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Is Corporate Food Killing America?

Martina showing a bowl of traditional Oatmeal versus McDonald's.
A bowl of traditional Oatmeal versus McDonald's

Americans are eating themselves to death, but it's not entirely our fault. We're born with a primal instinct to desire foods loaded with fat, salt and sugar. Big companies know that, so they design million-dollar marketing campaigns to make us feel good about buying those foods. The more we buy, the bigger those corporations grow and the better they get at manipulating our cravings.

Even as they've improved their unhealthy food marketing, they've also been working on ways to change what people think about them. Several large food companies have sent out press releases proclaiming the good things they plan on doing (in a few years) while pointing to the meager choices currently on their menus.

In July of 2011, McDonald's USA president Jan Fields announced the company's "Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices." The press release proudly declared that McDonald's would, "...reduce sodium an average of 15 percent overall across its national menu of food choices." Plus they will, "...reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations."

Sounds good right? Well, the lower salt promise wouldn't kick in until 2015 (four years after the announcement) while the lower sugar, fat and calories wouldn't happen until 2020 (eight years after the announcement). And just in case you wanted to check up on them, there was no promise of exactly how MUCH they would reduce the sugar, fat and calories.

Then, as if they had forgotten their own press release, McDonald's released a new breakfast oatmeal. It's brilliant. Oatmeal is naturally fat-free, sugar-free and loaded with fiber. All McDonald's had to do was add a little fresh fruit, perhaps a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkle of stevia or Splenda to keep the sugar low.

Instead, McDonald's chose to stuff 21 ingredients into a bowl of oatmeal that's a little larger than a single measuring cup. They gave it about the same sugar as a snickers bar (32 grams) and more calories (290) than a McDonald's hamburger.

So what's the solution? For years "healthy eating gurus" tell us we have to go back. Only eat vegetables and fruit, grown in organic gardens with minimal preparations.

It's a wonderful dream, but out of touch with reality. Preparing several healthy meals a day from scratch simply takes too much time for most people. But that doesn't mean you're condemned to eat junk food.

You need to learn how to make better "corporate" food choices. It's OK to buy frozen, boxed, and canned foods. Even fast-food restaurants have better options. You just have to learn how to cut through the marketing.

To help, we've made a series of instructional videos called "Food Label Secrets." After watching these video courses you'll know how to read a food label and figure out in 8 seconds or less if it's good for you. We also teach you what the marketing on the front of the box means. There's no charge and no catch. The videos are 100% free for anyone who wants to watch. You can see them at www.FoodLabelSecrets.com.

The second thing we've done is spend the last eight years testing thousands of recipes. We changed ingredients and preparation methods to make them more nutritionally balanced, cooked them in our test kitchen and made sure they passed the approval of at least 7 members of our 10 person tasting panel.

If you want to start making healthier options for yourself, but are pressed for time, look for the recipes that say "freezer friendly." Make a few servings, freeze and enjoy them later for a healthy lunch at work or when you're tired at the end of the day.

Every recipe is posted free on our website at www.WeCookFit.com. Pick a couple of recipes a week and after a month your freezer will be full of healthy options ready to go.

Two simple steps. Learn the secrets of the food label and cook at least once a week. Take those steps today and start eating healthier tomorrow. Your body will thank you.

UPDATE: 10/11/2020

As of November 2018, McDonald's HAS made progress. Overall, McDonald’s menu updates to their Happy Meals "would produce average reductions of 20 percent in calories, 50 percent in added sugars, 13 percent in saturated fat and/or 17 percent in sodium, depending on the customer’s specific meal selection." (Quote from QSR McDonald's Happy Meals Keep Getting Healthier - by Danny Klein.)

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Updated 1/12/2018