That was the sign on the large boxes of cookies in the grocery store. A great sale. And I stopped myself as I reached for some. What was going on here? All I wanted was a box of cookies for AM. She likes them. But then I read the fine print: “Must buy three to qualify for the discount. Lesser quantities will be charged at $2.49.”
So, here was the choice: way too many cookies for a good discount, or a reasonable number for a bit more [but still less than buying the three boxes!]. And why am I writing about this?
Here’s the deal. We hear so much about personal responsibility in controlling what we eat and how we exercise. The new food guidelines are out, and state that we should limit our intake of trans-fats, which are found in many processed foods. The response from the professional community has been mixed, with some critics (like Margo Wooten of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition) protesting that the onus is solely on the consumer, with no focus on changing the environment in which we make our choices.
It’s entirely possible to dismiss such criticism. After all, we DO choose what we put in our mouths. It IS our responsibility to make reasonable choices. However, when I’m faced with the choice of saving money and buying too many cookies, that’s in part an issue of environment, of corporate responsibility. And let’s not forget marketing!
Why not ONE box of cookies at the sale price? Why force a choice between a good discount and a reasonable number of cookies? The answer, of course, is that it makes the cookie manufacturer’s sales numbers look good. Selling more boxes in January, when most people’s diet resolutions are relatively strong, is a good thing for their bottom line.
Food choices are influenced daily by such things, and marketing plays to our emotions, our time [or lack of it], our wallets. What would a person who’s trying to feed a family an essentially wholesome diet with occasional treats do in a situation like this? And why should they have to choose?
And by the way. The Guidelines state “–look for foods low in saturated fats, trans-fats, and cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease (5% DV or less is low, 20% DV or more is high–).” (This is taken from the Consumer’s Guide to the new guidelines. The quote is on page 8.)
The Guidelines do NOT state that trans-fats are common in processed foods, and it refers the consumer to the nutrition labels on “packaged foods.” The message is to accept that trans fats are here to stay, and our only choice — as consumers — is to limit our intake. Perhaps another response would be to avoid buying food with a nutrition label! After all, when was the last time you saw one on a head of lettuce or a red pepper?
We can succeed in spite of this, but why does it have to be so hard?
I ended up buying AM a small box of much more expensive cookies that she’ll enjoy far more. It still cost less than $5.00!