This may not be news to the healthy eaters out there, but last week news stories like this one from NPR stated something that should be a lot more obvious to consumers: Junk food is not only bad for your health, but it’s also bad for your wallet.
I try not to step onto my soapbox when writing for this blog, but this study should raise a few eyebrows. After all, hasn’t Wendy’s taught us to buy from the value menu when searching for a snack? Aren’t the marketers at Kraft banking on you to choose Velveeta over a nice chèvre? How could a bag of Nature’s Promise Organic Potatoes ($5.99) be cheaper than a bag of Lay’s ($3.99)? The math should be simple, right?
Comparing the list price of items may not tell the whole story, though. As the USDA study outlined in the article states:
If you compare the price per calorie — as some previous researchers have done — then higher-calorie pastries and processed snacks might seem like a bargain compared with fruits and vegetables.
But comparing the cost of foods by weight or portion size shows that grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy foods are less expensive than most meats or foods high in saturated fat, added sugars or salt.
That means bananas, carrots, lettuce and pinto beans are all less expensive per portion than French fries, soft drinks, ice cream or ground beef. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=152846630)
The calculus we were raised to believe is often false. Not only are we paying more for fewer servings of food, but we’re buying lots of empty calories. If you consider how many more nutrients are packed into a bag of spinach compared to a McDonald’s “Extra Value Meal” the disparity is even greater. I heard a rumor that our country might have an obesity epidemic as well. If you’ve ever seen Super Size Me, you’ll catch my drift.
When making food decisions, be wary of justifying bad decisions based on price. Remember how ruthlessly you’ve been marketed to! So, are you ready to put that box of Easy Mac back on the shelf and to instead reach for a bag of organic celery stalks? Your body–and your accountant–just might thank you!
(Ok, Easy Mac really is cheap no matter how you analyze it. Maybe not the best example.)