Like breathing and sleeping, eating is a basic function of human life. Every day, we buy food through a variety of mediums, whether that be from the supermarket, the convenience store, Amazon, a fine dining experience or a quick stop at our favorite fast food joint. Every time we eat, we carry around an unconscious assumption that since our food is being served at a restaurant, or since it is allowed on a grocery store shelf, that means that the food must be safe. Although most of us carry that assumption, sadly it is wrong. Over the last 60 years, we have seen an unprecedented increase in disease in the United States, both in the short-term and long-term. The short-term effects of this can be observed in the 48 million Americans who contract food poisoning every year. Doing the math, that’s roughly 1 in every 6 people, with many resulting in hospitalizations, or even death. Over the long-term, chronic disease is affecting the population in a wide variety of ways. For instance, in the 1950s, just 10% of the population was obese. Today, that number has skyrocketed to 42%.  Chronic diseases are a source of incredible suffering in the general population, as people deal with cancer, diabetes, digestive disorders, strokes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and kidney disease. And did we mention mental health issues? The latest data from the CDC revealed that 7 out of 10 deaths every year are due to chronic diseases. How could this be? Sometimes when we develop chronic diseases, or even end up in the hospital, we don’t even think about our diet. Maybe we're just getting older, or maybe this is just genetic.  And while both things may carry some influence in some cases, the overall logic doesn’t make much sense. Consider that in recent years the effects of the COVID vaccine have caused a major stir, because people don’t want to put a foreign substance into their body.  If that’s the case, why WOULDN’T the stuff we put in our bodies everyday – our food – have either a positive or negative effect on our health? With food, we’re talking about potentially putting foreign substances into our bodies EVERY DAY over an entire lifetime. The problem is that many of us don’t see it that way, because we carry around the assumption that our food is safe. We see the beloved bag of M&M’s, a happy meal at McDonald’s, a can of Pepsi or even a footlong at Subway and think it is perfectly fine for us. Could there be some healthier choices? Sure, but everything in moderation, right?  Sadly, the reality is far darker than we could have ever imagined. There are many foreign substances and chemicals in our food, much that is unregulated by the United States government.  A recent report analyzing over 11,000 products on our grocery store shelves revealed that 70% are toxic for our health. Some products could make you sick immediately – i.e. food poisoning – but more likely these products will have a detrimental effect on your health over time. When you peel back the layers, you discover that most restaurants and fast food companies are basically serving disease on a platter.  You discover a food system that is incredibly corrupt and motivated by greed and power, with everyone playing a part from the food companies to the government to even the supermarkets themselves. To be clear, this is not a matter of fear-mongering or trying to make a news-worthy headline, rather it is a truth that has been documented extensively by many food experts in books and documentaries throughout the years. It’s happening right under our noses. And in an effort to protect ourselves and those we love, we need to learn about how the corrupt system is set up, and the many different ways we interact with it on a daily basis. So let’s begin.


If you were to transport back in time to the late 1800s, chances are you would be living on a farm, growing your own food and eating mostly home-cooked meals. In fact, at that time over 90% of the American population lived on farms. Today? Just one percent. Dr. Marion Nestle, who is one of the top researchers in the world, explains in Food Politics, “The diet of the earliest American settlers depended on foods obtained through farming, hunting and gathering, and – to a limited extent – internal and external trade. What people actually were eating before the twentieth century, however, is only known only from anecdotal accounts or small surveys.” What we know about the science of nutrition did not start to fully develop until the late 1800s. This is when Wilbur Atwater, the father of modern nutrition, put into motion the first set of dietary guidelines. However, at the time you could say that food producers did not have “blood on their hands”, because they did not understand the full extent of how food impacts the body from a nutritional standpoint. But with knowledge comes responsibility, especially when you know what you’re producing will affect the health of the general population. If you know better, do better. The problem is that from the earliest days of nutrition advice, it appears that the opposite was happening. Nestle goes on to explain that when the 14-page pamphlet How To Select Foods was published in 1917, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) “ignored Atwater’s advice” to limit sugar and fat intake, two things that still plague our society today. Why would they do such a thing?  Nestle explains that, “dietary advice issued by the government never has been purely based on considerations of public health,” and goes on to note how the government has always been in bed with the food and agriculture industries. As noted in Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle, the meatpacking industry had significant influence over the government agencies even this early in history. The impact of this would be capped for a few more decades until the 1950s, when a few key developments significantly advanced the rise of disease and greed.  Big Food companies rose to prominence, coupled with the fact that women started working more and home-cooked meals were no longer a given as they had been in previous generations.  This led to the birth of something that has come to define our modern society – convenience. As Bryan McDonald explains in Food Power: “The watchword in the industry – as for consumers – was convenience. Companies could appeal to consumers’ desire for convenience and time-saving by selling products with longer-shelf lives and more processing that meant less preparation in the home.” With such a large opportunity to sell into, food companies still faced a couple problems. “Chief among them was the problem of “fixed stomachs,” the fact that Americans were unlikely to eat more food.. increased consumption of one type of food meant decreased consumption of another type of food,” McDonald writes in Food Power.

