Study: Healthy eating is privilege of the rich ›

Nothing new, but I am glad to see 1) data to back up what everyone knows, and 2) strong wording. “Privilege of the rich” is not a phrase I’m used to reading in mainstream news.

SEATTLE — A healthy diet is expensive and could make it difficult for Americans to meet new U.S. nutritional guidelines, according to a study published Thursday that says the government should do more to help consumers eat healthier.

An update of what used to be known as a food pyramid in 2010 had called on Americans to eat more foods containing potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium. But if they did that, the journal Health Affairs said, they would add hundreds more dollars to their annual grocery bill.

Inexpensive ways to add these nutrients to a person’s diet include potatoes and beans for potassium and dietary fiber. But the study found introducing more potassium in a diet is likely to add $380 per year to the average consumer’s food costs, said lead researcher Pablo Monsivais, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and the School of Public Health at the University of Washington.

"We know more than ever about the science of nutrition, and yet we have not yet been able to move the needle on healthful eating," he said. The government should provide help for meeting the nutritional guidelines in an affordable way.

He criticized some of the marketing for a healthy diet — for example, the image of a plate of salmon, leafy greens and maybe some rice pilaf — and said a meal like that is not affordable for many Americans.

Food-assistance programs are helping people make healthier choices by providing coupons to buy fruits and vegetables, Monsivais said, but some also put stumbling blocks in front of the poor.

He mentioned, as an example, a Washington state policy making it difficult to buy potatoes with food assistance coupons for women with children, even though potatoes are one of the least expensive ways to add potassium to a diet.

The study was based on a random telephone survey of about 2,000 adults in King County, Wash., followed by a printed questionnaire that was returned by about 1,300 people. They note what food they ate, which was analyzed for nutrient content and estimated cost.

People who spend the most on food tend to get the closest to meeting the federal guidelines for potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium, the study found. Those who spend the least have the lowest intakes of the four recommended nutrients and the highest consumption of saturated fat and added sugar.

Good note at the end of the article that this doesn’t even venture into trying to eat organic or local; this is just about getting basic nutrients. Also good note that this is just what people can afford to eat, assuming there’s even a grocery store with fresh produce available to them.

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