Obesity in Transylvania County:
The statistics on obesity, especially in children, for Transylvania County that Stephanie Ramsey from the Transylvania County Department of Health gave us in the January 27th issue of the Transylvania Times were quite startling. She said that 39 percent of all elementary school children in TransylvaniaCounty are considered obese. This is a very scary statistic as this will become type 2 diabetes and heart disease as these kids grow older.
Obesity in Rural Areas:
Ramsey also said that those in rural areas and in poverty had the highest rates of obesity. The reasons stated are lack of exercise because kids are riding in cars too much and the need to choose “nutritionally poorer foods since canned and processed foods are cheaper than fresh foods.” This is an issue that needs to be addressed. I hear similar complaints from my patients when I give them dietary advice.
Healthy food does not have to be more expensive. In my own food shopping experience, it takes three basic things to eat healthily without breaking the bank: time spent in the kitchen, time spent finding food sources, and reduction of expensive non-nutritious foods.
Buy Local Food:
The number one recommendation I give people in regard to eating healthily is “eat as your ancestors ate.” I am going to add to that and say “shop as your ancestors shopped.” An apple shipped from Washington State, passed from the farmer to several middle men, and finally stocked at the grocery store places a burden on our economy. Buy an apple grown in Western North Carolina and sold by the farmer directly to you or the grocery store and keep our money in Western North Carolina. There are many small farmers in this part of the state who grow wonderful food. Your ancestors ate food that grew around them; we can do the same. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project puts out a local food guide for free, which is also available online atwww.buyappalachian.org. Have fun calling and visiting the farms in the area. When the tailgate market starts again in the spring, you can do your weekly shopping for fresh food there. You can get food from local sources at much cheaper prices if you are willing to put in the time.
Gardening is Ideal:
Grow your own food. Especially if you live in a rural area, plant a garden and keep some chickens. The garden does not have to be large or impressive. Start with a small plot and increase it if you do well with the small garden. There are many free resources for instruction on gardening. Seeds are a tiny fraction of the cost of the food. A garden does not have to take that much time. Marty and I kept a garden that provided 80% of our vegetables in the summer while we were both working and going to medical school.
Compare prices at different stores. I tell my patients to eat organic food whenever possible. Stores that specialize in local and organic food, such as Poppies Market, will often be cheaper than the larger grocery stores for the same item. A few weeks ago, my wife and fellow naturopathic doctor, Marty, found organic butternut squash at Poppies Market cheaper than the conventionally-grown butternut squash at one of the larger stores.
Buy in Bulk:
Buy staple foods in bulk. You can get dried beans for a fraction of the cost of canned ones (see price comparisons chart); it just takes more effort to cook them. Buy whole grains—as in a bag of oats or rice. These can be stored in a cool, dry place for a long time. Buy meat in bulk to be stored in the freezer. There are local ranchers who sell meat by the quarter, half, or whole cow. I have not had the chance to investigate other types of meat yet. The meat is much cheaper as a whole and certainly healthier than factory-farmed meat shipped in from somewhere else.
Avoid Empty Calories:
The most helpful thing you could do is look at your grocery lists and eating habits to identify the foods that provide few nutrients and cost a lot of money. This is money directly wasted. The most glaring and problematic “food” is soda. It provides lots of calories and no nutrients. Diet soda has the same problems plus the addition of neurotoxic aspartame. Another problematic food is white bread. Although white bread is cheap, most of the nutrients have been removed in the processing. A recent report from researchers at Tufts University reported that Americans are now getting more of their calories (14%) from soda than any other source with white bread at a close second.
Cook from Scratch:
To eat healthily and cheaply, you must make meals from scratch. Often, when I tell people that, they get a somewhat horrified look on their faces. Making things from scratch does not mean you must eat tasteless meals nor does it mean you have to be a gourmet cook. Keep meals simple. My favorite cheap yet delicious meal is stew. It takes some time in the kitchen and some planning, but it does not require much cooking skill and is packed full of nutrients. You can put just about any whole food into a stew and it will come out great. Just don’t overcook the vegetables! Have fun in the kitchen and get the whole family involved. Start getting kids working in the kitchen at a young age. Get together with other people who are interested in making real food and have potlucks; it is a great way to have fun and get new ideas.
|Processed Food||Whole Food (or less processed)|
|Chunky canned soup $1.18/cup||Home-made stew (similar ingredients) – $.46/cup|
|Canned beans – $.56/cup (cooked)||Dried beans – $.14/cup (cooked)|
|Sandwich meat: chicken – $4.48/pound||Whole chicken – $.98/pound|
|Soda (Coke) – $.71/quart||½ Apple juice, ½ carbonated water – $.86/quart|
|Multigrain, nut, fruit cereal without milk–$.67 for 370 calories (1 ¼ cups)||1 cup cooked oatmeal with raisins & almonds (370 cal) – $.55|
|Salad dressing –
$.16 for 70 calories (2 tablespoons)
|Olive oil (66%) and vinegar (33%) –
$.11 for 70 calories (.81 tablespoon)
|Flavored yogurt – .64/cup||Plain, whole-milk yogurt – .72/cup|
|Canned string beans – $.57/cup||Fresh string beans – $.67/cup cooked|
|Hamburger Helper spaghetti –
$2.18/box (650 calories)
|Dried pasta, tomato sauce –
$1.20 for 650 calories