Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Want to eat right? It will cost you

Again this morning, on a television news program, I watched a story about how obese our nation is, the problems surrounding obesity and the need to exercise and eat healthy to combat this growing (no pun intended) problem. In fact, childhood obesity is one of the issues of interest to Michelle Obama.

At the time, I happened to be at the gym on the elliptic cycler and I do eat healthy. And, like any parent, I have done my best to encourage my children to make good food choices.

Still, I needed to write this viewpoint to remind other people that it is not only news and information that affects my choices, it is also my pocketbook.

After work last week, I picked my kids up from grandma’s and decided to take them out for a snack before heading home. As we drove to a local restaurant, I asked them if they wanted french fries. From the back seat, my 5-year-old son, Dylan, said “No mommy.” I tried again, “How about a glass of milk?” Dylan responded, “No, I want some broccoli.”

I laughed, and also I knew that it was the truth. Dylan likes foods like carrots, broccoli and almonds. Dylan does not like cake, pie or packaged chips. I really just wanted a snack.

We entered the restaurant and I told the lovely waitress we would like a plate of steamed broccoli. My kids behaved like kids; they talked and asked when the food would come.

Fortunately, it was fast.

Dylan and Aminata, my 3-year-old daughter, stopped talking long enough to eat the entire plate. Yes!

I was feeling pretty smug. I worked hard to promote good nutrition with the kids and it seemed to be paying off.

Then I got the bill.

At first I wondered if there had been a mistake, so I looked at a menu. Nope, the cost of a plate of steamed vegetables was $7.95. However, those french fries that I wanted were only $4.95. In fact, for $5.50, I could purchase kids chicken nuggets with those fries.

What floored me was that the vegetables, the healthy choice, cost $3 more than the fries that would lead to obesity. The difference was $3, and this was just a snack. What would happen if this was dinner? How much more would it cost me to order healthy foods for the kids now?

I find it frustrating that the news and media encourages us to eat right and when we do, we are penalized by being charged more. We live in California, the agriculture state, the salad bowl of America. We grow broccoli in abundance right here in San Luis Obispo County. Still, it costs more to steam some broccoli then fry up a potato.

On the way home, I realized that we all have to make this choice: my pocketbook or my pants being too tight. I will choose my pocketbook. How about you?

Liz West lives in Los Osos and works as a math teacher at Allan Hancock College. She likes her broccoli raw with ranch dressing.