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Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet?

Drewnowski, Adam PhD; Eichelsdoerfer, Petra ND, MS, RPh

doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e3181c29f79
Issues for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines
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Many nutritional professionals believe that all Americans, regardless of income, have access to a nutritious diet of whole grains, lean meats, and fresh vegetables and fruits. In reality, food prices pose a significant barrier for many consumers who are trying to balance good nutrition with affordability. The Thrifty Food Plan, commonly cited as a model of a healthy, low-cost diet, achieves cost goals by relaxing some nutrition constraints and by disregarding the usual eating habits of the American population. Diet optimization techniques, when sensitive to cost and social norms, can help identify affordable, good-tasting, nutrient-rich foods that are part of the mainstream American diet.

Should food costs be considered in the dietary guidelines?

Adam Drewnowski, PhD, is director of the Nutritional Sciences Program, the Center for Public Health Nutrition, and the University of Washington Center for Obesity Research. He is a professor of epidemiology and medicine and a joint member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Petra Eichelsdoerfer, ND, MS, RPh, is a postdoctoral research fellow funded through the National Centers for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. A naturopathic physician, certified nutritionist, and pharmacist, she is affiliated with the Bastyr University Research Institute. Her research interests include public health, obesity, and the gut microbiota.

Adam Drewnowski, PhD, was supported by the US Department of Agriculture grant CSREES 2004-35215-14441 on "Poverty and Obesity: The Role of Energy Density and Cost of Diets" and by The Nutrient Rich Food Coalition. Petra Eichelsdoerfer, ND, MS, RPh, was supported by National Centers for Complementary and Alternative Medicine grant 2 T32AT000815.

Corresponding author: Adam Drewnowski, PhD, University of Washington, 305 Raitt Hall, Box 353410, Seattle, WA 98195 (adamdrew@u.washington.edu).

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.