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Fast Food Goes Organic

Organic to Go, health food, fast food, organic, lunch, restaurant, cafeOrganic to Go, a Seattle organic fast food company founded in 2004, has purchased cafes and catering operations. The company plans to create lunch places serving organic meals.

People who eat meals out increasingly want more nutritious food. More than 76 percent of the people in a recent poll said they are trying to eat out more healthfully than they were two years ago.

Another showed that, after bite-sized desserts, the hottest trends in food were locally grown and organic produce.

Organic to Go opened its first cafe three years ago. Now it boasts 33 outposts in Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Overall, I believe this is good news, despite the potential pitfalls of bringing organic into the fast-food arena. Looking at it from the positive side, it means that more and more people are actually addressing their dietary choices and that’s a great start. Making lifestyle changes requires changing both your mindset and your daily habits, so making “the healthy lunch” the new norm helps change people’s expectations of what a decent lunch is.  

On the downside, if we’re not mindful, the term “organic” will completely disintegrate and become nothing more than a marketing cliché – the beginnings of which are apparent already… It all depends on how ethical and committed these fast-food franchises are to the idea of selling actual healthful food, rather than selling the idea of healthy food. 

Many large food corporations have already failed miserably on that last point. 

Are You Buying Healthy Food, or Just the Image of Healthy Food? 

If you are buying organic food – whether from your local supermarket or from one of these new organic lunch spots – thinking you’re getting something grown by a small “mom-and-pop” farm nestled in a green valley, then you are probably being deceived.

Many organic foods are now being produced by the giant corporations that make some of the most offensive junk food on the market. And with companies like Kraft, Pepsi, and General Mills now in the business of “organic,” is it any wonder that you can get organic soda, organic pizza, organic potato chips and just about any organic junk food you can think of? 

These corporations are poster children for the power of an idea. 

Many people are getting hooked on the idea that organic equals healthy, but don’t stop long enough to make a distinction between raw food and processed food, and to ask themselves this vital question: Are organic soda and organic potato chips REALLY healthy snack options? 

The obvious answer is no. Organic versions of junk food are STILL just as detrimental to your health as their original counterparts. 

The point I want to make here is simply that you still need to pay attention to what you eat, even if it’s from an “organic café.” I’ve written about how to avoid the pitfalls of so-called healthy fast-food fares before. 

One of the most important things you can do for your long-term health is to determine your nutritional type and eat accordingly. Giving your body the fuel it needs to operate at optimal efficiency can help you shed excess pounds, maintain a robust immune system, improve your health and your mental well-being.  

After years of helping people implement nutritional typing into their lives and seeing the benefits first hand, I’m so convinced of its importance that I am now offering my nutritional typing test as part of my Inner Circle package at no extra charge so that you can see it for yourself. 

Are There Enough Local Organic Farms to Meet Growing Demand? 

That’s an important question if you’re looking for true organic, and as of right now the answer is: no, there are not.  

Organic production can no longer keep up with demand, and many are saying that the initial ideals of clean, natural and healthy food are being sacrificed for profit. For many, the organic philosophy encompasses more than just food grown without toxic pesticides. For many it represents an overall healthy lifestyle that includes the entire production process, from offering fair wages to being environmentally friendly -- a view that does not jibe well with organic tomatoes flown from Chile, generating pollution in the process.  

As an example, even in summer months only 30 percent of the produce in your average Whole Foods store is grown locally.  Likewise, it’s a stretch to imagine Organic to Go being able to obtain organic, locally grown produce and meats for all their café’s and catering operations. But I do hope they make the effort – and that you as the consumer help them by creating the demand -- and if they succeed they’d be raising the bar to a whole new level. 

Are You Ready to Go Beyond Organic?

But there’s yet another growing movement underway, which you may not have heard of. It’s called permaculture, and I believe that’s the real future of healthy food. Michael Pollan, the New York Times author who wrote the book Omnivore's Dilemma, does a great job of explaining in this video. 

At its roots is a focus on the relationships between animals, plants, insects, soil, water and habitat -- and how to use these relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems.  

Permaculture strives to mimic the natural ecologies found in nature, and food that is grown by these natural laws will inherently be healthy.

I can say with a high level of confidence that food being produced by the food giants like Kraft, General Mills, Coca-Cola, and Dean Foods is not done to optimize health with natural principles. Instead, it’s the law of making a profit that is steering their ship. Time will tell what kind of stewards Organic to Go end up being.

Please understand that my pointing out the downsides is not to shun you away from organic food. On the contrary, if you can find fresh organic produce in your area, by all means snatch it up, and take every opportunity to improve your on-the-go meal options. Just be aware that the organic label is being vastly overused, and behind its overuse is often inferior quality.

+ Sources and References
  • Washington Post June 3, 2008