• Dhathri Srungaram

How Accessible is Nutrition?

(Source: shotsoflouis)

Pursuing nutritional goals and maintaining a healthy diet can be an effort for anyone. But obesity is an epidemic in the United States that disproportionately affects members of Black and Latinx communities.

The prevalence (percentage of the population affected by a condition) of non-Hispanic Black Adults affected by obesity is 49.6%. The prevalence of obesity in Hispanic Adults is 44.8%, followed by non-Hispanic White Adults at 42.2%. In non-Hispanic Asian Adults, obesity has a prevalence of 17.4%.

Good nutrition is linked to a reduction in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. All three of these conditions are highly correlative when it comes to diagnosing obesity.

Oftentimes the biggest barrier to a healthy diet is money, and because of that, there is a high correlation between obesity and communities with lower socioeconomic statuses. Eating healthy in the United States is difficult and expensive. For families that live paycheck to paycheck on minimum wage, it may seem impossible. Fortunately with some time and effort, however, it is something that can be worked towards. Healthy eating starts with developing a healthy menu.

If you’re trying to build a new, more nutritious menu, it is good to start with the basics. Consider what you need to get out of your day, nutrition-wise, by consulting the following chart from the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the MyPlate Kitchen for nutritious and easy recipes and ideas.

This data represents an average family of four. Look here for more information on different dietary needs.

A 2019 study entitled “Yes We Can: Eating on a Healthy Budget" averaged prices of foods together when bought in bulk in order to fulfill the USDA recommendations for healthy eating. This study determined that when items were bought in bulk, the average cost of food per day for a family of four (two parents and two children) was $31 per day, varying from $19 to $39 per day. The average price for individuals who shopped at discount and general supermarkets and purchased items in bulk was between $24 and $25 per day.

It is important to remember that this study was not successful in meeting the daily nutrition requirements presented by the USDA, but instead by focusing on the weekly requirements. The study recommends a mix of proteins and whole-grain products in order to achieve a more affordable menu. The answer is not to substitute a lower fat product for a higher fat, less expensive product, but to shift between food groups, “for example, beans instead of higher-fat proteins, or oatmeal and corn products (such as tortillas) instead of whole-wheat breads."

By following the USDA two-week menu or selecting recipes from the MyPlate kitchen (you can change the filter settings to low-cost options), you can try to create a healthy — yet affordable — menu for yourself.

Additionally, access to low-cost bulk items is important for maintaining an affordable, healthy diet. A lot of community centers and libraries offer nutritionist services to help point community members in the right direction when it comes to making healthy food choices. They can help you develop a menu that works on a budget while still meeting weekly nutritional requirements.

The fact of the matter is that many people can’t afford to make healthy choices when it comes to their food. If you’re wondering “why can’t they?”, consider that the living wage in the United States is $16.54 an hour (working full time), and that there are currently 100 million people living below that line. Some people simply can’t afford to eat healthy, locking them into an unhealthy lifestyle that puts them at a higher risk for diseases. Thankfully there are resources to help make healthy eating decisions on a budget.

Speaking Plainly

  • Tips to keep healthy eating affordable: meal plan in advance, buy in bulk, and make healthy substitutions (click here for suggestions)

  • There are lots of great, free resources that can provide more educational material on how to plan a healthy and nutritious menu

  • USDA 2 Week Menu (Family of 4)

  • MyPlate offers recipes and guideline for healthy eating

  • Consider shifting between food groups in order to achieve a balanced diet, don’t sacrifice lower fat options for cheaper higher fat options

  • Tips for eating healthy on a budget

  • Study with tips to building an affordable, nutritious menu