Those living on a tight budget may find it difficult to make healthy choices when it comes time to buy groceries. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be more expensive out of season. Good quality protein such as chicken breasts may cost too much to be included in the weekly budget. And once these important food groups are consistently left out of daily meals, simple carbohydrates and foods high in refined sugar often take their place.
A Canadian research team has studied the link between poverty, diet and health. According to the researchers, it’s not young children who are suffering the most when money is tight, but adults and teens. About 12.6 million American households do not have enough income to buy healthy foods. A total of 4.6 million go without food altogether on any given day.
Researchers studied the eating habits of 35,000 people between the ages of one and 70. Those living in what the researchers termed “food-insecure homes” were deficient in a number of critical nutrients. Children between the ages of one and three were found to have less fruit and vegetables in their diet. Teens appeared to be particularly vulnerable to poor nutrient intake and were low in vitamin A, protein, and magnesium.
Adults living on a tight budget tended to eat less protein, fat, fiber, and vitamin and mineral-rich foods — particularly those over the age of 50. Most resorted to replacing a balanced diet with carbohydrates.
Poor nutrition results in a direct increase in chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, the researchers
said. A number of less serious conditions can also result — like chronic colds, flu, skin problems, weight gain, and mood swings.
The researchers concluded that a solution needs to be found for those dealing with the difficulty of buying healthy foods with little resources.
Here are some suggestions for maintaining a balanced diet while on a budget:
Buy produce at farmer’s markets if you can. Fruits and vegetables can be as much as 50% cheaper than at grocery stores.
Buy fresh fish and meats from your local butcher. Watch for specials throughout the week.
Buy beans, lentils, and whole grains from a bulk food store. Substantial savings can be had when foregoing big
If you have the time, make your own bread, muffins, etc., from scratch. It will cost less and you will have a larger volume of food to spread out over the whole week.