Monday, November 1, 2010


Here's an article from yesterday's Enterprise News.

GLOBAL CONVERSATIONS: Why don’t Americans eat healthy fruits and vegetables?Dr. Michael Kryzanek  is executive director of the Center for International Engagement at Bridgewater State University.

The current “big thing” at universities here in Massachusetts and throughout the United States is what is commonly called internationalizing the campus. Here at Bridgewater State there are over 100 international students, whose presence on campus enhances the learning opportunities of the entire student body.
For international students, however, making sense of the American style of living takes some getting used to and often leads to telling questions about how we do things here in the United States. I teach a group of international students, mostly from China, on American culture and society and each class I begin by taking questions from my confused students. This exercise is supposed to be a learning experience for the students, but often ends up making me think about our way of life.

 In the first few classes this semester many of the questions were not about Barack Obama or baseball, but rather food. The Chinese students often ask, “Why do American students each so much?” This question is usually followed up by “Why don’t Americans eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables?” The Chinese students, who are not weight challenged and have a lifestyle based on the consumption of fruits and vegetables, have hit on one of the bedrocks of growing up American.

 The perception of these Asians, and I suspect other international students, is that Americans have grown up in a country with such abundance and media blitzes that accent the value of “super-sizing” and couch potato video games that little thought is given to what is on their plate or why they are 20 pounds larger than their fellow students from abroad. My Chinese students know this is the land of plenty, but they also suspect that Americans haven’t really thought about food, other than gobbling up huge portions of burgers, pizza, cupcakes and soda.  (Read rest of the article)

It's really sad when Americans are being known foremost for their bad diets!  This article reminds me of a recent Thomas Friedman (NYTimes) column, also about the Chinese perception of the American diet.

According to my son Jack at Trinity College in Hartford, these foreign students are going to have trouble eating a decent fruit and vegetable based diet if they're eating on campus.    I'm sure that has to do with demand... possibly another fertile topic for discussion with foreign students.  

1 comment:

  1. Of course, I have no idea what one contends with eating on-campus at a college these days, but, in general, I believe that this food situation is more a problem of perception than reality. That is, it has been my experience that in almost any situation where food is offered, whether it be a grocery store or restaurant or, I'll go out on a limb here, college food service, there are always options of offerings better than fries/greasy burgers/Snack Pak Pudding. I see it as the ol' "a (wo)man sees what (s)he wants to see and disregards the rest." (from some old Simon and Garfunkle song stating "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.) Those that are used to the SAD (Standard American Diet)must just see those things and those who've trained themselves to eat otherwise, find the otherwise things. I go into a restaurant (even a "fast food" one) and can quite easily find a filling meal that isn't meat, fried, or heavily buttered/sauced. You just have to know what you're looking for (salads, beans, potatoes, etc.)Back to college...which, as we all know was many decades ago and crap food wasn't as pervasive then but was certainly present, I recall a very attractive salad bar at every meal with vegetables, fruits, cheeses, nuts, etc. Certainly there must be similar offerings in the dorms of today. At least I hope there is!!! :-)Now, I'm not saying that there isn't an overabundance of crappy "food" offerings at every turn that our culture would benefit greatly (if only in an aesthetic way) to rid itself of, but, the fruits/vegetables/grains/beans/nuts/etc. are there for those who are looking for them. :-)


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