A Solution to the SAD Diet?

The SAD diet stands for the Standard American Diet. And it is sad indeed. The facts speak for themselves: obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes are on the rise. Healthy, fresh produce is more expensive and more difficult to find than a bag of chips and a soda.

Mark Bittman, food columnist at the New York Times magazine, has an idea that piggybacks off of the proposed soda taxes that some states are considering. Bittman proposes taxing all unhealthy foods to raise prices, then using the money gained to subsidize fresh produce. This would have the effect of making fresh, healthy options more readily available, while cutting down on the vast amount of junk food that Americans eat.

Bittman compares the current health crisis to the cigarette issue in the 1990s. Though it went up against opposition, legislation was passed to tax cigarettes and eventually the number of smokers in the U.S. dropped by over half. As Bittman says in his article, “you don’t need to smoke and you do need to eat.” However he continues, “But you don’t need sugary beverages (or the associated fries), which have been linked not only to Type 2 diabetes and increased obesity but also to cardiovascular diseases and decreased intake of valuable nutrients like calcium.”

New legislation would certainly face challenges from those who dislike the idea of a nanny-state. However, as an issue of public health, Bittman argues that it is the government’s responsibility to make some big changes to the way our food system works. Read the article to find out about all of the benefits Bittman foresees as a result of taxing unhealthy foods.

What do you think – could taxing bad food and subsidizing healthy food be the solution to obesity?

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