Author and healthy eating expert Hank Cardello has some advice for eating nutritiously, regardless of your economic standing.
The secret, he said, lies in understanding the way the average consumer thinks and buys.
Check out his tips for healthy living below and then ask Hank your own questions in a live chat this morning. Go to the comments section at the bottom of the page to ask a brief question and he may answer you directly.
So what IS making America fat—is it really just marketing?
Cardello: I think it's two things: marketing practices and secondly it's the consumer looking for value…they will super size things if they can get more for their money, so you have to give consumer value with the right products the right way.
Instead of super sizing with Coke, give incentive to super size with Coke Zero. I have no problem with Coke, it's just that when Coke morphs into weapons of mass consumption, when it's so huge. Like a double Big Gulp, consumers can't say no to combo meals…can't say no to super sizing. The 100 Calorie Packs are great—they have a big impact.
How do you sell these ideas to big food companies?
C: Companies like to make money, so we have to figure out a way to make money and do the right thing. It's a new paradigm; you make money with large quantities that are low cal. Part of my personal mission is to put the marketing muscle behind Coke Zero instead of the regular Coke for this reason. The consumer has a tough time resisting big portion and the combos of food, because it's the whole idea that I can make more for my money. Because it's a great deal—that's how consumers think.
What about other countries? How do we compare?
C: Obesity is worldwide now. I think Australia is going to surpass us now, which is really surprising, it's basically the anglicized countries. Europe isn't as thin as they used to be. The French aren't as bad.
C: It's a good question. Fresh food might be a reason. They buy their food and consume it very quickly. That's usually less fattening and less fast-food oriented. Wherever the Western diet has seeded itself, that's where we see problems.
It's showing up in China, India…the middle class has the problem, but the poor people there can't afford anything so they are skinny. It's really a problem.
What about the paradox in America? Aren't poorer people more obese? C: Actually the rate of obesity is going up fastest for the most affluent, the percentage of people that are more overweight are among the less educated, poorer folks. Mainly it's because of availability of fresh food as I mentioned before, they do their grocery shopping in 7-11, not grocery stories.
Let's talk about that—why is it that lower income neighborhoods don't have a great selection of fresh fruits and veggies?
C: A lot of it is space, it's more expensive. Also, vegetables and fruit are not cheap so there isn't the demand for them either in those neighborhoods. Just remember that corn and soybeans get more government subsidies and so it's cheaper to produce food that have corn and soybean product in them. That's why soft drinks have been so cheap because they are made with high fructose corn.