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
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
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
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,
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