Recently, I was told by my doctor to heavily cut back on dairy products and simple carbohydrates due to a medical condition. When I first heard this news, I wasn't reluctant. I wanted to improve this condition, and so I committed to changing my diet in order to accommodate this.
Sounds simple, right? Just buy alternatives to the foods that you enjoy and work from there.
That's what I did. I went to the grocery store with a list of dairy-free and low carb foods and beverages. When looking for the items, I felt better about what I was doing. This was going to be a positive change for me, and I couldn't be more excited to feel better.
What I didn't realize until I found the products is that freezer foods and snacks with no dairy products (cheese being the main culprit) and low carbs is really freaking expensive. Not only this, but there's a very limited selection of what you can buy. All of the frozen meals were coated in cheese, full of pasta and spaghetti, or coated with breadcrumbs. I searched every nook and cranny of the local Target in order to get what I needed.
When I got to the register, it became clear to me that my total was nearly double of what it usually was. I scoured coupon websites and looked through promotions in my email's spam folder to find anything I could to bring the price down. Being a college student who works a part-time job (and doesn't have a meal plan for the summer session that I'm currently in) is difficult by itself. Having dietary restrictions makes it much harder to pull off.
Since this summer session at school started, most of my money has gone towards food. I found myself sitting in my dorm and craving sweets often (and I do give myself an allowance) but when I couldn't afford to get more alternatives to satisfy the craving, figuring out what to eat became something like a challenge.
I've been waiting for the fall semester to start so that the dining halls open up again, but I know it's not going to be much different. Dining halls typically have one or two stations that are vegetarian/vegan, and you usually have to make laps around the hall hunter-gatherer style in order to find things that are low in carbohydrates and dairy. It seems as though everything is made of white bread, white rice, milk, and cheese. Sometimes, you don't have much of a choice as to what you can eat. You can either suck it up and eat whatever is at the dining hall or break the bank to find something you enjoy.
As I've been shopping for food, I've realized that the products marked as being "healthy" and "whole wheat" are much more expensive than cheaper foods loaded with cheese and pasta. Sweets are so much cheaper than squash. It would be so much easier and I'd get more bang for my buck if I bought foods that I should be avoiding. Our country is very weird like that. If people want to incorporate produce into their diet, they shouldn't have to pay more to do so.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with eating carbs and dairy, but there's something wrong with the limited accessibility of foods that we are constantly told are "healthier" for us, especially for those who come from lower socioeconomic statuses. If it's hard enough for a college student to eat foods that their doctor advised them to, then imagine what it's like when an adult working a minimum wage job wants to do the same.
We don't need to eliminate foods with a lot of carbs, dairy, and sugar. What we need to do is make foods for those with intolerances, allergies, sensitivities, and health factors more accessible and affordable. Whether it's in the local Target or the dining halls, the food industry as a whole has a lot of work to do.