This is one of the first signs of everything going terribly wrong, because “fixed stomachs” were never a problem to solve. As Nestle puts it plainly in What To Eat, “if you eat more, you are more likely to gain weight and become less healthy.”

When you’re producing a product that people ingest and thus can put their health at risk, profit no longer becomes the biggest priority. You cannot create a business model that is based on making people sick. If you have decided to make a living through these industries, an ethical reality is that there will likely be a cap on how much money you can make... unless you want to cause disease in the general population for the sake of profit. And unfortunately, this is exactly what food companies did. Food companies slowly started expanding people’s stomachs by increasing portion sizes alongside brilliant marketing campaigns.  Portion sizes are now triple what they were in the 1950s.  How did we go from a 10% obesity rate to 36% in modern times? There’s your answer. But food companies didn’t just stop there. Their goal wasn’t just to increase stomach sizes, but ALSO make food cheaper.  “New artificial flavor agents helped liberate companies from production bottlenecks because of dependence on natural fruits and flavors. All told, during the 1950s, food scientists developed more than 400 new additives for use in preserving and processing foods,” McDonald adds. Again, here we see an ethical limit that the food industry was bumping up against. There is a baseline cost to creating products that are actually made of real food – like natural fruits and flavors. You cannot get around this if you want to protect the health of the people. But the food companies didn’t care and started making artificial ingredients in a lab anyway. These additives, as you’ll learn shortly, are absolutely toxic for our health and have had a big role in the rise of disease. And we eat them all the time. Fast food restaurants have rode this business strategy – cheap ingredients, big portions and convenience – all the way to the top of the proverbial food chain. McDonald’s is now worth $209 billion dollars. We don’t often think in these terms, but the reality is that being that large means they have directly contributed to disease or death in millions of people. To understand why, let’s explore the two critical parts of a food company’s business strategy. First the “eat more” agenda, followed by the development of artificial ingredients.


Rapper Biggie Smalls once said "mo' money, mo' problems."  In a similar way, more food equals more problems for the human body. But food companies haven't heeded the words of Biggie, as creating bigger portion sizes and bigger pocketbooks is always top priority.  They push their agenda at the expense of science, which has proven that one of the keys to living a long and healthy life is eating less.  Which makes sense, by the way, because food was a scarcity for much of human history. As we discuss in our blog on fasting, science has revealed that our bodies function much better on less food (or even without food at all) rather than with excesses of food.  Eating more is simply unnatural for us. Despite this, we're eating more than ever and playing right into the hands of food companies. As we already mentioned, portion sizes are now triple what they were in the 1950s. The average American now consumes 3,600 calories per day – a massive increase from what was previously 1,800 for women in 1950 to 2,800 for men.  Four times the amount of people are obese.  But how exactly has the food industry been so successful in stretching “the fixed stomach” and getting us to eat more? Most of it comes down to psychological manipulation tactics. Here’s several key strategies.

Portion distortion

One of the main manipulative strategies over the last half century has been creating “portion distortion" in the consumer. This refers to the underlying psychological process that unfolds over time when larger portions keep getting placed in front of us. Both mentally and physiologically, our perception starts to become skewed when we are exposed to larger portions. This includes:
    • Psychological triggers: when we are served bigger portions, we take bigger bites, and will likely finish the entire plate even if we are not hungry anymore. This naturally creates overeating.
    • Expectations: We start to expect larger portion sizes, and are disappointed when normal sizes are given to us, especially at sit-down restaurants.
    • Cravings: At one point in time we may have been disgusted by large portions, but now we develop cravings for larger portions.
 Food companies know all of this, so they have increased sizes periodically since the 1960s. Consider that in the 1980s the average bagel was just 3 inches in diameter. Now it’s double that at 6 inches.  A little research will lead you to discover that nearly every food product was smaller at one point in time. As unethical as it may be, food companies knew it was a smart business move to increase portion sizes because they now pull in much more revenue. Unfortunately, portion distortion has happened with everything from soda sizes, snack packaging and fast food meals to restaurant entrees and grocery products. 

Get the biggest bang for your buck

Another psychological manipulation tactic that often is paired with portion distortion is presenting the illusion that we’re getting the biggest bang for our buck. In employing this strategy, food companies have intentionally reshaped how we see the value of food.  This strategy is employed at most fast food restaurants and also at the grocery stores (i.e. Walmart). In some cases, food companies will often have larger portions at slightly higher prices so that we really feel like we’re getting the most for our money. As we discussed in our blog on beating the manipulation at the supermarket, the entire store is designed to get you to impulse buy, and thus eat more food. This is all terrible news for our health, because we didn’t need the extra food to begin with. It’s not good for our bodies. It is here that we must stop and think about why their food is so cheap to begin with. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And in the case of cheap food, it’s because they’re selling us garbage. 

Controlling the narrative

To make matters worse, the food industry has leveraged their political clout to control the public narrative so that no one hears any messaging that “eating more” is bad for you.  As Nestle documents in chapter one of Food Politics, every time there has been support within the government to potentially send out messaging to the public to eat less, food industry officials quickly run to “discredit, weaken and eliminate” those messages. They’ve even gone as far as influencing the U.S. dietary guidelines, which is supposed to be driven by science. Somehow they’ve gotten the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include friendly language that DOES NOT tell us to eat less, rather to just eat within a certain set of vague parameters. More on that later. All of this matters deeply, especially when people are seeing tons of food advertising everyday urging them to eat more.

It's all YOUR responsibility

This all culminates with the last (and most laughable) manipulation tactic, which is to deflect blame onto the consumer. When food companies are criticized for creating the obesity epidemic, very rarely will they accept responsibility. They resort to shaming people, saying that it is the consumer’s responsibility to manage their weight and eat less. But how much control do we really have when they increase portion sizes, create portion distortion and control the narrative through the government? Is it really on the consumer, when companies use every psychological trick in the book to get us to buy more and more of their product?  To continue to use this argument is no different than the logic of a drug dealer. You’re doing everything you can to get people to eat more and you build the market, only to deflect blame when people develop a disease because of what you worked so hard to sell them.


Large portion sizes often lead to weight gain and health issues, but the situation gets much worse when the food you’re ingesting is toxic itself. This is where food additives enter the conversation. Food companies take advantage of the fact that people are generally uneducated about the food production process and are unaware how their health is being impacted by the way their food is being made. They take advantage of the fact that we trust them to do right by us. But they don’t. They make food with profits in mind, not our health. They alter food in ways that are unnatural and put us in danger. To fully grasp this, you need to first understand the concept of processed food. In recent years, this word has started carrying a negative connotation, but a large part of the population still doesn’t understand what it really means. Processed food isn’t inherently bad. Most food is processed, in the sense that you make it safe for consumption. This could be as simple as peeling a fruit or chopping an apple. In these cases, it would fall into the definition of a minimally processed food. The problem is that the more you process a food, the more it loses its nutritional value and health benefits. Most of the American food supply is ultra processed, in the sense that it has been so heavily altered that it resembles nothing of real food anymore. We don’t often think about how it’s possible for a food to have shelf life for many months or even years. In large part, it’s because the food has been so heavily processed, and infused with so many food additives. This is where the conversation gets really ugly. Food additives, which are also known as artificial ingredients or food preservatives, are “chemicals added to foods to keep them fresh or to enhance their color, flavor or texture,” per BetterHealth. They have absolutely zero nutritional value. And they’re terrible for our bodies, which is why Europe has banned many of them from our food supply. The United States government could enact the same laws to ban them TODAY, but they don’t. Consider that even Whole Foods has gone ahead and banned over 260+ artificial ingredients from ever making their way into their stores. But not the U.S. government. As we’ll learn later, it is because of the incredible amount of collusion with the food industry. In some cases, the use of additives is particularly evil. Food dyes, like Red 40 and Yellow 6 have been linked to everything from lymphoma and kidney tumors to ADD and chromosomal damage.

