Monday, May 24, 2010

How about radicchio-stuffed pizza rolls? Would that help?

Like many of you, I'm completely fascinated by our society's ongoing confusion over just what we should eat, despite a million years of evolution driven largely by our need to do just that. That's why I always click on news articles with headlines like Pricey Grocery Stores Attract Skinniest Shoppers. That particular piece on, detailing a study in Seattle that found that only 4 percent of Whole Foods shoppers are obese versus 40 percent for lower-cost Albertson's, includes the following explanation for the discrepancy:

[It's] likely because people willing to pay $6 for a pound of radicchio are more able to afford healthy diets than people stocking up on $1.88 packs of pizza rolls to feed their kids.
Bullshit. BullSHIT. BULLSHIT. Just in case we're not clear, I'm calling bullshit on this one, and let me tell you why: It's not radicchio that makes people skinny, it's lack of pizza rolls, and not buying pizza rolls costs no money at all. It's not the $6 that keeps a person out of the obese column, it's that they know better than to spend it on pizza rolls. I've been to Whole Foods and seen a cornucopia of cheese puffs, sugary sodas and bacon-wrapped filets on display. And Albertson's has piles of fresh spinach and reasonably-priced radicchio for sale.

Every grocery store in America, or the world for that matter, offers much healthier and cheaper options than pizza rolls. I'm tired of being told that poor people in this country have higher rates of obesity and its associated diseases because they can't afford or don't have access to good, healthy food. Has anyone priced rice and beans lately? They're about as cheap as it gets. In fact, the cheapest foods are probably the healthiest: rice, beans, flour- heck, most vegetables are pretty damn cheap.

And all of it can be prepared with little effort or expertise. All you need is the smarts to avoid the pizza rolls. It's not income that is the key to eating healthy, it's awareness. I'm poor, but I know what to eat (or rather what not to eat) and it's a simple matter of following through when I'm at the store. Black beans good, pizza rolls bad. It's that easy.

Besides, if poor=fat, how do you explain all the skinny people in third-world countries?


Jacob said...

Education does have a bit to do with this. People in lower income brackets are less likely to know stuff we consider to be common knowledge when it comes to eating and parenting skills, not because they're stupid, but because they move in surprisingly different circles than the middle class.

However, in the US, studies have shown that people who can't always afford to put food on the table tend to be fatter. Part of this is because they revert to calorie-dense foods when they can eat. Also, not eating on a regular basis leads the body to store more of the calories it does get as fat. Also, because of the way farm subsidies work, a lot of really high-fat, high calorie food is ridiculously cheap compared to healthier options.

The third world countries you refer to don't have the infrastructure and safety nets we do. Not only are they likely to be poorer than our poorest people, they are also likely walking miles each day carrying heavy loads or water or other necessities that our poor have piped into their house or can access by bus or a neighbors car.

Courtney said...

Yep. It's not about how much money you have, it's about how you spend what you've got. Jacob's right -- it's education that's the key. There's a reason Mississippi isn't just the least educated state; it's also the poorest and the fattest. They're all intertwined.

Allie said...

I've been so happy to see farm markets accepting food stamps lately. I think the farm market is a great meeting of inexpensive food and education. I really hate when the media makes those catch phrase assumptions. Compare the price of a bag of potatoes and a bag of potato chips! And I love that you called out the fact that just because it's sold in a "health food store" doesn't mean it's health food. Evaporated cane juice is still sugar.

The Modern Gal said...

It drives me crazy when articles, stories, research, whatever will always assume A causes B without thinking perhaps B causes A. Outside the box, people.

Anonymous said...

I like chicken, I like liver, Meow-Mix Meow-Mix, please deliver!!


Julie said...

In addition to the education aspect, I also think it's a time/money issue. If you have money, you can buy healthy, prepared foods. They exist (especially at Whole Foods) but they are not cheap. On the other hand, if you are poor, you pick the pizza rolls because they are cheap. Many people don't have time to do all the prep work that cuts down on the cost of healthy options.

Noelle said...

Maybe we should just make the assumption that poor people can't afford to buy Michael Pollan books.

Chris said...

Preach it, Mickey.

Whole grain bread spread over with some peanut butter ... also pretty cheap. But I'll venture to say it's not a particularly popular snack/meal option among the obese.

While we're debunking this study, I think obesity studies would be far more productive by doing their research at fast food restaurants, instead of grocery stores.

Wombat Central said...

Mmm. Rice and beans! Can't beat the price or taste. Sadly, a lot of kids grow up eating processed crap and don't know any different as adults.