I’ll take some health in my health food, please

I went home to Indiana a few weeks ago and the difference between there and DC is amazing. Indiana has loads of corn, a wonderful fall smell in the air, and cows hanging out in a field 30 feet from the local Dollar General (there are Dollar Generals, too).
The culture also differs from the one in DC, especially when it comes to consumption. In Indiana, people go to Wal-Mart regularly. There aren’t even any Wal-Marts in the District (for now anyway). Hoosiers tend to value quantity (Family Size!) over quality, where I’ve noticed DC is the opposite. That “go big or go home” Midwest culture allows manufacturers and grocery stores to totally mislead its customers.
Take muesli for example. For those who aren’t familiar, muesli (as defined by Wikipedia) is a popular breakfast cereal based on uncooked rolled oats, fruit and nuts. Below are two versions of muesli. The first, I bought at Whole Foods in DC. The second, my mom bought from a big Midwest grocery store called Kroger.

    Muesli #1: DC                       Muesli #2: Indiana
Notice the difference? The Whole Foods version, albeit a bit more expensive, is oat-based and has nuts and fruit, aka the exact definition of muesli. The Indiana version is a mixture of corn flakes and bran flakes with a few oats thrown in. There might be a raisin and an almond or two as well.
Talk about false advertising. This cereal is clearly not muesli. How is it possible that these two are being sold as the same thing?

My theory is that the Indiana consumer doesn’t complain because it’s cheap. It’s not enough to have a healthy option if the customer has to pay more. Instead, stores convince people that they can eat wholesome food while paying the same amount as a box of corn flakes would cost, even if that is what they are actually buying. People in DC are too okay with over-spending, but I appreciate that nutrition level isn’t based on income level. 

Even my friends with hourly wages eat well because it is possible to do so cheaply- check out this recipe for Curry Chicken Tacos at $1.25 a serving (and all her other awesome tips and tricks) on the blog Poor Girl Eats Well. It just takes more energy.

And according to this New York Times article, energy is something poor people don’t have in the grocery store.

“Shopping can be especially tiring for the poor, who have to struggle continually with trade-offs… Spears and other researchers argue that this sort of decision fatigue is a major — and hitherto ignored — factor in trapping people in poverty. Because their financial situation forces them to make so many trade-offs, they have less willpower to devote to school, work and other activities that might get them into the middle class. ”

These days, most people have to be frugal, but we need to make sure that our choices aren’t affecting our quality of life. A box of cheap “muesli” is one thing. Lack of awareness of what we eat is another.

iPhone update: I’ve felt overwhelmed a few times knowing that anyone can contact me in any way at any time and they know it. In a sense, it’s created more stress for me because I have no excuse for not responding immediately. I miss the privacy that being a technological laggard allowed me. It is oh-so-satisfying though when I am oh-so-lost and my phone helps me out of that mess. 

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