Nutrition-wise blog

A healthy diet is a smart investment

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. October 10, 2012

Eating healthy is expensive. I've heard it. You've heard it — maybe you even agree.

Junk food is cheap. How can you argue against the dollar menu?

I would suggest, however, that the discussion needs to be about more than cost. It must also take into account health and wellness. My position on this is supported by a recent study in the journal "Intelligence."

This particular study looked at the type of meals young children received (slow food versus fast food) and whether there was an association with cognitive ability and cognitive growth. Overall, slow food was associated with better cognitive ability and cognitive growth in childhood.

These findings build on previous research showing that diets rich in antioxidant (lots of fruits and vegetables) are good food for the brain.

Of course, many other factors play into a child's cognitive abilities, including socioeconomic status. Providing proper nutrition is not without challenges, as we know. Food security, lack of neighborhood markets and an over-abundance of junk food in poorer neighborhoods are all very real problems.

Of course, the appeal of fast food isn't just that it's cheap. It's a mainstay for many people because it's easy and, yes, fast.

I can't change the world or the fact that people's lives are so busy that they need meals that require no preparation. But even if you need food that's quick, you can make healthier choices without breaking the bank. Consider these ideas:

  • Skip the fries and choose or bring seasonal or canned fruit.
  • Pair frozen pizza with steamed veggies, salad or fruit.
  • Buy fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables depending on what fits your budget and lifestyle.

The government estimates that getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables can cost as little as $2 a day. That seems like a pretty good investment to me.

Here's to your health,

Katherine

Oct. 10, 2012