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When you're trying to eat well, it seems you need to eat at home. It's so difficult to find truly healthy whole food from restaurants and cafes. If I ran this country, I'd take steps to change this. I think the government should set up a subsidised 'Healthy Food Outlet' which can truly compete with fast food outlets. They need to compete in terms of convenience and price as well as taste.
Features of the Healthy Food Outlet (HFO)
- If a person was to eat only from the HFO and no other food, they would eat a balanced, healthy diet.
- The food must be subsidised by the government to be cheap enough to appeal. A filling snack must cost less than a bucket of chips, a main meal must cost less than a Big Mac, and a healthy drink must cost less than a can of Coke.
- There must be at least 500 outlets across Australia, (this is how many McDonalds have), preferably 700, which is as many as McDonalds and Hungry Jacks added together. This could be achieved by offering funding, training and kits for people interested in setting up an outlet - thus providing many job opportunities.
- There are six menus, and each day a different menu is on offer. The menus are cycled through so that a daily customer would have a balanced diet, and a weekly customer would receive a variety of meals.
- Desserts and sweet foods are sold as part of a meal, not as stand alone items.
- Food tickets are available so parents can buy tickets for a meal or snack, and give them to their kids to ensure that their meal is bought from the HFO.
- Each outlet is only a kitchen and a bar onto the street - no restaurant or tables - to keep it cheap.
- Each outlet needs to open early enough to meet the breakfast needs of those going to work, and open late enough for dinner every day. It should also be open at least until midnight, preferably until 3am, on Fridays and Saturdays, to attract teens and twenty-somethings who at this hour have little choice other than fast food.
- Pricing must be simple - minimise change and money handling by rouding prices to the nearest whole dollar. A set price for a snack, another price for a meal, another for a drink.
- The ingredients used to prepare the food should be grown / farmed ethically - organic and biodynamic practices are sustainable and result in food that contains more vitamins and minerals than those sprayed with pesticides, and have the added benefit that they don't fill our bodies with poisons.
- The recipes need to be tested thoroughly and sufficiently seasoned so that they look and taste delicious. Sugar and salt should be added so that items hit customers' "bliss point" (as fast food is designed to do), but the sugar should be a wholefood (eg rapadura sugar which is dried sugar cane juice, or honey, pure maple syrup etc), and the salt should be unrefined sea salt. This way both the sugar and salt are more easily processed by our bodies as they come with all the minerals needed for digestion, unlike refined sugar and salt which cause so many health problems.
- Food is served in bowls, boxes and containers that can be washed and reused - and significant discounts offered for customers who do this.
I realise that to create the Healthy Food Outlet chain would be a significant expense for the government, but the national health bill is estimated to rise significantly due to illnesses connected with bad diets and lack of exercise, and I believe the HFO would pay for itself as a preventative measure. Another idea to raise funds for the development of the HFO is to create a tax on junk food - thereby raising the price of (for example) the can of coke and thus making it easier for the HFO to compete.
The Healthy Food Outlet is, of course, only part of a much wider solution, which could include:
- Banning advertising of all junk food and alcohol (or of all food and alcohol if "junk" can't be sufficiently defined).
- Programmes designed to significantly increase the amount of exercise people do.
- Other efforts to bring healthy food prices in line with junk food - government subsidy to bring the price of organic food in line with produce farmed using pesticides and other poisons.
- A ban on additives and known carcinogens that are added to processed food.