The High Cost of Cheap Food


by Stephanie Berenbaum – January 13, 2010

You are What You Eat….

I was in the car this morning and some disturbing statistics caught my ear – could I have possibly heard right — that there was a new obesity intervention program starting in the schools – in second grade?  The commentator went on to explain that a shocking 1 in 3 children in our country are overweight.  Thankfully, Michelle Obama and her ‘Let’s Move’ program are putting childhood obesity center stage – but aside from the White House, what can you do about food issues in your own house?  For both children and adults, one thing is clear: processed, crappy food – no matter how cheap – is not a bargain!

Spend More To Save More

For starters, you might be surprised to hear Fab & Fru tell you that you should be spending MORE on your food – in order to save big in costs to your health and well-being!

According to Michael Pollan in his book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual”, Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food – less than the citizens of any other nation…  We seem to have gotten away from that simple truth that our grandmothers used to tell us – “You Are What You Eat” after all!  Pollan also shares another gem of grandmotherly wisdom – “Better to pay the grocer than the doctor!”

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Yes, real food does usually cost more upfront than processed food.  But – by spending more to purchase high quality food, you will be more satisfied, eat less and be healthier.  All of which will certainly save you money in the long run!  First, we need to change our concept of ‘getting a deal.”  The American perspective on getting a great deal on groceries is really a raw deal — let’s say you can get a ‘discount’ on hormone-pumped up chicken, pesticide sprayed (though perfect looking!) apples, high fructose laden bread, cereal and soda – sure your grocery bill this week might be lower than had you bought organic, but at what cost to your health (and heath related bills) in the long run?

Our Disease Prone Diet

It’s no secret that our Western diet of processed, chemical-filled foods has led to an onslaught of distinctly Western diseases.  According to Michael Pollan, “Virtually all of the obesity and type 2 diabetes, 80 percent of cardiovascular disease, and more than a third of all cancers” can be linked to our Western diet!  Now, you may not be making the connection between purchasing a processed snack for your kids and the rising cost of health care, but you should be.  ….My apologies up front for giving you yet another thing to be stressed out about in terms of parenting!

Processed = Profitable

According to Michael Pollan, processed food is profitable food.  It can sit on the shelves forever and is inexpensively mass produced in factories.  Pollan refers says we should think of most processed food less as real food as more like ‘edible foodlike substances’.  And many of these foodlike substances unfortunately seem to permeate our diet   One of his suggestions I particularly like is, “It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language.  Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.” Now, look – I’m not saying you should never indulge in a bag of Cheetos (particularly the crunchy variety), but his point is, these treats should be only eaten from time to time – they should not be the mainstay of our diet!

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One Response to “The High Cost of Cheap Food”

  1. I love it… “It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language. Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.”

    Thanks fab&fru.

    Indulgence on occasion, but I’m life-styling for long term health.

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