Yet food companies like Mars use them in products like M&M’s to enhance the appearance and market to children – fully knowing that these chemicals are linked with disease.

Sadly, the problem of food modification extends far beyond packaged foods, and makes its way into our meat, fruits and vegetables. GMO is another buzzword that has gotten negative attention recently, and for very good reason. In short, anything that has gone through genetic modification is considered GMO. This applies to both meat and vegetables. Research has shown that GMOs are toxic for the human body. For example, to increase profits meat producers will pump cattle full of growth hormones.  Consider that we produce nearly DOUBLE the meat that we did in 1960. For the cattle, it contributes to inhumane living conditions. And for us, we end up ingesting everything they pumped into that cattle.  When it comes to vegetables and fruits, harmful pesticides are sprayed on farms across the country to control pests, bacteria, mold and fungus. How bad are these for our health? In 2016 over 11,000 people sued Monsanto, one of the chief offenders, because they developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from Monsanto’s pesticides.  Whether it’s food additives, GMOs or pesticides, all of these practices are incredibly unnatural and unethical. It is possible to make foods that are simultaneously convenient and nutritious. And it’s being done. But most food companies opt not to do that, because it would create added complications and be less profitable. Time and time again, they prioritize money over the health of the general population. It is clear that they have blood on their hands, in the form of death and chronic disease in millions of people.  This business strategy – get people to eat more and modify foods – is incredibly profitable. As we’ll soon learn, food companies do everything in their power to control the public narrative and protect this strategy.


Food companies are extremely skilled when it comes to controlling the public narrative and protecting this business strategy.  All of this happens behind-the-scenes in a very strategic manner, so that the average person won’t recognize that food companies are actually the ones pulling the strings. In Unsavory Truth, Nestle gives us an inside look into the industry playbook of controlling the narrative. Their first strategy is to cast doubt on the science. Even when the data is conclusive and clear, anything that would potentially lead to less profits represents a threat to food companies. This applies on an ingredient level (i.e. Red 40) and a product level (i.e. selling meat). It benefits them to create mass confusion around nutrition information. For example, sugar in large quantities (especially added sugar) is terrible for human health. Sugar is largely nutritionally useless, and mass consumption can lead to cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  But with the sugar industry, Nestle reports “this industry was engaged in casting doubt on inconvenient science as early as the 1960s.”  Nestle herself has been on the receiving end of this strategy. After publishing Food Politics, she did a radio interview and outlined the dangers of consuming too much sugar. What happened next? She received a ridiculous letter from a lawyer at the Sugar Association, accusing her of making “numerous false, misleading, disparaging, and defamatory statements about sugar.” This is one small example of thousands, in which food companies try to silence the truth. They have a long line of lackeys, ready and willing to do the dirty work.  The next step of the playbook is to fund research to produce desired results for their products. Nestle explains that the parent company of M&M’s, Mars International, once “marketed the candy bars – recommending two a day, no less – as a means of increasing blood flow, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease,” based on studies they themselves funded. Clearly, this is a ridiculous claim. Yet the general public does not know that Mars or any other company are the ones behind the candy bar studies. At face value, it appears that independent researchers are the ones who did the studies.  The public is not aware that a food association or company gave that researcher funding. As Nestle explains, “Researchers who take food industry funding do not believe that it affects their study design or interpretation and are outraged at the suggestion. Research, however, shows strong correlations between funding and research outcome.”  This produces a massive amount of misinformation in the media. Both intentionally and unintentionally.  Intentionally, through talented PR teams leveraging their media connections to ensure that news articles are written on the study. And unintentionally, when other media outlets simply pick it up because they found it to be newsworthy, not being aware that the underlying studies are biased.  When this reaches us, the consumer, we take things at face value when we read certain headlines. It gives us comfort knowing that we can then eat that candy bar twice a day and (supposedly) get health benefits from it.

The dark reality is that many food companies are well-aware their product is terrible for your health and it has ingredients that cause disease, but still proceed to manipulate you so they can make a sale.

