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Eating Healthy Cheaper in the Long Run



NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Individuals who claim that it is too expensive to eat a well-balanced diet may be surprised to learn that in the long term--after one's eating habits have changed--eating healthily may actually be cheaper than their current diet, according to new research findings.

"A healthy diet does not have to be more expensive than a typical American diet," lead study author Hollie Raynor of the State University of New York at Buffalo told Reuters Health. "In fact, with time, the cost of a healthy diet may be less than a typical diet," she added.

Raynor and colleagues studied 31 families with at least one obese 8- to 12-year-old child. The families were put on a Traffic Light Diet, in which foods are classified on the basis of nutrient content. The diet encourages consumption of high-nutrient, low-fat "green" foods, including most fruits and vegetables, and slightly higher fat, also nutritious "yellow" foods while seeking to limit consumption of high-fat, less nutritious "red" foods to 15 or fewer servings per week.

Overall, the families greatly reduced their caloric intake and successfully changed their diet to meet current dietary recommendations, the researchers report in the May issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Further, the families greatly increased their intake of green foods, and decreased their intake of red foods, the report indicates.

Servings of both red and green foods were found to be much more costly than servings of yellow foods, the authors note. Yet, similar to previous research findings, the daily cost of food remained the same at the 6-month follow-up as it was at the start of the treatment.

By the one-year follow-up, however, the families' daily food cost was much less than it was at the start of the treatment, the report indicates.

"We are not sure what caused the change in food cost," Raynor said.

The change in cost did not seem to be related to the families' reduced caloric intake, or their reduced intake of red foods, although the amount of money spent on red foods decreased during the study period, the researchers note. They speculate that the decreased cost may have resulted from the families' change in food choices and preparation.

"With time, different food choices and cooking methods may be adopted that allow for lower food costs, while still providing a healthful diet," the authors write.

In light of the study findings, "beliefs about the expense of a healthful diet should be addressed by practitioners so that negative beliefs about the cost of a healthful diet do not become barriers in the adoption of positive dietary changes," Raynor and her colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2002;102:645-650,


Reference Source 89

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