Healthy vs. Cheap

Posted: November 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s common knowledge that you have to choose between eating healthy and eating on a budget.  Everyone know that, we all believe it, and we all want to.  It gives us another excuse to eat poorly, and creates more of the divide between the haves and have-nots.

A lot of people first heard this put into words in Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me, where he talks about the lack of playgrounds in poor areas that aren’t attached to fast-food restaurants.  It’s well explained in a New York Times article from 2007: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/05/a-high-price-for-healthy-food/

The argument is that high-calorie, energy dense foods are cheaper than low-calorie, nutrient rich foods.  That part of the argument is true.  It’s cheaper to buy orange soda than it is to buy orange juice.  Strictly comparing cost-per-calorie, this is just math, and it’s math that even children coming out of our tragic public schools could do.  And we have a lot of evolution behind us that says it is in our best interests to get as many high-calorie foods as possible, because Fred and Wilma really couldn’t go get brontosaurus burgers at the drive-in.  If you had the chance to kill a mastodon, you better have killed the fuck out of that mastodon, and eaten as much of it as possible because you just never knew when another one was going to come along.

To sum up…if you’re a caveman, high calories = keep you alive = healthy.

Except that you are not a caveman.

I know that there are people living in this country who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  This country produces enough food that no one should have to wonder when they’re going to be fed next, and the fact that a lot of people are in this situation is disgraceful.  But, most of us aren’t.  We are living in a place and time where calories are easily available, and yet we’re still acting like they’re not.  Our predominant goal should not still be to get as many calories as possible.  That’s become a cause of ill-health for our entire country.

So yes, for a dollar I can buy more calories of orange soda than I can of orange juice.  While we’re talking about that, no one has stopped to ask if I need those calories.  I can drink water much more cheaply than I can drink either soda or juice, and that is healthier for me, but it throws a wrench in our nice, tidy equation.  It’s this fact that makes me think that the accepted fact (that it is cheaper to eat poorly) is bullshit.  It’s certainly cheaper for me to drink healthily, and in order to have a conversation about healthy vs. affordable food, we need to stop for a second and think about our definition of eating well.

 

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