As Mr Vilsack said, “The time has come to change the food system in this country faster.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, when most businesses and entertainment venues had to close, toilet paper wasn’t the only commodity removed from market shelves. The country suddenly faced a flour and yeast shortage when millions of Americans “stuck” at home got into a baking frenzy. While I understood their need to relieve stress, feel productive, and perhaps help others who are less able or so inclined, bread, muffins, and cookies weren’t the healthiest items to emerge from pandemic kitchens.
When high calorie foods and snacks are at home, they can be difficult to resist when there is little else to trigger the release of enjoyable brain chemicals. Unsurprisingly, smoking rates rose during the pandemic, adding another risk to Covid vulnerability.
And there was an alcoholic drink run. National alcohol sales during a week in March 2020 were 54 percent higher than in the comparable week of the previous year. The Harris poll confirmed that almost one in four adults drank more alcohol than usual to cope with pandemic-related stress. Not only is alcohol a source of nutritionally empty calories, its wanton consumption can lead to reckless behavior that further increases susceptibility to Covid.
Long before the pandemic resulted in spikes in calorie consumption, Americans were eating significantly more calories each day than they thought, in large part due to the immediate availability of ultra-processed foods, especially those that tease, “You can’t.” only eat one. ”(Example: Corn on the cob is unprocessed, canned corn is minimally processed, but Doritos are ultra-processed).
In a brief but carefully crafted diet study, Kevin D. Hall and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health secretly gave 20 adults diets high in ultra-processed foods or unprocessed foods that were high in calories, sugar, fat, sodium, and fiber Dietary fiber was matched to protein content. The unsuspecting participants, told to eat as much as they wanted, were consuming 500 more calories a day on the ultra-processed diet.
If you’ve read my column for years, you already know that I’m not a fanatic when it comes to food. I have a lot of containers of ice in my freezer; Cookies, crackers, and even french fries in my closet; and I enjoy a burger every now and then. But my daily diet is mostly based on vegetables, with fish, beans, and non-fat milk being my main sources of protein. My consumption of snacks and ice cream is portioned and, in addition to daily exercise, has enabled me to stay weight stable despite years of pandemic stress and occasional despair.
Marion Nestle, professor emeritus of nutrition, food research and public health at New York University, says, “This is not rocket science.” She doesn’t preach withdrawal, just moderation (except maybe a total ban on soda). “We need a national obesity prevention policy,” she told me, “a national campaign to help all Americans get healthier.”