Editor’s note: Food loss and waste is a huge problem that should be minimized. It is important that people should take actions to promote their awareness against food waste and form healthy consumption behavior, writes a veteran journalist with China Daily.
“Eating simple food and in moderate quantity” has become a popular mantra for many Chinese people, while high-calorie intake and excessive eating have become a social problem, forcing many people to go on a diet to control their weight.
While having lunch with colleagues in the China Daily canteen, I often see people picking just a sweet potato or an orange and leaving the canteen which serves more than a dozen dishes, including dumplings, noodles, cakes and soups. Then there are those that are not seen in the canteen in the day time because they deliberately skip lunch.
Even at home, we have decided to reduce the four-dish dinner to three-dish dinner because there was always food left over. As a person who grew up in poverty and knows what hunger is, I hate to waste food.
Last year’s statistics show that more than 50 percent of Chinese people above the age of 18 are overweight. As a result, over 40 percent of the Chinese people have an abnormal lipid profile and 60 percent have or need to guard against diabetes.
Excess calorie intake is the main reason behind the rising levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes cases. To control their weight, many people either go on a diet, or hit the gym, or seek doctor’s advice, or begin to play some sports to burn the excess calorie.
My family and I have taken all three measures. After a simple dinner, we take both Western and traditional Chinese medicines before going out for a walk for an hour or so. If it’s raining or very cold, we go to an indoor swimming pool to swim.
If we can control our weight, our lipid profile can be normal or close to normal. Trying to check my weight, I very often miss my “good old days” half a century ago when the supply of rice, cooking oil, meat and eggs was rationed. Since the food was rationed, people got a limited amount of food and therefore ate simple food in moderate quantity and hence did not have to worry about becoming overweight.
In the first two decades of my life, I didn’t have enough to eat. Then for the next three to four decades, I had plenty of food thanks to China’s economic boom. Now, I have perforce reduced my diet. The difference is that during my childhood and early youth, my longing for food was a compulsion — due to the country’s development level — while now “eating little and simple” is my own choice.
While excess calorie intake is believed to be the main reason behind the rising number of overweight people, including children, many nutritionists say that the imbalanced nutrition pattern plays a big role in people gaining weight.
Their suggestion is to reduce the use of oil, salt and sugar in cooking, minimize the intake of meat and eggs, and eat more vegetables, fruits and coarse cereals. China Daily’s canteen has been serving food on the basis of this principle, although some colleagues have complained against the “bland, tasteless” food served in the canteen.
Rural areas have their own problem. While excess calorie intake has become a big problem for urban residents, many rural residents including better-off villagers in China’s eastern and southern coast are battling under-nutrition.
China eradicated absolute poverty just two years ago. The poverty line — set at about 5,000 yuan ($724) per rural resident per year — may be enough to provide protection against hunger, but not enough to prevent under-nutrition in some families that don’t earn that much.
Although the government has taken measure to help rural children by providing free lunches for them, the quality of the food needs to be improved to ensure students get sufficient nutrition, as well as prevent villagers from slipping back into poverty.
With increasing awareness of eating healthy and with the consistent support of the government, hopefully excessive calorie intake as well as under-nutrition will soon become things of the past.
The author is former deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily.