Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Features and More

Want cheap nutritious food? Solution lies in cooking

By Monica Eng

Chicago Tribune

Does a healthy diet cost more than a junk-food diet in America?

That depends on whom you ask, how you measure food and, most important, if you know how to cook.

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new analysis indicating that fruits, vegetables, grains and low-fat milk tend to be less expensive by weight and serving size than fatty, sugary foods and meat, fish and poultry.

The takeaway message, according to its authors: Healthful foods actually cost less than foods we are supposed to restrict.

This ran counter to many studies that have measured the cost of "good" and "bad" foods by calorie and concluded that nutrient-poor foods generally cost less.

But recently another group of researchers, including Adam Drewnowski, director of nutritional sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, decided to look at it from another angle: by the cost of foods that deliver key nutrients, especially those associated with lower risk of chronic disease.

In the study, they found that the foods rich in key nutrients did cost more per calorie than their nutrient-poor counterparts.

"By contrast, nutrients associated with higher disease risk were associated with lower diet costs," wrote Drewnowski and his colleagues in the study. "The cost variable may help somewhat explain why lower-income groups fail to comply with dietary guidelines and have highest rates of diet-related chronic disease."

USDA researcher Andrea Carlson objects to the way Drewnowski's group used calories as a standard of measurement.

And Drewnowski objects to the way the USDA used weight as a measurement when, he notes, some of the fruits and vegetables included are composed of 90 percent water.

But the two can agree on one thing: Those who know how to cook are at a distinct advantage when it comes to nutrition on the cheap.

"Theoretically, yes, you can eat healthfully on a budget," Drewnowski says, but you need to know how to cook whole, unprocessed foods, and that "would require a shift in the way many Americans choose to spend their food dollars."

His diet analyses find that today many low-income food dollars are spent on processed convenience foods, but if they were instead spent on whole foods, they could go much further.

For this to work, people would need "nutrition education, cooking skills, access to healthy foods, some money and time," Drewnowski stresses. "People fall into the pattern of buying processed and less healthy foods."

Noting that more Americans are reliant today on food stamps than ever, the consumer advocates at the Environmental Working Group have teamed up with anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength to produce "Good Food on a Tight Budget," an online guide to buying and cooking cheap nutritious food, released in late August.

Drewnowski has also been working on something he calls the Nutrient Rich Food index, which judges food based on nutrients and cost to help people get the most nutrients on their plate for their money.

Other answers may lie in data he is analyzing about people who are able to eat nutritious diets on unusually small budgets.

"This is a study in progress," Drewnowski said.

Comments
Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

TAMPA — The virtues of Dancing at Lughnasa, with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, are many. This drama by the celebrated Brian Friel opened in 1990 to much acclaim. It captures a family’s joys and sadnesses, and the quickness with which one s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A perfect pick for dessert

A perfect pick for dessert

America’s Test KitchenIt might seem impossible to improve on a perfect peach, but we decided to try. We wanted a simple, warm dessert that amplified the peaches’ flavor. To achieve tender, flavorful peaches with a lightly sweet glaze, we began by tos...
Published: 06/19/18
Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

ST. PETERSBURGThere are a lot of decommissioned gas stations across the country. Some have been reinvented, cleverly made over as upscale restaurants. There’s Big Star in Chicago, Elaia & Olio in St. Louis, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va., even Bi...
Published: 06/18/18
Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

When we started seeing ads for Nestle Toll House cookies already baked and prepackaged, I knew it was time for our tasters to get involved. They are cookie lovers, and one even has his own cookiemaking business. We found the Nestle brand and had hope...
Published: 06/18/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

Still shaken by Bobby Kennedy’s assassination six days earlier, I sat in the hospital waiting room mindlessly thumbing through a May 1968 Rolling Stone while my wife, Fran, gave birth to our daughter Elle. As was customary, when everyone had been fre...
Published: 06/15/18
Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

LOREN ELLIOTT • Times CorrespondentPUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICOThe third-floor balcony attached to our rented apartment served as a peaceful refuge above Puerto Vallarta’s bustling central district streets. Below us, taxis honked, people crowded bus ...
Published: 06/15/18
How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

Here's how to make your cat famous on the internet, according to the owners of some famous felines.
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

A gliding, wraith-like figure of a Dementor from the Harry Potter films enters Central Park, and the exteriors of the surrounding buildings immediately are covered in a layer of ice, a sign of their power to drain happiness out of the air around them...
Published: 06/14/18