Most Americans are aware that fruits and vegetables are more healthy and nutritious than junk food.  But, who believes they are actually cheaper? 

Some Americans might think: “I know junk food is not cheaper in the long run because I will likely have more health issues if I continue to eat junk food.” That is certainly true. 

“But, now we know that junk food is not cheaper in the short run either,” said Dr. Pam Duitsman, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Research by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and others have shown that whole foods such as grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy foods are actually less expensive than food products that are often high in fat, salt and sugar, according to Duitsman.

“When researchers substituted salty and sweet foods, baked foods and frozen treats with fruit and vegetable options, they found that equivalent portions of whole foods where cheaper,” Duitsman said. “They also found that if these substitutions were made daily for one month, they amounted to 3,780 less calories consumed.”

An added benefit to eating whole foods is that they tend to satisfy the appetite much better than junk foods.  For example, eating a candy bar with 290 calories might not make a person feel full but a banana with 105 calories might.

“Whole foods are not only lower in calories, but they contain many health-promoting and disease fighting compounds to keep us healthy,” Duitsman said. “There is an endless variety of fruits and vegetables that can also be quite convenient if we plan ahead.”

Analysis of this research shows that Americans following the USDA Dietary Guidelines, based on 2,000 calories per day, can purchase the amount of fruits and vegetables recommended by USDA for only $2 to $2.50 per day.

“Basically, smart shoppers can make their food budget go even further by buying whole foods in-season,” Duitsman said.

University of Missouri Extension has developed the “Seasonal and Simple” smart phone application, which is now available in both iOS and Android versions. Seasonal and Simple has a chart showing when each item is in season locally. It also provides recipes and nutritional information and explains how to select and prepare the fruit or vegetable, including what part(s) are edible and how to store each part.

“Whole foods are available fresh, frozen, canned and dried,” Duitsman said. “If packaged, always read labels to ensure you are getting only the whole food, and not unhealthy additives. Whether you’re looking for ways to protect your wallet or your waistline, whole foods may be the way to go.”

For more information on nutrition contact Cammie Younger at the Texas County Extension Center at 417-967-4545. Information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.

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