Research roundup–the cost of healthy eating

Photo: eatingwell.com

There has always been talk about how eating healthy is cost-prohibitive, so this idea is hardly new. But lately I seem to have noticed a lot of  little blurbs here and there about the expense of healthy food. Apparently they’ve sort of been collecting in my brain, sloshing around, bumping into each other, and agitating to get out.

The first piece caught my eye when this article was published in the Denver Post. The article talks about how getting the amount of potassium, fiber, vitamin D and calcium recommended by the newly released MyPlate, can add almost $400 a year to your grocery bill. A Google search shows a number of articles all citing this same dollar amount, published in a study by the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.

I kind of think it’s bullshit. I say kind of, because I don’t know for sure what it is like to try to fill my grocery cart with fruits and vegetables using food stamps. So my argument is totally theoretical; based on a little bit of research, both my own and that of other people (who are not likely living below the poverty line either).

Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University thinks the “too expensive” argument sounds like an excuse too, though she said it a little nicer than me.

“Bananas are darn cheap,” she says in this USA Weekend article. “So are apples and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Going generic and shopping smart can make lots of nutritious foods affordable.”

Just to see if she knew what she was talking about, I checked out the price of bananas at my local grocery store.

Whadaya know? Bananas are pretty cheap. And guess what? They have potassium.

I also found these other healthy, affordable foods:

One of these rotisserie chickens usually gets my family of four through at least two dinners, and sometimes a lunch for me.

18 small corn tortillas for .99. Corn is a whole grain. Add some black beans and tomatoes (fresh or canned) and lettuce and you have a cheap, low-fat, fiberlicious meal for the whole family.

.80 for brown rice. Healthy, whole grain filler you can mix with fresh or canned veggies, beans, chicken, or whatever else you can find.

It took me about 10 minutes of perusing the store to find those inexpensive meal staples.

Then I found these,

which is interesting, because in the same USA Weekend article, Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society says this: “People don’t think anything about spending $3 on a pound of candy, but they don’t want to spend a dollar on bananas.”

That might be true, because $1.89 will get you less than a pound of candy corn. Last I checked there is no potassium in candy corn. Just saying.

It is true there are food deserts across America; places where residents have limited access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. But studies show that canned and frozen fruits and veggies can contain just as many nutrients as fresh. So even if you don’t have access to a farmer’s market, or Whole Foods-type store, you can find frozen or canned options to help you meet nutrient needs.

And there is always McDonald’s. Those golden arches are everywhere right? Their menu offers the choice of a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese and all the fixings, for 740 calories, 42 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber , or a grilled chicken caesar salad (without the dressing, but with parmesan cheese) for 190 calories, 5 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber. The website doesn’t list prices, but I’ve gotta believe they are not that different.

Really though, at this stage in the US obesity crisis, I don’t think getting the recommended amount of potassium and fiber is the most important issue. Are those nutrients important? Of course. Having a balanced diet is the goal. But I think we should keep it simple to start. Focus on losing weight and eating less junk before worrying about specific nutrients. If people start making better choices overall, the proper nutrient balance is a lot more likely to occur naturally. In other words, lose 50 pounds and then worry about your bananas.

Btw, after writing this post, I noticed this article on my favorite healthy cooking website, Eating Well. I liked it so much, I used their photo as the first image you see in this post. Thanks Eating Well. You are my favorite food website!

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5 thoughts on “Research roundup–the cost of healthy eating

  1. Papa says:

    Don’t forget the healh benefits of red wine and dark chocolate. Trader Joes has some inexpensive wines and dark chocolate choices. Oops! Perhaps not the message your looking for. Actually though, it is possible to eat well without giving up all the evil vices collected over the years. But it takes hard work. Unfortunatly, I’m not sure most people are up to that part of the equation anymore. Statistics on obesity seem to confirm this trend of knowing what is right for us but choosing to do the opposite. Well, enough already. Time to grab a handful of chocolate chips and peanuts and a nice Chianti to wash it down.

  2. Krista says:

    Ohhh would love to go into this topic with you! I have had this conversation with so many ! Every grocery store has at least one veggie and one fruit in bulk on sale. Plus, three to four hypertensive meds, dm meds per month can easily add up to $30, $40 or much more.

    Plus, small gardens even box/patio gardens can provide produce for a family of four.

    Seeds are cheap.

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