When sitting down to a meal, we’re sometimes so hungry that we don’t think about how food ended up on our plates. But understanding these things is extremely important for adults and children alike—food labels exist for a reason, after all!
Our lives are built around the meals we consume, so food literacy—thinking critically about what we are eating, where it comes from and how it should be prepared—is vital to our everyday health and nutrition.
What is Food Literacy?
According to the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, food literacy refers to making healthy food choices in different contexts, settings and situations (at home or a restaurant, with family or alone). Certain knowledge, skills, and behaviors are needed to select, plan and prepare healthy meals, and improving your food literacy is the first step.
Why is Food Literacy So Important?
When deciding what kind of food to eat, it’s tempting to consider only one factor: flavor. If something tastes delicious, it must be good for you, right? Think again.
If we were motivated by our taste buds alone, making healthy choices would be seemingly impossible—especially considering that we’ve grown to crave and enjoy the taste of sugary and fatty foods. Evolution is partly to blame for this. As our early ancestors sought out and tried new foods, both sugar and fat were thought to be a good source of energy. This is because our bodies absorb fatty foods more slowly than proteins or carbohydrates (making us feel full), which triggers our brains to release happiness-inducing hormones.
This “need” for fat and sugar, however, has a major impact on the health of both adults and children. Worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975, with 1.9 billion adults now considered overweight. And since sugar-sweetened, high-fat junk foods stimulate the reward centers in our brains, many food companies add sugar and fat to processed foods, which can lead to addiction and overeating.