Fat, Cheap, and Out of Control

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You can never be too rich or too thin. In fact, if you’re not rich, you may not be able to afford to be thin.

According to the CDC, poor diet and lack of physical activity are closing in on chocolate chip cookies will have the same calorie content as a much larger serving of strawberries, and the cookies will leave you wanting more. gallbladder disease, via and Medicaid programs.”

“I would love to see more subsidies for fruits and vegetables, making fruits and vegetables more readily available, particularly amongst poor people,” says Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa., in an interview with WebMD. “The produce that’s available in poor communities is shocking — non-existent, or really bad. A lot of poor kids never taste fresh vegetables. A kid in our graduate program went and worked in a poor community in Philadelphia; the children in that community had never even seen a banana.”

Rolls, who also presented data at the Harvard School of Public Health symposium, studies how the size of food portions and the content of dishes can contribute to weight gain. She advocates small dietary changes that can be made by people on limited budgets and can help to modestly decrease the energy density of inexpensive common dishes such as macaroni and cheese.

“I’m not thinking dramatic: I’m thinking building toward goals with smaller changes. Take out some fat, and add in some water-rich vegetables, such as celery and onion, and try to do it in a way that isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg but is going to have some significant impact,” Rolls tells WebMD.

Castellanos tells WebMD that federal agricultural subsidies “have not kept up with the nutritional problems of modern-day America. I think when we started school lunch programs, commodities and a lot of these price supports, we were worried about people getting enough calories. I think we haven’t kept up with the science and the current health problems of Americans and made adjustments.”

Ultimately, both food producers and their customers need to play a role in changing attitudes about food choices, says Rolls.

“In the end, the problem is that the food industry is giving people what they want. They’re very good at figuring out what we want and providing it, and trying to provide it cheaply, because they know that brings people in. So we really have to work on consumers, too. Consumers have to demand better food. If they demanded smaller portions, they would get them. So I think what we need to demand is more choices of portions, and not jacking up the price so much.”