Being short on money is no excuse for having a junk food diet that makes you, or your kids, fat. I keep hearing this excuse, and surprisingly, it’s usually offered up by people other than the fat kids or fat adults at issue. For instance, when TLC airs one of those “Half Ton Dad” stories, posting boards soon fill up with critical comments, but there’s always a few naïve people who point out that eating healthy is expensive; that healthy foods cost a lot; that junk food is much cheaper.
So let me understand this: It’s cheaper for the “Half Ton Dad” to eat 30,000 calories a day of junk food, than it would be for him to eat 2,500 calories a day of healthy food? Or, to put it another way, it’s cheaper for a single mother to feed her fat children 4,000 calories a day each of sugary junky and fried foods, than it is to feed each child 1,800 calories a day of healthy food? Please tell me you’re joking.
Too many people believe that America’s obesity problem is in part caused by the cheapness of a junk food diet, versus the expense of a healthy diet. This wrong way of thinking is very evident on posting boards for “Half Ton Dad” types of shows, plus breaking news stories about some 300 pound 9-year-old whose single mother is a checker at Wal Mart.
If indeed it’s true that the child obesity problem in America is fueled by parents not having the money for healthy foods, and that morbid obesity in adults is often caused by these adults being unable to afford a healthy way of eating, then perhaps we can draw some interesting conclusions:
1. Very few obese people in America earn good incomes.
2. Most trim people in America are wealthy.
3. The percentage of poor people today in America is dramatically higher than 50 years ago.
Of course, these conclusions are invalid. Pointing out that junk food is cheaper than healthy food as a cause for obese children and obese adults shows complete lack of common sense and knowledge, especially when you consider that a lot of junk food is quite pricey.
Though Little Debbie snacks are dirt cheap, check out the price of pastries at Starbucks. Though donuts at the local chain grocery store are cheap, cakes and pies in the frozen dessert section, not to mention Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, are pricey. And the price of candy bars has been going up for years, while the size of the candy has shrunk. Pretty soon, the York Peppermint Patty will be the size of a quarter.
On the other hand, many healthy or low-sugar foods are reasonably priced. There’s always a sale going on in the produce section of grocery stores. People just don’t want to look. The price of whole grain no-sugar-added cereal; yogurt; fruit juice concentrate; whole grain bread; etc., is competitive with that of fried, junky and sugary high calorie foods. Chain grocery stores always have great sales on frozen dinners: low-calorie foods comprised mostly of chicken, pasta and vegetables.
But of course, it’s a lot easier to pull up to the drive-thru and place an order for the cheeseburgers, fries and sodas, than to hunt for bargains at a supermarket. People who spend money on cigarettes and more shoes than they need will complain that health food is too expensive. Since when is a box of plain rice expensive? And it’s very cheap to flavor up the rice.
But when you get right down to it, the most expensive thing of all is disease.