Corporate wellness insights

Healthy Food for Everyone

Posted by Matthew on 07.27.2016

Healthy food saladIf you’re looking for healthy food options, our office in downtown Bethesda is a great place to be. There are literally dozens of great places within walking distance. Sweetgreen — a fast-food restaurant that specializes in salads and healthy wraps — has always been one of our favorites.

In a recent post, however, the New York Times’ Well blog points out that while Sweetgreen’s business model may be perfect for a thriving downtown like Bethesda, the company could have a much harder time bringing healthy food to lower-income communities.

Their concept makes perfect sense: offer healthy food that isn’t mass-produced, processed, frozen, deep fried, and pumped full of chemicals. Get fresh ingredients from local farms. Tell patrons where their food comes from. Don’t sell sugary drinks — period.

But when you can make several salads yourself for the price of one at Sweetgreen, it raises an important question: shouldn’t we be teaching people to eat better on their own? According to the Census Bureau, Americans now spend more on dining out than on groceries. We’re eating out more than ever.

I think one of our most powerful weapons against this unhealthy trend is health coaching. It’s effective with populations at all income levels, and I truly believe that teaching people to make small changes on their own — with one-on-one support — can change lives. Let me share a brief coaching success story to drive home the point:

Last year, I went in for surgery, weighing 251 pounds. I’ve made numerous attempts to lose weight, and each attempt was some drastic diet or unsustainable workout program. After healing from my surgery, I decided to reach out to a health coach. This time, I wanted to lose weight the right way. My coach taught me that slow progress can be the best progress, and she set me up with small goals that we monitored and changed over time. It has taken me over 18 months to go from 251 pounds to 164, but having a health coach along the way helped me get through the plateaus (because those are inevitable), as well as times of low motivation. I learned to replace sugary foods with fruits, and to make the transition from fast food to healthy sandwiches and snacks by making them ahead of time. I’m now a biker, and just last weekend went on a 14-mile bike ride. It was a commitment, but one that has been completely worth it. I almost don’t know how to live my life any differently! I feel younger at 56 than I did at 36.

Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy Sweetgreen. But we don’t have to wait for fast-food restaurants to get their acts together. Let’s start cooking for ourselves again.

Photo credit: Salad by Jeremy Keith