In Unsavory Truth, Nestle cites a case where the maker of aspartame (a food additive) funded 74 studies about its safety. Unsurprisingly, every study concluded it was safe. However, aspartame is a known cancer risk and 90% of truly independent studies questioned its safety. While food companies aren’t directly writing or conducting the research study, they often influence, persuade, and “edit” the final copy.


At this point, it’s fair to wonder “how is this all legal?” It is largely because the United States government enables and participates in the corrupt food system. While food companies are primarily motivated by profits and greed, politicians are motivated by power. Politicians can ensure that they stay in power when they have the support of powerful food companies with billions of dollars.  Together, they can serve each other’s interests. Much of this can be traced back to lobbying, which by definition is an attempt to "influence a politician or the government and, for example, persuade them to support or oppose a change in the law.” Coca-Cola is one of the biggest lobbyists, spending about $5.62 million on lobbying in 2021. That's chump change for a company worth $286 billion, but it can pay massive dividends for them in the long run.  While more rules and regulations have been developed around lobbying, there are certainly gray areas that can be taken advantage of. What's stopping a Coca-Cola lobbyist, for instance, from wining and dining with a congressman and covering the check?

There's a famous story of Alfonso Fanjul Jr., a sugar baron (and Democratic Party donor), calling up President Bill Clinton to complain about VP Al Gore drafting a sugar tax for environmental purposes. The sugar tax was quickly shelved. 

As one observer recalled, "that's access". Corruption isn't always so cut and dry or obvious, but that situation showed the presidential administration was more concerned with satisfying wealthy donors than public health or the environment. This system is so corrupt that it even extends into the U.S. Dietary Guidelines themselves. Dr. Walter Willett, who is the chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard, says that, “The current system opens the guidelines up to lobbying and manipulation of data.” Nestle, reflecting on this influence, says "I was told we could never say ‘eat less meat’ because USDA would not allow it.”  In 2020, the Dietary Guidelines Committee penned an 835 page document recommending lower sugar intake and limited daily alcohol consumption. They also cited the impacts of climate change on the food supply and how we can adjust accordingly. The Federal Government hit them with a not-so-subtle "thanks, but no thanks," and omitted the recommendations. It's almost comical how unsurprised people were by the omissions. It's become common practice for the food industry to control these guidelines, not scientists. This is incredibly dangerous for obvious reasons, as the guidelines are supposed to inform the public on matters of health.  Lobbying can be a way of creating meaningful change, such as advocating for employee minimum wage or health benefits. But more often than not, it's used to satisfy financial wants of big corporations, which is exactly what we see with the food industry.


When it comes to controlling the narrative, the food companies make sure to exhaust every avenue possible. If you've ever been to a Dave & Buster's (a.k.a adult Chuck-E-Cheese), you're probably familiar with how the process works. You pay the cashier for some tokens and get unlimited access to a host of arcade games and prizes. There's no skill requirement to enter Dave & Buster's – you just have to pay up. Many players in the food industry view health professionals and dietary research in the same "pay for play" way. If the research isn't trending the way they want, they'll pay to get it moved in the right direction. There's a variety of ways this is achieved, one of which is sponsorships.  Marion Nestle encountered this firsthand when the American Dietetic Association approached her about speaking at their annual conference. She had a chance to debate food biotechnology (GMOs) in front of leading health experts and food industry execs, and the trip was all expenses paid for…by Monsanto. Dr. Nestle wrestled in her mind: "If I refuse such invitations, I lose an opportunity to explain my views to an influential audience. If I decline the funding, I'm out considerable costs of travel and hotel accommodations. But if I accept the invitation, will my views be compromised by the partnership?" This dilemma is common for leading nutritionists. Much like lobbying, the idea of having nutritionists speak at a conference, even one sponsored by a big food company, isn't inherently bad.  It gives nutritionists a platform, even if they do feel awkward about contradicting the views of their food industry hosts. Moreover, there isn't a cut and dry "right" answer. Some nutritionists will never accept such an invitation, but in turn lose out on a platform. Others accept, but are criticized by their peers as "corruptible."

Nestle also noted that physicians sponsored by pharmaceutical companies were more likely to prescribe medications of said companies. "Major US studies have revealed accepting payments from pharmaceutical companies is associated with increased rates of prescribing those drugs," said an ABC News article. 

