MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

January 21, 2013

Study finds healthy eating affordable

— Most of us know that we should eat more fruits and vegetables, for an ever-growing number of different reason. They’re packed full of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that our minds and bodies need for good performance and to fight off sickness. Fruits and veggies are also low in calories but high in water and fiber, which are important for optimum health.

But when it comes to getting our five servings a day, Oklahoma falls to the back of the line, as only 17 percent of its adults eat five or more fruits and vegetables per day, according to America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation. And for youths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 14 percent of Oklahoma high schoolers ate only three or more vegetables per day.

It almost goes without saying that healthy food is more expensive, and that’s why more of us don’t eat it. But is it really? That’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture set out to determine in a recent study. Researchers compared the cost per average serving of 20 different common snack foods such as chips, cupcakes, pudding, crackers and popsicles with that of 20 common fruits and vegetables such as apples, oranges, grapes, carrots and celery.

They found that on average, the fruits and vegetables cost 31 cents per portion, and  the snack foods cost 33 cents per portion. Of course some items in each category were more expensive than the average, but others were less costly.

The big idea is that healthy substitutions are possible without added costs.

For example:

• Replacing a 1-ounce chocolate chip cookie with 1/4 cup of dried raisins saves 14 calories and costs an additional 3 cents.

• Replacing 4.1 ounces of ready-to-eat pudding with 1/2 cup of baby carrots saves 130 calories and 19 cents.

• Replacing 1.1 ounces of potato chips with 1/2 cup of strawberries saves 142 calories and costs an additional 14 cents.

“Making these three substitutions could reduce caloric intake by 286 calories with little change in cost (2 cents savings), as higher costs for some substitutions are offset by lower costs for others,” the study said.

In a different study, researchers estimated the cost per serving of more than 50 different fresh and processed fruits and vegetables and found that “Americans on a 2,000-calorie diet could purchase the quantity and variety of both fruits and vegetables recommended in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for between $2 and $2.50 per day.”

Certainly for some of us, even $2 per day places these nutritious foods out of reach, and this should inspire creative solutions within the community to address that. But for many of us, $2.50 a day for all of our fruits and veggies is entirely doable, economically. Especially given the increasingly high costs of poor nutrition.

A full summary of the USDA study is online at www.ers.usda.gov/media/960622/childhood-obesity.pdf

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