Healthy Apple or DonutsIt has been very fashionable to talk about “food desert” and other imagined afflictions that provide convenient excuses for not eating well. The whole idea that people in poorer neighborhoods don’t have access to fresh foods also plays nicely into certain themes starring the oppressed poor. This has always been a transparent ploy, as poor neighborhoods that are filled with recently arrived immigrants from truly poor countries are usually filled with shops that have very nice fresh selections. The problem, it seems, is confined only to those poor neighborhoods of born Americans who have grown up on junk food. Even there, the fresh foods are available. The problem is juts that donuts are more appealing than apples to many people. Hence, we have the incongruous problem of obesity among the poor in America. The food is there, but people’s tastebuds have been conditioned for crap.

Of course, this was just my opinion. Until now…

The Wall Street Journal reports on a new USDA report:

Healthy food isn’t necessarily more expensive than junk food, according to a new government report.

The finding contradicts long-held conventional wisdom that it’s cheaper to snack on potato chips than carrots, and bolsters the Obama administration’s fight against rising obesity levels Broccoli, Strawberries, grain and junk foodsin the U.S.

“The United States is facing an obesity epidemic and the crisis of poor diets threatens the future of our children — and our nation,” says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Food economists traditionally measure the amount of calories you get for your money. By that measure, you still get more when you buy pizza, French fries or other foods high in sodium, salt and saturated fat.

But the USDA study looked at a food’s worth from new perspective and concluded there’s better value in fruits, vegetables, lean meat and low-fat milk. You may get fewer calories per dollar, researchers say, but you get more food when you’re measuring based on price per weight, or price per portion.

And often less-healthy food options are made up of empty calories, prompting people to eat even more, notes Andrea Carlson, lead researcher of the report.

“Take a chocolate glazed doughnut, which is 240 calories,” she says. “You can easily eat one, if not two or three without any trouble at all. However, a banana, which has a lot of nutrients in it and will make you feel quite full, has only 105 calories. You will fill fuller if you eat the banana versus the doughnut.”

Of course, value is in the eye of the beholder. There is a slightly addictive quality to many junk foods, especially those filled with sugar, salt and fats. When people make a daily habit of eating these items, they want more. It doesn’t take long to completely break this addiction, but in most cases, no effort is being made to do so. That’s where the education part comes in. Somebody needs to teach entire families about the basics of nutrition again. It was once taught in school, and it was taught my parents before that. Hopefully, we can find a way back there.

A chart from the USDA study itself is below.

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