With the economy in a crisis, how is it possible our waistlines are growing? Welcome to the fatification of the nation. It’s cheaper and easier to find high calorie, nutrient-poor foods. A bag of potato chips is cheaper then a banana or an apple in many convenient stores. Soda is cheaper then juice. If it’s good for us, it’s got a heftier price tag. The mortgage crisis today is going to be trumped by the obesity crisis tomorrow. With the growing rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity related illnesses on the rise, how are we going to financially support the growing medical costs of our gluttonous ways.
Uncle Sam is trying to get involved, the only way Uncle Sam knows how: by taxing food. Would a “fat tax” reduce consumption of red meat? Would a subsidy on fresh fruits and vegetables actually increase sales of breads, cereals and grains? Certain economists think so. A recent study published in the Economic Review of Agricultural Economics delved into a healthy diet from an economic standpoint, namely purchase patterns and pricing of various food groups and looking into who is buying what. What they found was not so surprising — that households with more money purchase higher quantities of healthy food items over their poorer counterparts. In poorer neighborhoods access to fresh fruits and vegetables is severely lacking. There are urban neighborhoods in this country, called “food deserts”, where a market carrying fresh fruits and vegetables just doesn’t exist.
The researchers also commented on the purchasing pattern of individual food groups. They found that the purchase of fats is directly variable with price, meaning that if a fatty food item (red meat) is priced high, sales actually go down. This gives some hope to supporters of the soda tax, who are using similar logic.
But if you’re feeling a little short on cash and still want to maintain a healthy diet, here are a couple tips:
- Purchase seasonally. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are the cheapest and the most abundant. So for example, buy apples in the fall and citrus fruits in the winter. This is also when they taste the best, too.
- Buy what you can in bulk, and let your freezer be your friend. Meat freezes, berries freeze, soup freezes. Don’t throw food away; simply freeze it for another day.
- Meatloaf — this is how our grandmothers made a dollar last! Mix any ground meat (chicken and turkey work too for lower fat options) with an egg, bread crumbs and spices. It’s cheap, delicious and makes the expensive meat last longer. You can even make your own bread crumbs. Just put a couple slices of stale wheat bread in the food processor until pulverized.