Day 4: North American Diet vs Plant Based Diet

Where is the Healthy Food?

Today was a beautiful day and I went to one of my favorite haunts, Granville Island. While the city of Vancouver in general is seen as a mecca for people who are health conscious and physically fit, there are many gaps. Vancouverites, without a doubt are on average more normal weight than other parts of Canada.

ice creamAccording to Stats Canada parts of Nova Scotia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have obesity rates of 48 – 40%. Sadly in Canada we are as obese or more obese than Americans. Whereas Kelowna, British Columbia – 17.0%, Vancouver, British Columbia – 17.4%, Victoria, British Columbia, 19.6%. That is pretty is better than most other places in Canada or the US.  In the US West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas have obesity rates over 35% (2014) and only California, Colorado, Washington DC, Vermont, and Massachusetts  are below 25%.

Nevertheless, I walked the entire Granville Island Market – probably the largest market of its kind west of Toronto, and for that matter I don’t know if Toronto has anything that matches it, and I did not find one place where there was a prepared food that qualified for whole plant, low fat. In the two food courts, there were a few vegetable, or bean dishes in the food court, but they were glowing with oil.

yellow tomatoAll the prepared food did not fit my criteria – plant based, low fat, and no added sugar. There were many kiosks selling fresh veggies and fruits – including veggies and fruits that you do not find elsewhere in fruit stands or grocery stores.

Then I decided to buy fresh fruit – which is in plentiful supply, and a large yellow beefsteak tomato. I bought several cups of green grapes, a one quart container of strawberries and a huge yellow tomato, and a pear for a total of $7.63. I also bought a small amount of mixed nuts for $2.68. Much more than anyone could eat in one sitting about the same price of a meal in the food court. I reminded myself a tomato is a fruit.  I sat and boldly ate my tomato and my nuts with hundreds of other people who were eating animal fats, fried foods, ice cream cones and sugar laden treats as we all enjoyed listening to buskers.

Observations of a People Watcher

Initially I sat by a grandmother and teenage granddaughter. They both had two huge greasy looking slices of pizza, and a pop. After they finished eating they left and two family groups arrived.

I could not help noticing the parenting styles of two families that sat on the 40 foot long bench I sat on. The one group consisted of two mothers in their mid thirties. The mothers were obese – the children were not. They each had two children. The children ranged in age from about 5 to 8 years of age. They were well dressed – certainly nothing indicating any lack of disposable income. The mothers had just purchased sugar cones with big scoops of ice cream or gelato for their children add were eating doubles themselves. The youngest of the children a 5 year old boy had his gelato in a cup not a cone.

He had only eaten a few tablespoons when he announced he was full. The mother challenged him a couple of times, but he insisted he did not want to eat it. Then the mother said “I paid $5.50 for that, and you have just wasted my money.” He protested, but she stated “I paid $5.50 for that and you are going to eat it.” The little boy whimpered a few times as he dutifully ate his ice cream.

The other side of me a father who was about 6’2″, muscular but also overweight – bordering on obese sat with his three children, boys aged about 6 and 8 and a girl who was about 9. All the children had gelato in chocolate dipped gelato cones. The father had a double, which he consumed quickly followed by a double cheese burger.

The father was nearly finished eating his burger, when he said to his children “if it is too much for you, don’t eat it all. It is better for you to throw some of it out, than it is for you to force yourself to eat it.” Clearly this father, was a little more tuned in to the dangers of overeating. But, the fact remains that fatty food does not trigger fullness the same way as plant based food.

Researchers say that there are two ways your body tells us we are full. The one is volume of food consumed and the second is food density. Gelato is significantly higher calorie for the density than any plant based food. Gelato is also very high fat compared to plant based foods. Researchers say that fatty foods may be only 1/3, or less, the volume of plant based foods. In other words, you could eat 3 times the volume of ice cream or gelato as you could other plant based foods and that would probably amount to 4 to 6 times the calories.

The empty sugar cone is 40 calories. The recommended serving of Gelato is 1/2 a cup and is 240 calories. These cones held a cup or more. That means they were approximately 520 calories, compared to a large (3″) apple which is 95 calories.

Is it any wonder that obesity is on the raise?