Evidence has shown that having too many choices is not always a good thing. I think this is most noticeable in food choices we find in grocery stores. Eating a wholesome diet is easier when one shops at a farmer’s market where most offerings are real foods, but more of a challenge at a supermarket where so many of the products on the shelves are highly processed fake food.
Consider the obviously healthy breakfast option: oatmeal. This whole grain has been associated with a healthy diet for its ability to lower cholesterol and leave the diner feeling satiated after just 150 high-energy calories. But when I pick up rolled oats from the cereal aisle at the supermarket, the non-processed real thing is on the lowest shelf. Items on the shelves at eye level (known by marketing experts to be most accessible and more likely to be selected) are labeled oatmeal but they are processed, instant, and flavored products. These options have the fiber, low saturated fat and low cholesterol that make oatmeal a healthy breakfast option, but added sugars (16 g) and salt (319 mg) make it less healthy compared to unadulterated oatmeal (1g sugars, 0mg sodium). The instant option also adds approximately 28 calories (depending on the flavor).
Instant packets seem like a good breakfast choice – oatmeal is healthy after all. They are popular choices because they are convenient. However, preparing the “quick 1-minute” oats mixed with water still takes only 90 seconds in the microwave. No need to stir and cook on the stove then wash the pot. Adding fresh or dried fruit and seasonings of choice adds more flavor and nutrition than the simple carbohydrates and sodium that the packages add.
One concern I’ve heard several people voice is that eating whole foods cost more than processed foods. Sometimes that can be so. However, this assumption does not always hold true. When I priced a popular national oatmeal brand in my supermarket I learned that the container of rolled oats cost 19 cents per ounce. The brand’s box of packets of instant oatmeal cost 44 cents per ounce.
Wholesome food – natural, convenient, healthy, and even less expensive – can be a real option. Choosing wholesome food empowers me to care for my body, taking control of my health.