Making Good Food Choices

The Sunday edition of the New York Times had a fascinating article on health care and the unique approach taken by major corporations, where healthy living was rewarded in their health care benefits. I included the article, it’s a good read and interestingly the focus was the relationship between food and health.

(Do Health Care Savings Start in the Cafeteria? NYT, Sunday November 29, 2009)

To a celiac, that’s a big “duh.” The food we eat has a significant link to our overall health. But to the vast majority of folks, they don’t make the link. Food is a root cause of obesity and the many health problems that go along with obesity. Food is related to diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, cavities and on and on. Of course there are other issues like genetics and smoking and sedentary ways, but food is a major player in every aspect of our health.

Food with gluten is responsible for the health trauma related to celiac disease. We all know we can’t eat food with gluten to be healthy. I think that’s a lesson that should carry over to the general population.

One of the “fixes” to the health crisis in America is better eating. The article alluded to the fact that quinoa and kale have to become as enticing as potato chips and cookies. Green tea and water have to replace sugary sodas and posting calorie content on fast food menus is not the way to do it.

Is it going to take more companies like Safeway or IBM or Pitney Bowes (companies highlighted in the article) who incentivize their employees to lose weight and exercise for reduced employee participation costs for health benefits? Healthier employees cost those companies a lot less. This is either draconian or brilliant, depending on how you look at it. Sometimes the carrot/stick approach is more effective than allowing people to make healthy choices on their own. Here’s another “duh” factor, if we have an obesity epidemic most people aren’t making the right dietary decisions.

I know that from a gluten perspective, I don’t cheat. No food is worth it to me to have that gurgling gut and wave of nausea hit me. If I was asymptomatic, would my feeling on cheating be different? I don’t know. I know a woman who indulges in one piece of real NYC pizza every week because she doesn’t have symptoms and justifies it as ok for her.

But if I did cheat, I would most likely be setting myself up to be a greater burden on to my health insurer because of the ensuing health complications that would probably follow a continual intake of gluten. Am I doing my part to keep health care costs down by eating a gluten free diet? Should I be penalized from a cost perspective by the company benefit plan for celiac disease? Would my employee costs go down with good blood tests indicating that I’m sticking to my gluten-free diet? Interesting to ponder!

In the meantime, I try to model the strict gluten-free diet, exercising, good eating habits, reading versus screen time, etc…potato chips and my blackberry remain my major vices. As a mother, I try to steer my kids to daily exercise and five servings of fruit or vegetables. I don’t eliminate the “garbage” choices because it’s important to learn to eat that stuff in moderation.

Only time will tell on which lessons stick and what eating habits they will have as adults. I just hope they relate good health with good food choices and that by the time they are off our insurance plan, there is a solution in place for reasonable, cost efficient health insurance options for them.

  • I would never cheat and eat gluten. I don’t like the use of the term diet to refer to gluten-free b/c it makes people sometimes think it is a choice or for weight loss. Of course, there really isn’t a better word to use. When it comes to eating gluten-free, making good food choices is also important. While eating gluten-free treats celiac disease, eating a gluten-free diet high in fat, calories, and processed foods does not help prevent other diseases. As much as we try to avoid celiac disease being referred to as an allergy, it would be nice if all health insurance companies could view it as one. They wouldn’t raise premiums or deny coverage to someone with a wheat or dairy allergy.