DIY health and well-being

You’ve probably seen TV ads featuring former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting endorsing dietary supplements. If they help Punter, winner of three World Cups and scorer of over 27,000 runs for Australia, then they must surely be better than some kind of placebo for your Big Mac, chips and beer-related paranoia. If you can somehow find the correct combination of pills you can ‘fix’ your saturated-fat-high, dietary-fibre-short and vitamin-low diet (good luck with that). Soon you’re popping enough herbal this and hi-fibre that you rattle like a drum of ball-bearings.

21st Century quick-fix meals eliminate meal planning and a balanced diet. Over six days a couple might spend about $60 at the supermarket on frozen pies, chips, mixed veggies, fish fingers and chicken tenders for two. Even with vouchers, fast food outlet lunches for two are unlikely to be less than $10 a day. Cheap supermarket bread loaves (a dollar each) with budget fillers (less than $10 a kilo) make lunches cheaper. Total weekly expenditure is hardly less than buying fresh food at our market. Add dietary supplements for quick-fix dietary peace of mind and the market wins.

One whole smoked ocean trout, 650g of scotch fillet, a porterhouse steak two-pack, a Chicken Maryland two-pack, a lamb chop two-pack came to just over $50 at our market. Another $30 paid for apples, pears, oranges, potatoes, capsicum, onion, tomato, cucumber, asparagus, lettuce and mint. Olive oil and honey from the market plus pasta, bread, cheese and coffee purchased elsewhere rounded out all meals for the week (except the weekly pizza indulgence), a daily spend of less than $20 for two.

Health professionals suggest vitamin supplements might be good for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, some vegetarians, people who drink large quantities of alcohol, drug users and the elderly. Research indicates that most of the vitamins you get from the food you eat are better than those contained in pills. It is best to get vitamins from eating a varied diet. And you won’t compensate for a dodgy diet with dietary supplements, no matter how familiar the face that spruiks them.

Cooking show audiences miss the irony of watching while scoffing junk food, then swigging down the dietary supplements with carbonated fizz. Cooking and eating are dumbed down. Easy-fix meals are everywhere. Vast sums of money go to promote them. Time-poor people take advantage of them. Fast food affordable to those on modest incomes abounds. Thoughtful shopping, planning, old-fashioned food prep and positive family interaction become references in an encyclopaedia of bygone days. Australia becomes a perennial podium finisher in the global obesity Olympics.

How much might governments and individuals save on health care if we all took a farmers market approach to DIY health and well-being?

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