Convenience, Not Cost, Causes Weight Gain

The results of a new study reveal that it's convenience food that's making Americans gain weigh, and not the cost of healthy food, as many people assume.
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Photo by: Lana Langlois

Lana Langlois

When I heard the results of this recent study, I wasn’t too surprised. For years, I’ve been privately counseling folks who fall both above and below the poverty line. I’ve seen the patterns and am glad there is now statistical data to prove it. Cost has always been blamed for poor eating habits, but it’s the middle class folks who are most obese. They’re spending their hard earned money on fast food and other convenience cuisine.

The Stats
  • Thirty million (or 41%) of obese adults have an income at or above 250% of the poverty level and over 28 million (39%) of obese adults have incomes between 130%-350% of the poverty level while fifteen million adults (20%) of obese adults have an income below 130% of the poverty level.
  • For men, there was no significant difference between education level and the prevalence of obesity. For women, however, the prevalence of obesity increased as education level decreased.
  • Middle income folks eat at fast food joints most often while 80% of those with a low income cook at home at least 5 times a week.
What Does This Mean?

What these statistics could be telling us is kind of scary. Many middle-income families survive by having both parents work. This makes it tougher (but not impossible) for mom or dad to cook dinner. Instead, they opt for the convenience of fast food joints to make it quick and easy to feed their family. Even more interesting is that these folks know very well that they aren’t making the healthiest food decisions.

What’s To Be Done?
There are many steps that can be taken on various levels:
  • Families: Mom and dad probably understand the consequences of their actions. What they probably don’t know is that you CAN cook super quick and healthy meals at home (even if you’re exhausted from work).  Careful planning is also imperative—such as cooking double batches so you can freeze half for later.
  • Restaurants: Although we have seen some action taken, more establishments need to offer healthy AND delicious options. This also goes for mom-and-pop joints. In addition, having the nutrition information available at these smaller locations (not just chain restaurants) can help folks make healthier choices.
  • Convenience foods: Markets that sell convenience foods (like tuna salad or ready to cook marinated chicken) should offer options that go along with the MyPlate guidelines. Having the nutrition information available for these options could also help families make healthier choices.
TELL US: In light of this information, how do you think obese folks families can become healthier?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian , consultant and owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition, Inc., who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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