When it comes to the basics of nutrition why do we meekly accept what is offered to us?
About eight months ago, I did a public speaking gig on nutrition for about 200 attendees. My goal during most of my talks is not to give people random diet plans or demonstrate exercises but to make people eventually change the way they think about nutrition and fitness. I planned on doing the same here. I did my research, collected data, prepared slides and had an army of information ready to march into their heads.
About two days before the talk, I was told that the talk had to be more basic mainly because the attendees don’t have much control over their food other than deciding whether to eat it or not. So I rethought the talk and simplified it much. I decided to talk about one of the most basic nutritional evils — sugary aerated drinks. The point of the talk was now to simply discourage consumption of ‘cool drinks’ and encourage consuming fruit smoothies made with whole milk, fruit and minimal sugar. We even had banana and mango smoothies made and ready to be distributed to all attendees at the end of the talk so that they understood that a healthful mix of milk and fruit can be equally satisfying.
I walked into the hall and the attendees were seated and ready to absorb what I was about to spill. I gradually made my way up talking about what these drinks are made of. We discussed preservatives, additives, sweeteners etc and slowly the attendees opened up and started asking questions.
Now, nutrition and public speaking are what I do and hence tackling questions or super smart questioners is never a problem. But this time I was baffled.
“If cool drinks are so bad for us, why do they manufacture them?”
“Is it true that cooking vegetables drains the nutrients away?”
“Why is there sugar in potato chips?”
“Is it true that chemicals are used to ripen fruits?”
“Pizza is wheat, cheese and vegetables. Can we eat pizza topped with a lot of vegetables?”
And like that wasn’t enough, at the end of one of the most engaging, chaotic and laughter-filled sessions I’ve ever conducted, I was shocked to see about 50 folks waiting in line with more questions.
“Why are fruits so expensive but cool drinks so cheap?”
“How much sugar is okay per day?”
“Should fruits be organic?”
“Does eating the chemicals in food cause cancer?”
And finally, I got one question I had the perfect answer to — “Can I please have both the banana and mango smoothies?”
I said “Absolutely!” and only then did I realize that all my attendees were between the ages of eight and 10!
Kids are what we try so hard to be — smart, breezy and never hesitant to ask questions. We, too, were kids once. What happened to us?
At what point did we forget the basics of nutrition and start believing in marketing mumbo jumbo? When did we get so institutionalised that we think packaged cereals are nutritionally superior to home cooked food? Who convinced us medicines make it okay to hurt ourselves?
Why do we not question pesticides in our food? Why do we not fight against additives and preservatives? Why do we fall prey to health scams? Why do we think we can have our cake and eat it too? Why do we not ask questions anymore?
We, as a group, have the power to make this a better place to live in. Let’s care more. Let’s ask the right questions.
(The writer is a certified fitness and nutrition expert.)