory cost as well as shipping) are, altogether, huge costs; mitigating them is one of the big drivers for industrial food production.
I havent looked at Slim Jims in bulk, but usually dried meat is quite expensive. What store do you buy slim jims at? (I expect the protein per dollar to be less than chicken but on-par with yogurts/dollar fast food. 10-20g/$)
Also, none of those have calcium
I'm not sure what you are trying to point out since you mentioned soup. That you can drink flour cheaper than you can cook a well rounded meal? Flour isnt going to get you fiber.
Did you read the original source? Ramen and various junk food are all over that page.
They are overlapping categories.
> Also, none of those have calcium
Well, yeah, they are junk food. Micronutrient (or even macro) completeness isn't really an expected feature. Your claim was that no junk food existed over 400cal/$. This is false. That junk food is, well, junk is not the claim I was addressing, nor one that seems to be in any kind of dispute.
Now where are you getting these slim jims?
But poptarts are low protein per dollar and have limited nutrients.
You could eat bread for 0.75$ a day until you get scurvy.
Poptarts are super expensive.
You're not comparing the cost of balanced vs. junk foods here, but rather the cost of eating out vs. home cooking (paying for someone else to cook your food).
You can make junk food at home quite easily for even less money. Consider for instance baking a cake, from cheap ingredients like oil, sugar and flour. Ingredients like potatoes and vegetable oil are literally cheap as chips.
Sure you can get 2000 calories per dollar eating homemade sugar cookies, but you probably are going to get sick of it and grow unhealthy. Low protein per dollar, low fiber per dollar, all of these are important qualities you dont get in 'junk foods'.
A Chicken Rice Veggie dish like Fried Rice, Chicken Curry, Fajitas, etc... are closer to 700 calories per dollar(less than 20$/week), are around 40-50g protein per dollar, and have nutrients from various vegetables.
Junk food performs poorly in non-calorie metrics like Protein and micro nutrients.
>Ingredients like potatoes and vegetable oil are literally cheap as chips.
To clarify, potatoes and vegetable oil are significantly(~10x) cheaper than packaged chips.
Somebody shopping with purpose can get cheap healthy food easily, but the chart they give did give me some thought.
If you use look at chart they give, fruits and vegetables are actually slightly lower on the $/100g axis, but have a much lower calorie density. This underlines one thing I've thought about: we are kind of too busy to spend all day eating low energy-density foods. The modern lifestlye has a decent amount of pressure to minimize the amount of time spent eating so we can get back to work.
Really, 4 out of 5? I get that other parts of the country are different, but I also think BMI is a really crude tool that paints some healthy people as weighing more than they should for their height. But it can be muscle, it can be body type, etc.
Ive been lifting for 6 years, and my lowest weight I get is 183lbs, after this I begin to starve and overeat due to how skinny I am.
I dont know the solution, but my doctor looked at me and knew I was healthy even though I was technically overweight.
For the biggest group of American men, this article is implying that they are unhealthy, when the facts are that they are actually healthy.
I'm not saying this isn't among the most important health issues in the US. I just think you need a more reasonable standard or a lot of people will just throw up their hands.
The BMI of athletes, or the limited options of people who live in food deserts, really seem like missing-the-forest-for-the-trees tangents in these sorts of discussions. According to the "rise of obesity in America" chart in the article, overweight-or-more among American women went from about 40% in 1960 to about 80% in 2014, with the highest percentage increase in the "extremely obese" subgroup. It's interesting to speculate about what drives it. But I don't think we can explain the trend with "they got shredded" or "they moved to food deserts" when we're talking about 40% of all American women.
Maybe my intuition is wrong -- maybe there are enough people with high muscle mass that it's skewing entire charts like the Vox article shows. If you have citations to that effect, I'll read them with gratitude.
The US diet seems natural to me. I think it's the result of 100 years of evolution in food design and the fact that your body wants fat-adding easy to acquire calories. Fritos didn't grow on trees.
A more interesting question is to compare why countries at an equal level of wealth and technical development aren't the same. Ethnicity? Culture? Legal climate?
Fruits and vegetables in the US taste terrible.
How do you want a kid to chose this sad dry dirt stick they call carrots when they got a deliciously engineered Maillard molecules stacked burger next to it ?
Every time I go to the US, I have to spend crazy money at Whole food to get something only near the quality of what I get to regular supermarkets in France. And in my country, I try to avoid regular supermarkets because there is no joy in eating their fresh good.
Of course you will eat a kit kat if you have to pay 3 times the price to get something healthy, and 5 times to get something satisfying.
Plus remember, this tops the effort that is already required in choosing what to buy and cook it.
It's an impossible game to win for many American.
And it's a vicious circle.
Being fed with crap lead to less energy, more disease, and worse mood, and so you have even less chance to catch on life opportunities. And less chance to ever eat healthy again.
That won't scale.
I have a fine strategy for eating proper food: not leaving in the US.
