Conundrum: Money is tight and junk food is cheaper

Money is tight and people are watching their budgets, but is it getting too expensive to eat healthy? In a recent article by the NY Times, it is reported that even middle-class people are struggling to put healthful food on the table. Eating junk food is just cheaper.

A study by the Center of Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, compared the prices of 370 foods sold at supermarkets in the Seattle area. The study showed that "energy dense" junk foods, which pack on the calories and fewest nutrients per gram, were less expensive than healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. The prices of the most healthful foods surged 19.5% over a two year period, while junk food prices dropped 1.8%.

This is bad news for working families -- especially with small children. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the building blocks for good health, but they can be expensive. In a time where the daily food-stamp allowance is typically just a few dollars per person, the average American eats $7 worth of food per day.

Too many families think that a hamburger, fries and a coke are a balanced meal. At the inner city school where my husband works, many of the parents drive through a fast food restaurant every night for dinner. The only balanced meals the children receive are the free breakfast and lunch subsidized by the state.

Some tips to help you eat healthy regardless of your budget:

  • No chips and soda. These two items are the most popular ones at the grocery store. They provide no nutrients and pack on the calories. The soda will also destroy teeth and gums. Just stop buying it and drink water instead.

  • Snack on fruit. Buy bananas, apples and other fruit in season.

  • Go to farmer's markets. Held in most cities and towns, it is an inexpensive way to get fresh produce at cheap prices.

  • Eat fish and chicken instead of beet. It is healthier and cheaper than red meat and gives you lots of important nutrients.

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For her FREE e-mail newsletter, please visit: The People Pro.

Read Full Story

From Our Partners