American College of Lifestyle Medicine Offers Free Resources to Help People Eat Healthy and Affordable Meals During High Inflation

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What people eat or don’t eat is the biggest risk factor for morbidity and mortality. But rising prices are straining household finances and increasing the threat of food insecurity. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is offering free resources to help individuals and families on a limited budget identify affordable and nutritious foods and prepare them as healthy meals.

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"A common misconception is that healthy foods are more expensive than less healthy processed food."

With food prices soaring and more people facing the threat of food and nutrition insecurity, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is offering free resources to help individuals and families on a limited budget identify affordable and nutritious foods and prepare them as healthy meals.

Food prices in May 2022 were 10 percent higher than May 2021, the first double-digit increase over a one-year period since 1981. Rising prices for gasoline, housing and other goods combined to further strain household finances for the foreseeable future. Increased demand has been reported at food banks across the nation.

“Food insecurity is a very real and growing threat as inflation rises and more people have to make difficult choices about how to spend their money,” said Michelle Hauser, MD, MS, MPA, FACP, FACLM, DipABLM, Chef and author of ACLM’s free Culinary Medicine Curriculum. “What people eat and do not eat is the single most important risk factor for morbidity and mortality in the U.S, so it is important that health care professionals help patients follow a healthy dietary pattern and not allow poor nutrition to cause more chronic disease and sickness.”

For the treatment, reversal and prevention of lifestyle-related chronic disease, ACLM recommends an eating plan based predominantly on a variety of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. In 2021, ACLM published a white paper series on the scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of plant-based nutrition.

Dr. Hauser, Obesity Medicine Director of the Medical Weight Loss Program at Stanford University, said a common misconception is that healthy foods are more expensive than less healthy processed food. While healthy meals that are pre-prepared sold ready-to-eat are expensive, dried beans and grains are inexpensive and can be turned into healthy and tasty meals if people know how to prepare them. ACLM offers resources with recipes of easy and healthy low-cost meals for every day of the week and includes a shopping list and “staple foods” that can be prepared in advance.

It is important that people facing the threat of food and nutrition insecurity are aware of the resources from other organizations such as Feeding America, where people can search their community to find food banks, some of which offer cooking lessons. Clinicians also can often help guide people toward free nutritional cooking classes in their communities.

“Dried beans or grains are very affordable and are an excellent source of protein,” Dr. Hauser said. “But that doesn’t do people a lot of good if they do not know how to cook them and turn them into a healthy and flavorful meal. In this age of convenience more people don’t have cooking skills, so it is critical we provide the knowledge and support for them to learn how to do it.”

Dr. Hauser regularly screens patients for food insecurity and incorporates cooking classes into her clinical practice to teach patients how to make healthy food that supports short- and long-term health goals. Guidance is tailored to each person’s situation because food deserts and lack of transportation make it more challenging for some to access healthy food.

Examples of tips she offers include:

  •     Learn to cook and do it often. This is the most important thing someone can do. The more you cook, the healthier you eat and the more money you save.
  •     Buy frozen fruit and vegetables instead of canned. Frozen food is generally more economical, if you have freezer space. It tastes better and it less likely to have added sugars, salts and chemicals leached from containers.
  •     Eat less meat. It’s expensive and eating less of it can save money and improve health. Plant-based protein sources, like lentils or beans are cheaper and healthier.
  •     Buy in season. Produce is usually more affordable when in season. Become familiar with food seasons and look for deep discounts as produce nears the end of its store shelf life.
  •     Check the farmer’s markets. Many allow you to double your SNAP (food stamp) dollars on produce. You can also find great discounts at closing time.

Dr. Hauser is available for media interviews about food insecurity and eating healthy on a limited budget. To request an interview, contact Alex Branch, ACLM Director of Communications, at abranch@lifestylemedicine.org.

ABOUT ACLM--The American College of Lifestyle Medicine is the nation’s medical professional society advancing lifestyle medicine as the foundation for a redesigned, value-based and equitable healthcare delivery system, leading to whole person health. ACLM educates, equips, empowers and supports its members through quality, evidence-based education, certification and research to identify and eradicate the root cause of chronic disease, with a clinical outcome goal of health restoration as opposed to disease management.

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Alex Branch
American College of Lifestyle Medicine
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