Bending down, straightening up. Throwing, tossing, cutting, pulling. Crouching, sliding, chasing, jogging. Climbing, packing, lifting, shifting. Farm work can be a tiring business.
All this activity is fueled by the food we put in our mouths. With more packaged snacks and colorful bags than ever, it’s hard for anyone to make the right nutritional choices. In rural settings – especially migrant farmworker communities – the right choice is even harder to find. Too often, workers and their families live too far from well-stocked grocery stores to find fresh foods. Living closer into town, the long trip back and forth to the fields may not leave time to shop and cook. Packaged snacks are the easiest thing to take for a quick snack, and none of those confusing nutrition labels make sense anyway: may as well choose the one that tastes best. None of these fruits and vegetables look familiar. There’s no propane for the stove. I never learned about all this nutrition stuff.
With chart-topping rates of hypertension (high blood pressure), and growing obesity rates in both adults and children, the approximately 80% of U.S. migrant agricultural workers of Hispanic descent have a lot to gain from a better diet. There may be many barriers, but little changes can mean big improvements.
- If your plate or lunch bag LOOKS boring, it probably is. A colorful plate is a good sign of a balanced meal including fruits and vegetables. Tortillas, rice, and chicken is one pale plate. How could you dress it up?
Carrots for crunch, tomatoes for flavor, apples for sweetness, spinach for vitamins, avocado for texture. It doesn’t have to be gourmet; throw what you have in the mix, and know that a little fruit or vegetable packs in nutrients and gives you longer-lasting energy.
2. Squinting at a long nutrition label? You may see unfamiliar words and confusing numbers.
When in doubt, choose real foods: the kinds that don’t have a nutrition label at all. Nature has stuffed calories, vitamins, and minerals into perfect proportion in whole foods, but packaged foods almost always contain artificial additives and concentrations. Your favorite real foods like broccoli, oranges, peppers, oats, beans – and reasonable amounts of meat, fish, egg, and milk – don’t need dressing up. Nature already made them perfect!
- Still, if you’re working from that nutrition label, look for foods that note:
low – Sugar, saturated fat, sodium
HIGH – Protein, fiber, vitamins (like vitamin C, A, B), minerals (like calcium, iron, potassium)
Right below the white and black nutrition label, you’ll find the ingredients list. If you’re buying processed foods, look for ones with a short ingredients list made of food names you recognize.
For example, if you’re buying peanut butter:
Which one looks like a healthier choice?
We all eat (thanks to farmworkers!), and every time we do we have choices to make. Even with a tough job and limited access, little choices can make big health improvements: like preventing and mitigating some of the most prevalent diseases on the planet, from type-2 diabetes to joint pain to heart disease.
At AFOP Health & Safety we’re all about health education. That’s why we train migrant and seasonal farmworkers nationwide in relevant health topics, and why we’re always interested in sharing health knowledge. Tell us about YOUR ideas for eating well in migrant agricultural communities, and look out for upcoming blogs on eating cheap, healthy eating for kids, and eating on the go.
Hungry for more?