Admittedly eating healthy can have its challenges. Our environment is loaded with cheap, sugar-laden, refined carbohydrate foods. Habits formed over years can be hard to break. Eating healthier can also cost more money. But when another report concludes that nearly half of Americans have heart disease, in part due to poor nutrition, it’s time to examine if anything can be done.
The report, published by the American Heart Association, offers a thorough review of heart disease and stroke risk for Americans and what we are doing well and less well with regard to exercise, sleep, smoking, and nutrition among others. Looking at nutrition, there is some reason for optimism. There has been an improvement in eating habits by Americans with slightly higher intake of whole grains, seeds, and legumes and lower intake of sugar sweetened beverages (eg, sodas, juice). Intake of less sodium, saturated fats, and processed meat and more vegetables, fruits, and fish has not improved so there is still more work to do.
One barrier, often cited, to eating more nutrient dense foods is the cost. Eating heathier is more expensive than the standard American diet. How much more was described in the report which cited the results of a meta-analysis. On average a more nutrient dense eating pattern (more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, and whole grains) was found to cost ~$1.50 more per person per day ($1,095 for a couple or $2,190 for a family of four per year) than a traditional diet.
This is not an inconsequential amount of money, and for too many Americans, this is out of reach. It is my hope that for those who can afford it, eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, and whole grains is a good idea and hopefully seen as worth the investment.
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
Want to include more nutrient dense foods in your week and need to do so on a budget? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.