In consideration of the recent posts on diet quality, here is a real life example of how the food environment can challenge our efforts.
We are advised to improve our diets and our healthy by consuming more fish and leafy, colorful vegetables. We should also limit or avoid starchy items such as white rice, pasta, potatoes and even peas and corn.
When dining out, a person can order fish and ask that it be cooked without SoFAS - i.e. grilled 'dry.' But what do you do when the side item that comes with the fish is automatically a starch? The unhealthy default.
The healthy side item, a salad for instance, invariably costs extra. For my meal tonight, my fish came with mashed potatoes or a vegetable with butter. It was a big deal to get my vegetables without the butter! IF I wanted the healthy salad instead, it was an additional $3.50. The entree was already 17 dollars (not a fast food price!)
Certainly it is easier and cheaper for the restaurant to serve potatoes and it is harder for us to turn down what is free and palatable. This is exactly why my research focus has shifted to food policy as a contributing factor in obesity.
BTW, one of the persons in my group did get the potatoes, which came with a large potato chip stuck in the middle. Really.