Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Modern busy lifestyles are often at odds with the healthy aspirations of consumers who want to achieve wellness through good nutrition and exercise. Convenience and limited time to exercise and prepare meals or dislike of food preparation and cooking, shape many people’s lifestyles today. Time seems to be an important factor in whether American families are willing to cook and prepare healthy meals or choose pre-prepared foods, fast foods, and take-out, or eat snack foods instead of meals.
The American food culture is having a potentially dangerous effect on healthful diets. Here’s why:
- Family meals have declined over the years and, in some families, have disappeared completely.
- Fewer families have the time to eat together due to work, sports, or school schedules.
- Roles in families have shifted with women working full-time so meal preparation at home has decreased.
- Working parents eat more meals away from home or provide foods for their family that have been prepared by others including convenience foods, take out meals or various types of restaurant foods.
- Working families often work several jobs to make ends meet and have little time for food preparation.
- There are more quick food alternatives today including take out, fast food, and already prepared food but, unfortunately, they are often high in fat, sugar, and calories.
- The current generation of young people is growing up in households where neither a parent or caregiver cooks.
- Some ethnic groups try to follow their traditional food patterns but busy lifestyles give way to fast-food solutions.
- The food industry is under pressure to provide more healthful foods but these foods must be convenient, easy to prepare, or be ready to be put on the table and eaten within a few minutes.
Solutions to make more healthful food choices should be a priority. Start by reading food labels and learning about portion sizes and the reasons why eating more fruit and vegetables, along with high fiber foods and low-fat dairy products daily, will improve your health.
Additionally, learn to make healthy food choices when eating out and to cook simple, healthy meals at home. All can be accomplished by reading or viewing TV or Internet sites that provide accurate information. Another alternative is to attend Cooperative Extension classes and/or view our webpages.
Cooperative Extension offers research-based classes and information. It is a reliable resource for health and personal finance information. With respect to health and wellness topics, Cooperative Extension can help consumers make better food selections and understand how and why nutrition and daily exercise are critical for staying well. Even with a busy schedule, making changes by taking “small steps” can result in improved physical, emotional, and social health.