Blair and I went grocery shopping Saturday afternoon. A young girl, maybe 24-ish, was working the register.
"I should eat like you guys," she said as she swiped kale, tomatoes, and our cartload of fresh fruits and veggies over the scanner bar. "All I eat is fast food."
"Oh, don't do that!" I blurted out. Realizing how that sounded I added, "You're way too young to get sucked into such bad habits. That stuff is terrible for you."
She shrugged. "I go to school and work here," she said. "It's just easier."
A mom in line behind us chimed in. "I'd eat healthy but with three kids, you just can't do it. Each of them has to have their special treats."
"Oh, I get that," said, pointing to the bag of M&M's I'd thrown in my cart. "I'm all about the occasional treat."
"Well, you just can't eat healthy and afford it," she insisted. She seemed adamant that I understand her cart full of blue jello and purple cereal boxes was not her fault.
I wanted to say that our grocery bill has dropped--dramatically--ever since we laid off the packaged goods and starting eating more plants, but I let it go. I disagree that it's more expensive to eat healthy. It's only more expensive if you buy the healthy stuff and don't stop buying the junk. Then, yes, you've added to your bill.
If anything, the argument that would hold more weight is that it's hard to change a family's eating habits. You can't make the change from feeding them Hamburger Helper to mustard greens overnight. Plus, it does take more time to prepare fresh food vs. dumping a box of processed mac-n-cheese into some water.
It bothers me that people feel healthy food is so far out of their reach. I get it, because we ate unhealthy for years. We think. The other week we tried to remember just what the heck we had eaten for the first ten years of our marriage. We ate a lot of Pasta-roni and canned corn and ate out 2-3x/week. I think a lot of "cereal for dinner" took place as well. But we largely drew a blank.
The trick is to start small. Vow to plan and prepare a healthy dinner just one or two times a week. Get comfortable with some recipes. I know the newness of cooking and using ingredients I wasn't familiar with was offputting for me at first. And I'm sure it's even harder if you're trying to please a kids' palate. But it CAN be done and it IS affordable.
And necessary. As the sallow complexion, dull eyes, and listless demeanor of the check-out girl who started the conversation in the first place attests to. It's hard to be alert and perky on a diet filled with salt, fat, and grease.