Does this recession make me look fat?

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As Americans look for ways to cut costs wherever possible, doctors worry that the changes we make to our food purchases will lead to an even worse obesity crisis than we're already facing.

There's a definite link between income and obesity, as numerous studies have shown that lower-income Americans are much more likely to be overweight. Healthy foods tend to be more expensive, so when people have to cut back on their grocery bills, they end up selecting cheaper foods that are higher in sugar and saturated fats. Things like fresh fruit and organic veggies become a luxury, and cash-strapped families turn to fast food dollar menus.

A look at some earnings numbers confirms this fact -- McDonald's appears recession-proof, while health food giant Whole Foods can't keep up with its projections. But is anyone really saving money by shunning healthy foods for cheap but fatty fast food? Probably only in the very short term. Weight gain from too many Big Macs will translate to a need for new clothes, and just one new outfit costs more than the difference in a week's worth of healthy groceries versus cheap alternatives. In the longer term, your health risks increase exponentially when you gain lots of weight, and medical care isn't cheap.

Doctors remind us that there are healthy ways to eat cheaply, though. Looking back to the Great Depression, before poverty stricken Americans had the dollar menu, people survived hard times on a diet of cheap and nutrient-rich foods such as ground beef, beans, milk, nuts, cheese, carrots, potatoes, canned tomatoes, soups, and rice. Maybe not as yummy as McDonald's, but if you're really trying to save money, this is definitely the best way to go. That dollar menu is going to cost you more in the long run.
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