May 17 2012
As government has grown increasingly interested in regulating what we eat – and pointing fingers at sugar, soda, fat, salt, poverty, “fill-in-the-blank evil,” for obesity in America – I was pleasantly surprised to learn about a study released by the USDA that finds that healthy eating is in fact affordable.
The assumption of food nannies on the left – for instance, at the CDC’s “Weight of the Nation” conference earlier this month and in the HBO mini-series of the same name – is that it’s often too expensive to make healthy choices.
Julie has written plenty about how food activists love to make low-income Americans out to be victims preyed upon by fast food and sugar sharks. If you listened to most food activists you would think that the poor are too overburdened and uneducated to make healthy decisions for themselves so they need government to step in and help them.
But the USDA’s report helps debunk this patronizing rhetoric, explaining that a healthy diet isn’t actually more expensive. (Of course, for anyone who does the weekly shopping – mostly women – you know this intuitively. All those snacks for kids in the middle aisles of the grocery store can really add up!)
The new USDA report comes down to metrics. If price is measured per calorie, then fruits and vegetables tend to be reported as more expensive, while less healthy “snack” foods tend to have more calories and therefore a lower price.
But when “measured on the basis of edible weight or average portion size” suddenly healthy foods are far less expensive than those “moderation foods.”
As NPR’s Morning Edition put it today, “you get more bang – like vitamins and minerals – for the buck.”
At a time when it seems all reasonable thinking about food has gone out the window, this was a refreshing palette cleanser!