Given the rise of health problems associated with Americans’, should restaurants and stores have any responsibility to make “healthier choices” more affordable?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL October 30, 2015

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-With the rise of diet related health issues in America, restaurants and stores do have an indirect obligation to offer healthier and more affordable food choices to individuals suffering from obesity, diabetes and other related illnesses.

Though it is not the responsibility or duty of restaurants and stores to regulate and oversee the diets of overweight and unhealthy individuals, businesses that offer any kind of food for sale should be aware of what constitutes a healthy diet regimen, whether it be for those with health issues or for those without health problems related to diet. Establishments have taken it upon themselves to project a healthy and positive image concerning food choices and nutritional information concerning the patrons and customers they serve. Offering such choices makes for effective public relations and increased business for both restaurants and stores.

With the emphasis on healthier eating advocated by the medical community and other organizations, restaurants and stores now offer healthy options. Restaurants have menu pages and sections that specifically address lighter food choices along with nutritional data. Popular restaurants such as Olive Garden, Chili’s, TGI Fridays, Cheddar’s Casual Cafe, Outback, Baja Fresh and many others provide healthy, lower calorie, smaller portion, and fresh food choices. Customers are given the options of making the right selections concerning their health situations, and restaurants continue to expand their menu fare to meet the needs of health conscious individuals.

Specialty food stores such as Sprouts Farmer’s Market, Whole Foods Market, Natural Grocers, Trader Joe’s, and natural health food stores in general, offer a vast array of healthy food products. Many regular grocery stores have aisles devoted to healthy food and drink items with other nutritional and lower calorie food items scattered throughout sections of their stores. They also offer complete nutritional information to their customers through newsletters, pamphlets and package labeling.

The pricing on healthier food choices does tend to be higher in both restaurants and stores and should be adjusted and made economically feasible, as many customers simply cannot afford the higher prices for such items. If individuals are trying to improve their health through food intake and specialized food choices, and replace current food consumption with healthier and more nutritious selections, prices on healthier food items need to be modified to make healthy food more accessible and economically feasible. Foods that are lower priced are oftentimes overloaded with calories and lower nutritional value, and they are just the foods that unhealthy and overweight individuals turn to for eating and overeating. With lower price adjustments, such individuals would have the opportunity to change their diet patterns and interject healthier foods into their lives.

As far as whether insurance companies or government entities should incentivize or encourage restaurants and stores to implement policies concerning healthy food and drink choices to its consumers, it should be up to individual businesses to decide what kind of foods they are going to offer without intervention or interruption by insurance companies or the government. Insurance companies and the government implement their own guidelines concerning risks of obesity and other related diseases, and they simply need to offer educational alternatives to what constitutes a healthy diet and make advisements rather than ordering businesses to implement their directives. Marketing strategies alone are enough of an impetus for businesses to know what consumers demand and require, and those strategies include any kind of food product infusions into the marketplace that constitute a healthy lifestyle.

More importantly, individuals with diet related issues and illnesses need to make appropriate choices concerning their health through self-education. It is good that restaurants and stores provide assistance and access to the right food selections, but they cannot dictate policies or force individuals to eat the right foods to maintain or improve health. Many Americans have been made aware and advised by their doctors, or nutritional experts, that food choices are probably what led them to their current state of health, and when individuals refuse to follow protocols or procedures, they are simply putting themselves at further risk.

It all boils down to the individual taking charge of his or her diet requirements and making the right choices concerning food. It is easy to eat the wrong foods simply out of convenience, addiction, lack of discipline or plain old ignorance, but it takes education, resolve, self-discipline and sheer willpower to implement a diet plan of action that improves health. A restaurant, store, insurance company or government can inform and facilitate, but they cannot enforce what a person eats or drinks.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent– Before delving into the matter at hand, I’d like to remind my fellow humans that we were made with free will. Ultimately, we have the decision to choose what we consume and what we pass by. With that said, regardless of the striking figures behind diabetic and obesity cases within the United States, restaurants and stores should not be forced to change their menus, in an aid to appease the public. Neither should insurance companies nor the government, waste precious time in pepping these food facilities to offer to the public healthier foods. At a distance, my position might seem grotesque, even lacking fellow feeling, but might I remind you, people are well aware that fast food is not the way… I’d like to illustrate with the use of Cigarettes. It’s boldly and clearly labeled on the package that “Cigarettes kill”. Yet, a large number of people smoke several packs of Cigars daily. Why, even when they are already made aware? It’s clear, people are indifferent. They don’t value their lives and so they’ll always keep smoking.

In a similar sense, we as a people, are well aware that consuming unhealthy meals have a devastating effect on the body. However, we fail to heed that warning…Now, why should these restaurants and stores suffer when we are the ones responsible for our health? I say, let the restaurants and stores produce whatever they want as meals…It’s not their choice to make but ours to indulge in these unhealthy meals or refuse.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I am loathe to do anything that would force private businesses to alter their business plans in the interest of the public good. That’s a shade too Marxist for my taste, and I’m a pretty liberal fellow.

The problem we’re facing is twofold: From an economic standpoint, “bad” food is simply more affordable. I can go to one fast-food chain and get something appallingly called the “Fill-Up Box” for $5, and that same amount won’t even get me the smallest Caesar salad at Chili’s or another “fast-casual” place.

In the grocery store, the assortment of processed foods targeted at low-income shoppers manages to be both impressive and horrifying at the same time. Look at the ingredient list on a 50-cent frozen burrito sometime. You’d need a degree in organic chemistry to figure out what half of the ingredients are, and a stomach tougher than a goat’s to digest them all.

Separate from the economic problem is that of American culture. We’ve spent so many years as one of the wealthiest countries on earth, with food that much of the rest of the world can only dream of available at our beck and call, that our palates have grown lazy. We’d rather muddle along with the salty, fatty deliciousness of a bacon steakburger than challenge ourselves by eating a salad with exotic things like arugula and radishes.

The solution to the problem is likewise two-pronged: Parents need to take the lead in educating their kids to eat better. It doesn’t do a whit of good for you to tell your kids to eat their vegetables if they never see you order a salad at a restaurant. When dinner is ready, do you express the most enthusiasm for the meatloaf or the green beans? Kids watch their parents to learn how to respond and make choices.

And the other solution, much as it pains me, involves government intervention. Healthy foods must be subsidized in a way that makes them the affordable choices, not the frozen burritos. Once our buying habits have changed and the kale farmers are the ones making big profits, the subsidies can go away, but for now we need to steer some tax dollars toward helping Americans eat more healthful foods.

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