I have always wondered why if I go to Taco Bell and want to order a Fresca chicken burrito from the drive through diet menu, it costs over $3. But somehow I can get a variety of other fat filled burritos and tacos for under a dollar? It just does not make sense.
The sad truth is, it costs more to eat healthy. I recently read an article in the New York Times discussing this matter. The article explained a study the University of Washington conducted, in which they compared 370 different foods sold at supermarkets in Seattle.
Essentially, the researchers compared the cost per calorie in a health food to that of a junk food item. Since fruits and veggies have fewer calories, it takes more to meet your daily calorie needs.
Because of this issue, many people go for the cheaper, less healthy option. As much as the drive through diet might be better for me and might even taste better too, it is just more economical for me to by the 89 cent burrito. After all, I am a college kid.
The numbers are even more shocking. The University of Washington study revealed that snacks dense with energy (calories) cost about $1.76 per 1000 calories. Think about it. For under $2 a day, the average person can meet half of his or her energy requirement
Here is the catch: Those calories are junk. They lack the nutrients necessary for a healthy diet. But for healthy foods full of nutrients but less dense in calories, the university found that the cost per 1000 calories was $18.16. That is about nine times the cost of the junk food. The article discussed how obesity is often a problem in low-income groups. It is simply cheaper to buy the junk and easier to feel full. In addition, the article mentioned how junk food is less likely to be affected by inflation as well.
At least as college kids we apparently have the money to afford a higher education somehow, even if it means loans. Those of us with meal plans have the option to go to the salad bar, or make other smart and healthy choices. The article said that the average American eats $7 of food per day. Imagine having only a dollar to spend. For some, that is reality, and good nutrition easily becomes a luxury.
I am not sure what the solution to this problem is. I am by no means a millionaire, but many of us are really quite wealthy compared to the rest of the world, and even much of our own country. Do your best to promote your own health, even if it means balancing high energy and low energy foods to meet calorie and nutritional needs.
Try to help others who do not have the options many of us do. Donate food to missions and shelters, or use your degree to start working toward a solution. As a healthcare student, educate future clients on the importance of nutrition. Finance majors, identify the factors behind various economic issues such as this one.
Problem solving and new ideas is what college is all about. With obesity rates and chronic health issues skyrocketing, do what you can to make a difference, even if it means starting with your own health.