Dollar Density -- How Much Nutrition Are You Getting Per Dollar Spent?

After reading this morning's Wall Street Journal, I came up with the concept of dollar density. We talk about calorie density --- that is how much nutrients are we getting per calorie in our food. Well, what about dollar density? How much nutrition are we getting per dollar spent?

My inspiration for this was an article by Brett Arends titled Eating Well on $4.30 a Day. The reason for picking $4.30 a day was because that's what the average food stamp recipient receives to eat on. Brett set out to see if he could eat successfully on that amount of money.

It turned out that he could eat a more healthy diet than the average person. And except for the eggs, his diet fell into the realm of being a whole food, plant-based diet. Probably the most difficult part was buying fresh fruits and vegetables. That was very difficult to do on that amount of money. But what he did buy were things like peanuts, peanut butter, eggs, legumes, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and both baked and sweet potatoes. And he was able to include bananas and frozen vegetables in his diet. He did this for six weeks.

Then he presented the diet to his doctor who said the diet was both healthy and better than how most people eat. This was also confirmed by Donald Hensrud, M.D., who is chair of preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic and editor-in-chief of The Mayo Clinic Diet.

The point of this is not to say that food stamps are sufficient for poor people. There are many other factors that need to be looked at when considering poverty. Education may be chief among them. If the poor don't know how to eat nutritious, or even what is nutritious, then they're not going to do it on $4.30 a day. The food industry has too many ways of convincing consumers that products are healthy when in fact they may not be. Labeling like "All Natural" or "Wheat Bread" can draw those in who don't know better. Also, transportation can be an issue. That is, the poor don't always have access to places that sell those kind of products. The term food desert has come to signify that kind of situation. And probably worst of all are the higher prices that are charged in poorer areas.

So, the point is not to comment on the food stamp program or the state of poverty in the United States. The point is that healthy whole foods, plant-based dieting is something that really isn't all that expensive. It's a life style that any former carnivore should be able to enjoy. We talk about calorie density, but maybe we should also talk about dollar density of our foods. How much nutrition are we getting per dollar spent?

It's worth thinking about as we shop for groceries each week.