Filed Under: Big Fat Lies Snacks

Healthy Food Is A Matter of Choice, Not Price

The fallacy that unhealthy food is all that low-income consumers are able to afford is perpetuated by a new study by University of Washington researcher Adam Drewnowski. His team of researchers found that shoppers at the priciest grocery stores are skinnier than those of us who don’t wish to spend our whole paychecks on organic bok choy.

The study summarizes:

In the Seattle area, a region with an average obesity rate of about 20 percent, only about 4 percent of shoppers who filled their carts at Whole Foods Market stores were obese, compared with nearly 40 percent of shoppers at lower-priced Albertsons stores.

That’s likely because people willing to pay $6 for a pound of radicchio are more able to afford healthy diets than people stocking up on $1.88 packs of pizza rolls to feed their kids, the study’s lead author suggested. 

“If people wanted a diet to be cheap, they went to one supermarket,” said Adam Drewnowski, a University of Washington epidemiology professor who studies obesity and social class. “If they wanted their diet to be healthy, they went to another supermarket and spent more."

The research suggests that price-conscious consumers are only eating “junk” food because it’s cheap, not because, say, they like the taste of it. And it implies that obesity is a class issue instead of one of personal responsibility. 

But that conclusion is an unfortunate turnaround from Drewnowski’s team, which found last summer that healthy food is well within the reaches of just about everyone. At the time, he said in order to get the most nutritional bang for your buck, milk, eggs, carrots, apples, canned tomatoes, ground beef, and chicken cannot be beat. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has published its own analysis revealing that grocery staples like a four pound roaster chicken, a pound of lettuce, a pound of potatoes, and a pound of oranges at a typical supermarket would only total about $6.

There’s simply no reason that healthy foods must be out of the budget range for anyfamily, should they want to buy them. And the good news on the taste front is that moderate eating includes plenty of room for the occasional pizza roll as well.

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