"Food is actually the perfect example of a system in which the presence of a profit motive is having incredibly destructive human consequences. That’s because it introduces a terrible incentive: to sell people the products they’ll get addicted to rather than the products that are good for them. Americans live on junk food; they have terrible diets, with too much sodium, too many calories, too much sugar, and too few fruits and vegetables. "
Feral free-market capitalism clearly isn't delivering what we want when it comes to food, but the alternative isn't communism. It's better incentives and/or punishments for the market. That certainly is where government (which, incidentally, represents the people, or should do), has a place.
Also just want to clarify that I do not think that our state of agribusiness is perfect and not in need of some systemic change. There are tons of perverse incentives out there that have created some of the problems we face. However, I feel like a lot of that was caused by government intervention. I don't see this as a left vs right issue either, as both sides are guilty here.
There could be a sugar tax for example.
Or even better a 'health tax' pegged to a 'health index' of some kind, quite possibly with both government and private involvement.
Lots of possibilities
But one thing seems clear, that capitalism is ultimately only interested in profit. It should be tailored to align better with society's needs.
I agree the subsidies are not helpful, but I think they exist to politically support farmers rather than to encourage particular foods.
That said (to use the latest irksomely popular phrase), I don't think the agricultural subsidies are the whole, or even major part of the story of the food environment.
A classic arms race, it can't be avoided.
But the healthiness measurements don't necessarily have to be dictated directly by government. Government could set uo an independent health assessment index, or market of some kind.
The opposite of organic liberal organization is planned mandatory organization. It's a matter of discussing what plan is a good one.
The proper place of government is to regulate markets, so that they deliver social good, not spiral into self-serving vortices. Adam Smith said roughly this.
Assuming that the government will make the problems with food go away with regulatory pressure relies on the assumption that the government is as enlightened about dietary needs as you are (or claim to be). In reality -- even absent the graft rampant in American politics -- that's not the case.
Should be it be private companies, who deliver the "tastiest" food, to maximize profit, or should it be government with their well-meaning but wrong pronouncements?
Given we still don't know for sure what the health recommendations should be (which I think is largely why govt advice is wrong), I would plump (ahem) for well-meaning.
Also, it presupposes that a food's healthiness is universal to all people.
Heck, if we're going to tax or subsidize anything, tax unhealthy food and subsidize the shit out of vegetables (and to a much less extent, fruits, so long as they're bound for market whole, and not just like oranges to be turned into juice).
And subsidize fresh produce markets in food deserts.
What we're doing now is the worst of all possible worlds, though. We subsidize the most environmentally destructive and health-destructive foods, with entirely predictable results.
This is an outrageous lie; although they added the word "can" which is either quickly overseen or makes the statement useless.
But arrogant ignorant misleading propaganda is typical for the harmful mainstream media where writers are paid for words and stories and not for content and truth.
Unhealthy food and mainstream media are similar in a way.
Vegan products are the cheapest products.
Vegetables and fruits are cheap if one buys seasonal products.
Vegan high carb (e.g. bread, rice,...) and high fat (e.g. oil) products offer always cheap calories. Besides, getting enough calories in the US is not the problem according to the article.
Animal products are by far the most expensive and most harmful products. Note: They are also subsidized.
But I think your comment is misplaced because the points of the article have almost nothing to do with vegan/meat choices. Taking meat out of the American diet would not significantly change the facts presented in the article. This is especially true for point 3, where we consume way, way too much (vegan) soda and (vegan) sugary beverages.
Quote (of a lie): "Instead, there is a range of economic and social factors that make eating enough fruits and vegetables really hard."
Of course it "can" cost more if you insist on buying only the most expensive vegan food available.
Try to become obese on a cheap healthy whole food plant based diet and rice and potatoes and bread without much added sugar (= normal bread in Europe).
The article offers no useful information to the reader and shifts all responsibility to the evil industry and claims that healthy food is too expensive and socially unacceptable and thus out of reach and not a solution.
Can you find one benefit of the article that made you smarter or a better person ?
Compare any American super market's fruit and veggie section to one in Canada, or EU, and this is obviously true. Even Whole Foods' is pathetically small.
Seeing how little space there is for F&V, if you imagine doubling the space, the production problem is quite apparent.
In Canada, the nearest supermarket to my folks' uses half it's floor space on vegetables and fruits. Grown in California, of course.
It is true that the temptations of heavily-marketed unhealthy food are stronger than they were in the past. This does not mean that it is not your fault if you get fat.
Assuming your sarcasm is genuine, I find your particular line of thought to be very endemic of a particularly damaging variety of the victimhood mentality.
Well, I'd say poor youth habits are where all this begins and they can be tough to break. Little by little I started minding my nutrition and started losing weight. I always read the nutrition labeling, now...to the point where it might seem obsessive to an observer. Not that I'm the paragon of health and fitness, but I at least pay attention to what's going in my body - both good and bad.
This seems to be a typical US american thing as well and why it is easy to become obese and unhealthy in the USA.
Tales of evil sugar and tales of good healthy high fat high protein diets with much animal products.
Worldwide scientific experts warn against much sugar and much fat and much animal products (high fat, high protein).
But to each his own.