Simple Economics–Why Healthy Foods are a Hard Sell

After deciding to put myself on a strict budget this summer, I made a humbling discovery.  Whenever magazine show people who are from low income families–like the people on Honey boo-boo–it’s always a surprise to see who heavy they are.  Studies have proven that this is because they tend to eat unhealthy foods and the weight experts say, well they should just change to healthier foods. The implication is that people just don’t know how to eat healthy foods.

Well, boy and girls, the simple facts are that when you spend 75% of what you earn paying rent, utilities,and transportation, and necessary clothes, the remaining money goes for  food and everything else.  If you want to splurge–particularly for a family–you want the get the most for your money.  Prices at MCDonalds and other fast-food places allow families to get a lot of food–and enough to share, for the price of a single meal for one person.  The downside is the food is high fat and high calorie.  A head of lettuce costs $1.99, tastes like air and is often half rotten when you buy it, while a large bag of chips(off-brand) costs the same, and tastes good and is good for several days, the choice is obvious. Organic fruit and veggies cost twice as much as regular, and are not always available. Cereal  used to be a cheap way to go, but not anymore; $4.99 a box means it will stay on the shelf, and the cost of milk is insane.  Why buy milk when you can buy multiple giant bottles of soda for the cost of a 1/2 gallon of milk? Switching to fruit juices leads to the horrible discovery that many are sugar mixed with a lot of water and about a little fruit.  In searching for a pomegranate juice, I discovered that they were mostly grape and apple juice with a little pomegranate!

My gluten-free bread is a bargain when I can get it for $4.99 a loaf–with only a dozen slices per bag, including the very thick crusts, and gluten-free crackers are usually a half-empty box with a few crackers in it.  The cheap gluten-free crackers have the taste and consistency of a hockey puck–but they are affordable. Gluten-free flour is frighteningly expensive, taste is often a problem, and you don’t get a lot in the container. This encourages you to use it sparingly, and makes it difficult for restaurants to consider adding them to their menus. 

So how do you get low income people to improve their diets?  Make the non-healthy foods the same price as healthy items.


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