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Obama has been very focused on healthcare this week. On Monday, he met with insurers, drug manufacturers and other health-industry stakeholders, who pledged to slash spending by 1.5% a year. On Tuesday, he met with chief executives of corporations to discuss cost-saving programs they’re putting in place. Obama’s Wednesday meeting with House Democrats came in the wake of Medicare and Social Security trustees’ grim assessments of the programs’ finances. The trustees said Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund will be insolvent in 2017, two years earlier than predicted last year.

We know our country is in a health care crisis, but all the focus seems to be on treating illness at a lower cost versus asking how we can become a healthier, less drug dependent population to begin with. Many studies have shown that health care expenses are one of the biggest threats to a financially secure retirement, and staying healthy is your best defense. We all know what we need to do – exercise and eat healthy, but what does eating healthy really mean?

Michael Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food, makes a convincing argument that America has become a paradox: a very unhealthy population obsessed with nutrition, dieting and the idea of eating healthy. With his motto, “Eat Food, Not too Much, Mostly Plants,” Pollan introduces a guide for eating that avoids the confusing low carb, high protein, low fat directives that have been handed down by nutritionists over the last 30 years. Instead of counting calories and studying the nutrition content of manufactured snacks, we should eat only foods that our great grandmothers would recognize: fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and meat.

Mr. Pollan does an excellent job of chronicling the evolution of the Western diet, and how our eating habits have led to chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and other diseases that have escaladed over the past 30 years. If we stay on our current path, I doubt that there will be any amount of government spending that can keep us well.

If you want to start a new healthcare trend by helping yourself instead of popping a pill, I recommend In Defense of Food for guidance. You might even be inspired to keep butylated hydroxyanisole out of your lunch today.

By Jeannette Jones, CPA, CFP®