The dubiousness of sponsorship can be debated, but the larger factor at play is how food companies shape nutrition research in general. Researchers strapped for cash need some kind of funding source, and many big food companies are happy to pay.  Some researchers combat outside corruption by disclosing where their funding sources come from. Though this transparency is helpful, it doesn't solve everything.  In 1988, the American Heart Association decided to create a "heart-healthy" label for foods. This would serve as both an education piece for the public and a funding source. Food companies would have to pay fees to the AHA to get the heart-healthy certification, sometimes up to $1 million depending on the company's size.  You can see where this is headed. The FDA was skeptical of this "pay for play" type program, saying "your proposed program could very easily result in the endorsement of products…that quite simply do not represent the kinds of foods that ought to be promoted to achieve healthy hearts." Nevertheless, the AHA persisted and retooled their program to generally meet FDA labeling guidelines, and reduced fees to get the label. Among the recipients of the heart-healthy certification?  Frosted Flakes. The Chicago Tribune famously reported on the absurdity of this in 1997. "Somehow it seems difficult to write 'Kellogg's Frosted Flakes' and 'heart-healthy' in the same sentence. But the American Heart Association has managed to approve the conceptual pairing, right on every box featuring Tony the Tiger." The AHA defended the labeling process, citing that the fees went to "educational efforts about preventing the disease."  But isn't telling people what's healthy or unhealthy in a grocery store a form of education? Critics argued that the label could mislead people into thinking that certain foods were healthier than others. Many oatmeals, arguably healthier than Frosted Flakes, don't have the healthy-heart check mark, for instance. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is also a major player in food and nutrition education. The A.N.D. represents the interests of 70,000+ nutrition professionals, with goals of “improving the nation’s health.” However, they also have troublingly close ties to the food industry.  Their coziness with many food industries is yet another example of dollars doing the talking. The A.N.D. will often put out "nutrition fact" sheets that are often directly funded by food industry sources. The publication "Eggs: A Good Choice for Moms-to-Be" was unsurprisingly sponsored by the American Egg Board. Some other big names that have historically partnered with the A.N.D. include Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Wendy's. Their current sponsors include other food titans like Mondelez International, makers of Chips Ahoy! & Oreos. Not exactly paragons of health. As you see, whether it is through studies, marketing budgets, public officials or nutrition professionals, food companies make sure to cover every base when it comes to manipulation.


So there you have it. With money on their mind, food companies cause disease both through the eat more agenda and how they modify our food supply. They protect this profitable strategy by controlling the narrative and exhausting every possible avenue for manipulation. And sadly, the government enables all of it.  The problem is like a complex spider web, but it becomes rather simple when you untangle everything. Why would companies knowingly cause disease? Why would the government not act on behalf of its people?  Money and power. Two things that have always driven the actions of humans throughout history, even when it means oppressing other people. In the book of Ecclesiastes, it’s said this way, “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” While it’s natural for all of this information to create a sense of hopelessness, the battle is not lost. Since the problem is simple, in the sense that we know the primary motivations for every party involved, we are able to identify how to create change. When you target the object of their affection, giants fall. Put plainly, this means that we can boycott the food companies that are part of this corrupt system, which causes their profits to dry up. This forces change to occur. And secondly, we can be more informed about the politics revolving around this subject, both locally and nationally.  When we are able to identify those who stand in the way of change, we can use our vote to strip them of their power. When in doubt, here are a few ways we can practice these strategies.

Never buy from these companies

We are in the process of forming a more extensive blacklist, but many of the companies below are some of the biggest  offenders in the food industry. You can start boycotting them today. 
    • Fast food: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Popeye’s, Papa John’s, KFC, Domino’s Pizza, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, Arby’s, Jack-in-the-Box, Sonic Drive In, Five Guys
    • Soft drinks: Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dow, Gatorade, Powerade, Dr. Pepper, Red Bull, 7 Up, Fanta, Sprite, Monster Energy, Capri Sun
    • Casual dining: The Cheesecake Factory, TGI Friday’s, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, IHOP, Olive Garden
    • Packaged foods: Heinz, Kraft, Frito-Lay, Ruffles, Oscar Meyer, Dorito’s, Lay’s, Cheeto’s, 
    • Candy & Chocolate: Hershey’s, Reese’s, KitKat, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Jolly Ranchers, M&M’s, Snickers, Twix
    • Cereals: Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, Wheatie’s, Rice Krispies, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cap’n Crunch
    • Animal products: Perdue Chicken, Tyson Foods, JBS
 We say all of this being aware that some of these companies on this list may be your favorite brands, but to reclaim our health and see justice come to pass, they have to go.  Also, this list is minimal. Just because something is not on here, doesn’t mean you should buy from them. Do your own investigation.

