Monday kickoff: maybe a healthy diet isn't so expensive

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It's been a good couple of weeks for the Mediterranean diet. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed what seems like a no-brainer at this point: a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil is really good for you. Eating that way can reduce your risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases by 30%.

Another study released last week brought even more interesting news. That diet doesn't have to break the bank. Dr. Mary Flynn designed a six-week cooking class using the more humble ingredients in the Mediterranean diet. She skipped the fish and wine and instead focused on fruits and vegetables available at a local food bank. According to a summary in The Atlantic:

Once the classes ended, the participants were followed for an additional six months, during which they reported consuming more meals based on Flynn's diet — three or more per week — and a greater amount and variety of fruits and vegetables. Their grocery lists, which the researchers collected and analyzed, show that they started stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables and, as a seemingly natural consequence, purchasing significantly less meat, soda, dessert and snack foods.

The big knock on the whole and local foods movement has been price. It's hard for a few carrots and celery to compete with a box of macaroni & cheese in terms of sheer caloric intake and primal taste satisfaction (see our write-up of Salt Sugar Fat). And many whole foods stores  and coops are pricy (I know people in Burlington who have taken to calling the city's coop-y market – City Market –  "Shi**y Mark-up".

But as interest in healthy eating grows, as an answer to the obesity epidemic, as children are exposed to healthier foods in the school  cafeteria, smart people will come up with ways to be healthy and thrifty at the same time. This is just one study, but it provides hope that the keys to good eating are not just available to the wealthy.

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  1. Thanks for busting that myth Dave.

  2. Whole, non processed and unpackaged foods are your best bet no matter the goal.
    Trying to replace a packaged food diet with an "organic" packaged food diet is where the "myth" originates. In this case it is not a myth it's a reality.
    Your Community, health and pocket book improve with a seasonal whole foods diet, especially if you source from as close to home as possible.
    It's win win win if you will.
    Shopping with one simple question in mind is all it takes.
    Was it produced by nature or by man?
    Beyond that, learn to process your own food at home.
    Start with bread and yogurt and go from there….

  3. Any likelihood the massive advertisement for the massively subsidized processed foods and fast food establishments has any impact upon why fresh vegetables and fruits are more expensive (per calorie) than processed foods?

  4. It is easy to make a diet high in fresh vegetables match fast food in price per calorie. Wash and slice some vegetables into bite sized pieces and then dip them into a container of whipped lard.

  5. Right on Mike. I bought 3 each Granny Smith apples the other day for a more than reasonable price of $3 or $1 each; who can complain about such a deal?

  6. Been seeing this story all over the place in the health and nutrition blogosphere. So good to finally see one of the enduring myths of eating healthy getting chipped away at. There is no reason why a budget conscious family can't be a healthy family. One of the best marketing scams in history.