Consumer Education

I read this article  awhile back.  After I read it, I mostly put it out of my mind.  It didn’t seem like it was that groundbreaking.  We all know that McDonald’s is not healthy and that they use various advertising techniques to get the general population to buy their food.  Pretty much nothing that comes out about McDonald’s shocks me anymore.  But, I ran across this article again and it got me thinking about other companies in the food industry.  Obviously all companies have the objective of selling their product and the main way to do this is through advertising.  McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food joint to use sneaky tactics to make you buy their mostly unhealthy food.  In fact even healthy establishments use some of these tactics, and now we have junk food out there masquerading as health food all because of clever advertising.


However, all is not lost.  With some knowledge and a little will power it can be easier to navigate through advertisements little traps.  First, let’s take a look at some of the more obvious pitfalls.  We’ll start with the fast food joints.  They use so many little tricks to get you to buy their calorie laden food.  One of the biggest draws is they are quick and cheap.  You can get a burger for literally a buck and in less than five minutes as well.  That is a lot easier than going to the grocery store, buying all the supplies to make a burger, then going home and actually cooking that burger yourself.  On the surface it looks cheaper too.  But let’s think about the long run.  All those dollar burgers will start to add up, not to mention the cost of the gas to drive there, and then how about medical costs when all those fast food meals start taking their toll on your body? Yes making food yourself can seem like a hassle and a waste but it is so much more beneficial, and it really only takes a bit of planning to work it all out.  In our house, Saturday is grocery day, so on Thursday or Friday I will plan out a menu for the next week and make a list of everything we need.  This helps a ton because now I have a meal planned for each night and don’t have to come home from work and wonder what to make.  If you have a plan and don’t have to ask the dreaded “What’s for dinner tonight?” question, you won’t be tempted to just stop at the drive-thru on the way home.  Pretty simple right?


The next trick is not so easy to avoid.  Sugar is highly addictive and because of this it is put into EVERYTHING.  From salad dressings to meat to bread, sugar is everywhere, especially in fast food.  Why? Because it keeps you coming back for more.  This is a hard thing to sidestep, especially if you’re addicted to sugar. Your first line of defense though is knowledge.  Actually read nutrition labels.  Most items on fast food menus can be found online with their calorie and nutrition info along with an ingredient list (and I am sure there is an app for that!)  Learn some of the names that sugar hides as like sucralose or sorbitol or any of these 50 other names.  Start slowly too, don’t think you can just magically cut out all sugar and live your life.  It is a slow process, one that will have many setbacks.  Start by lowering you sugar intake meal by meal. Maybe instead of a heaping pile of brown sugar in your oatmeal you use a spoonful of honey.  Or instead of four packets of sugar in your coffee try two.  Ease yourself into it and slowly but surely your body will adjust and you just won’t feel the need for as much sugar.


Finally I wanted to talk a little about tricky advertising on “healthy” foods.  If you have eyes and have been in a grocery store in the last five years you have probably noticed food labels.  It seems like everything now is natural or cage free or organic or raised on the peaceful hills of the Swiss Alps.  Ok, maybe not that last one, but it has gotten a little ridiculous.  But the food industry knows that terms like organic or all natural are appealing to the public and will be more likely to sell more product.  And sadly most people don’t pay attention, they just see that a certain brand of peanut butter says all natural on the front and don’t bother to look at the ingredient list and see that sugar is first.  Once again, get yourself educated about labels (this is a handy chart) and don’t be afraid to look around.  Look at all the brands available and be aware that the organic foods sometimes are not the best choice. Case in point, the peanut butter I buy is Smuckers all natural.  The only ingredients are peanuts and salt.  I get a huge 20 oz jar for about 3 to 4 dollars.  Compare that to some of the organic brands that cost twice as much for less peanut butter and often contain some form of sugar.  Don’t discount a brand just because it doesn’t have the fancy label.


I only covered a small portion of the advertising techniques companies use to get you to buy their products, but these are some of the most widely used.  Yes, it’s tough to avoid everything and it might seem tedious to take those few extra steps.  But it is worth it in the end and you feel a lot better about yourself.  All it takes is just a little consumer education and you are on your way to being healthier!  I hope you have a great weekend and I will see you Monday!