Avoid convenience stores

Convenience stores tend to be a black hole for ultra processed foods. Turn over the package on nearly everything in the store and it’s going to be a horror show. Not to mention that all the products that are usually stocked in convenience stores come from the companies we just mentioned above. So generally try to avoid these places.  Sometimes there are exceptions, especially in larger cities, where you’ll find healthier options like organic Kombucha amongst the sea of unhealthy soft drinks in the fridge.

Always buy organic & non-GMO

This is a relatively simple point that will take you a long way: always buy organic. Do this for meats, vegetables, packaged foods – everything.  Ideally, every product you buy would have a USDA Certified Organic label. Specifically with poultry and/or beef, this ensures that the animal is raised without hormones or antibiotics.  However, the regulation process isn’t perfect. And not all companies can afford the certification for the USDA Organic label, so worst-case opt for products that simply have the organic label.  When it comes to packaged food, the same principle applies. Unless it says on the package that the ingredients are organic, don’t buy it. It’s likely the food has lower-quality ingredients and/or ingredients that are infused with harmful pesticides. Buying organic also sends the message that there's a demand for real food free of pesticides and shady farming practices. When more and more people do this, it creates change. As for GMOs, look for a little butterfly label titled "Non-GMO Project Verified."

Identify ultra-processed foods

If it’s organic AND a packaged food, that doesn’t automatically mean that it is healthy. Remember that the more processed something is, the less nutritional value it has. Look at the ingredients list.  Scanning the first three ingredients can give you a good idea of what the food is composed of. A common rule of thumb is that if you can't pronounce an ingredient, you probably shouldn't be eating it.  Try only buying packaged food products that have five ingredients or less. The more ingredients, the more processed and the more unhealthy the product will be.

A simple strategy for overeating

Since the “eat more” agenda is so deeply ingrained in many of us, overeating is a struggle. We carry around portion distortion and have become accustomed to larger sizes.  One of the most effective ways to reduce overeating and food consumption in general is to simply not have certain foods in the house. This might mean only stocking your fridge and cabinets with just enough for your main meals of the day.  Stanford professor Dr. Anna Lembke calls this categorical self-binding. In her New York Times bestseller Dopamine Nation, she explains that “categorical self-binding limits consumption by sorting dopamine into different categories: [what] we allow ourselves to consume, and [what] we do not. This method helps us to avoid not only our drug of choice but also the triggers that lead to craving for our drug.” When you do not have extra snacks lying around, you’re less likely to eat and your hunger cues will diminish over time. This distance that you put between yourself and the food can go a long way to success.  This is just one of many clinically proven ways to reduce overeating.

Support local farms

Buying food from local farmers takes out the middleman and puts your dollars directly into the hands of the producer instead of a big corporation. In many countries outside of the United States, this is how the majority of people get their food. This was even the case in the U.S. until the suburban supermarket boom came along.  Most towns and cities have weekly (if not daily) farmer's markets, many of whom sell organic produce and animal products.

Interact with local politics

If food industry groups can lobby, why can't you? Sure, you may not have the same financial backing or time availability as a professional lobbier, but it is within your rights as a citizen to contact your local state and congressional representatives to make a difference.  Their job, despite corruption that exists, is to look out for the interests of their constituents and the very people that elected them.  This is part of the process of becoming aware of the “good apples” in the government and also those who stand in the way of progress. Rose DeLauro, who is featured in Netflix’s new documentary on the food industry Poisoned, is one example of someone who has constantly advocated for food injustice. Dr. Nestle also believes in the power of advocacy with our local representatives saying, "Despite the overwhelmingly greater resources in defending their own interests, we shall see that consumer advocates sometimes can be highly effective in convincing Congress, federal agencies, and courts to take action in the public interest."  For more, click here to visit our Nutrition Hub.


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