Nutrition Study: Healthy Eating is Too Expensive

Following the new U.S. nutrition guidelines is easier for Americans with cash to burn, a new study reported Thursday. According to the Associated Press, eating the way the U.S. government wants its citizens to do would mean adding hundreds more dollars to grocery bills each year.

A 2010 update of what used to be known as a food pyramid recommended that Americans eat more foods containing potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium. But introducing more potassium into a diet is likely to add $380 per year to the average consumer’s food costs, the study from the School of Public Health at the University of Washington said. Meeting guidelines on other suggested nutrients creates a similar problem.

Lead researcher Pablo Monsivais called on the government to make healthy eating easier for people struggling with weekly grocery bills.

“We know more than ever about the science of nutrition, and yet we have not been able to move the needle on health eating,” he said. “The government should provide help for meeting the nutritional guidelines in an affordable way.”

Part of the problem is even in how healthy eating is marketed to people, Monsivais said. He cited the example of the image of a plate of salmon, leafy greens and rice pilaf. A meal like that is not affordable for many Americans, the AP said.

The study was based on a random telephone survey of 2,000 adults in King County, Washington, followed by a questionnaire returned by 1,300 people. The surveys asked what foods people ate, and then analyzed the responses for nutritional content and cost. Researchers found that people who spent the most on food were also those who got closest to matching federal nutritional guidelines. Conversely, those who spent least missed the mark on guidelines by the widest margins. “Almost 15 percent of households in America say they don’t have enough money to eat the way they want to eat,” said Hilary Seligman of the University of California, San Francisco. “Right now, a huge chunk of America just isn’t able to adhere to these guidelines.” Despite the popular notion that poor people eat unhealthy food because they like the taste, Seligman said as many as 49 million Americans make food decisions primarily based on cost.
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