Healthy Eating a Long-Term Battle

Healthy Eating a Long-Term Battle

cleaneatzUntil I read about the pending opening of a Clean Eatz franchise in Huntington over the summer, I had never heard of the North Carolina-based restaurant chain.

I was impressed with their proclamation that menu items are a maximum 500 calories, and that the owners’ goal is to help people adjust to a healthy lifestyle. Having had my own struggles with weight ever since I seriously injured my back in 2013, I need all the reminders I can get.

Making a quick check of the web site, I learned the Huntington location is the eighth in three states, with 16 more planned in six states. Sounds like an idea whose time has come.

Obesity struggles

The news on the obesity front can easily discourage anyone who hopes to see our nation embrace healthier living.

Huntington got tagged in 2008 as the nation’s fattest city in a Centers for Disease Control, which resulted in famed British chef Jamie Oliver filming his award-winning ABC mini-series here.

Initially, rates dropped, school menus changed, and Oliver’s storefront filming studio became Huntington’s Kitchen, a local resource that teaches healthy cooking classes and serves as an advocate for healthy living.

Yet, long-term trends are evidence of a continuing problem. When I checked recently, the “State of Obesity” web site reported West Virginia’s rate tops 35 percent, compared to 23.9 percent in 2000 and 13.7 percent in 1990.

The only state that ranked above ours: Louisiana at 36.2 percent. Colorado has the lowest at 20.2 percent—although with one in every five people tipping the scales at a body mass index of 30 or higher, Colorado has nothing to brag about.

Receptive to Healthy Eating

Receptive to Healthy EatingDespite the setbacks, I see Clean Eatz coming to our town as a sign of a receptiveness to healthier eating that didn’t exist prior to Jamie Oliver’s visit. This area has become home to so many 5-Ks, 10-Ks and even marathons that some people have tagged us “Runnington.” Traffic detours or race-related delays are so common I try to remember the need to detour around various areas on certain weekends.

There are subtle signs of changes on a national scale as well, starting with the long-term decline in soda consumption. Earlier this year, Fortune reported that sales had fallen to a 30-year low in the midst of declining for the 11th consecutive year.

It reminded me of long ago, when a friend who worked for the Jefferson County Health Department in Louisville, Kentucky, mentioned there were 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce can of soda.

After checking the calorie count for that size serving, I realized that it had as many calories as beer, meaning a soda gut could be every bit as bad as a beer gut. After eliminating my nightly habit of alternating cream soda and cola, I shed 12 pounds in six weeks.

Subtle Impact

Interestingly, the same week I read about Clean Eatz coming to town, I saw a story about McDonald’s announcement that it was eliminating some unpalatable ingredients from its most popular menu items.

That included making its famed Chicken McNuggets and other items without artificial preservatives and removing high fructose corn syrup from its hamburger buns. The changes come as Mickey D’s tries to reverse declining customer traffic the past three years.

When an international chain like McDonald’s is removing leading offenders in the fat-sodium-sugar triumvirate line-up that worsens our obesity battles, it means the grassroots efforts that largely go unnoticed are making an impact. Which is why I can now can enjoy a meal at Clean Eatz.


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