Can You Afford to Eat Cheap Fast Food?

While teaching the college nutrition class for several years now some students have said that they cannot afford to eat healthy food including more vegetables and fruit in their diets. I have wondered if that premise was actually true.

Then in the documentary Food, Inc. a poor working class family also said that they could not afford healthy food and so relied on fast food hamburgers and soft drinks for their meals.

On top of the obvious health hazards of lots sugar and unhealthy fat in this diet, they were also eating a lot of genetically modified food. The United States now has a corn based food production system and 88% of corn is genetically modified to resist being killed by the herbicide Roundup.

That means that their food was sprayed with a lot of Roundup when it was growing.

Talk about a triple whammy of trouble.

This genetically modified, soaked in Roundup corn arrives at the food processing plant where it’s transformed into a multitude of various products that end up in some form or other in processed food. You’ve heard of high fructose corn syrup that sweetens everything from cookies to soda to ketchup. But you may not know that a host of other products derived from corn lurk about in processed food.

Then there’s the problem of what happens to the cattle that eat the genetically modified corn causing acidosis and early death unless they get to the slaughter house before the grim reaper visits. No one has any clue about what happens to us humans who eat the corn fed beef and other meat.

So this family eats all this processed fast food without understanding the consequences of so doing.

The father of the family already had diabetes that required two prescription medications costing over $200 per month. So they asked, “What should we do? Spend our money on medication or healthy food? They felt that they could not afford both.

By the way, their nine year old daughter was already prediabetic.

Again, I felt they were not looking at all of their options and were using the cost of healthy food as an excuse to keep eating health-degrading processed and fast food.

So I gave my college students an option. They could continue to write answers to the questions I posed after each class session or they could research the cost of food from a fast food restaurant versus the cost of healthy food.

I am sure most or all of you already eat healthfully. But I bet you’ve heard these same arguments about the cost of healthy food versus processed or fast food. So you most likely will be very interested in what the students discovered on their research projects.

In this issue we will take a look at what the students wrote in answer to this question:

In Food, Inc, the poor working class family said they had to eat cheap fast food and could not afford to buy vegetables. Is their premise correct? Do they have other options?

They all had some very thoughtful and different responses to this question. This article is a longer than most, but you will thoroughly enjoy all of their answers, so keep reading to the end.

Unfortunately the cost of fast food has gone down low enough to make it an appealing option to an ever-increasing amount of Americans. I guess a good question to ask here would be “how much is your health worth to you?” This goes back to the fact that our body is the most valuable earthly possession that we have. I don’t know the situation of the family on the video, but a lot of people will be concerned with lowering the cost of food, while neglecting to cut out other expenses. An example of this would be eating fast food while paying for an expensive cable/satellite TV subscription. Also the family might have been able to avoid the medication cost by eating healthy in the first place. The other alternative to buying expensive organic food would be for the family to start growing their own garden. They could even plant a garden large enough to make some income from it (if they have enough land).

By Ryan Kwiatkowski


I think this premise is incorrect. If this family chose to eat healthy food, they wouldn’t be paying for diabetes medication. Because they are eating the cheap fast-food, they are causing more health problems for themselves, and their children. This family may have to continue the diabetes medication for a little while, but they should begin buying healthy food so that their health will improve, and hopefully they will eventually be able to discontinue their medication, therefore, they will be eating the healthy food and saving money.

By Abigail Brink

I agree that this is a hard situation for this family and I understand how difficult it is for a family of 4+ to make enough money to sustain their diet and still have something left over for prescriptions. But, the premise that their situation cannot be changed is not correct. There are choices to make and ways to go about obtaining what is needed without breaking the bank.

1st: The interview didn’t give any indication of whether the father was able to receive patient assistance for his diabetic prescriptions. As a healthcare professional, I know that there are patient assistant programs through various pharmaceutical corporations. The family should inquire about these programs, because he may qualify for discounts that would contribute to the budget.

2nd: Is there a possibility of changing jobs so they would have a better work schedule and/or better income level? Would they need to move in order to obtain a better job?

3rd: Do they have days off when they can go to a farmers market? This was also not indicated.

4th: They may have to make some sacrifices and add in an exercise regimen. After all, it’s all about the will. If they are determined to save money and save their health, then they will welcome suggestions for changing their lifestyle and eating habits. Also, if they have a connection within their neighborhood or a church, they may be able to gain access to a food bank.

By Jennifer Schipper


When this family explains how they cannot afford to buy healthy food for their children they are giving up on other ways to keep their family healthy. With all the medication for diabetes that her husband is needed is not necessary if they switch their eating habits for the better and then will be able to afford nutritious items at the grocery store. In the long run the wife may lose her husband to diabetes and then will have even more financial struggle as a single parent and also have the risk of either her or her two daughters being diagnosed with diabetes as well. Another thing to consider is if her husband were to die from diabetes and she were to be diagnosed with it because of the contaminated food that the family was eating; then she also runs the risk of dying from diabetes and leaving her two daughters without both parents.

The premise from the family is not correct because they are not looking at all the options and which one would be the best one. They believe they are choosing the easy way and the only way that they can take, but it is actually the toughest way and the most dangerous way to take because it will cause the most destruction to their bodies and emotionally to them as a whole family.

By Stephanie Thornton


Hearing a family excusing away their family’s health was shocking and appalling and I was moved deeply. The fathers face however painfully displayed his deep pain and perhaps conviction in the dangerous decision to forgo the family’s health as a whole to invest instead in the conventional merry-go-round of poor advice and pharmaceutical support.

Now. That being said……I am guilty and am too convicted! What that family has done, and sadly so, I have done guilt-less-ly, foolishly and selfishly if truth-be-known! My “ease” and “cheapness” was simply disguised “laziness” and “stinginess”. To say nothing of my “value-system being profoundly “Bent and Broken”.  I was not outside of myself long enough to look up or check out what might have blessed my family’s and my own well being.  I was proud of my “thrifty-ness”, judgmental of the “foolish Health-freak, tree-hugging” peoples burning their money and resources away to support the diabolical “organic-Big-Brother Conspirator”! I had so much pride and confidence in my understandings and reasoning’s while yet flamboyantly strutting my obvious humility in my genius in a world of “crazy-sheep-that-believe-what-ever-they-are-fed!” In reality I think I really didn’t want to know. That would mean I would need to make some painful choices and changes. Wow – thanks for your honest and spiritual insights.

I don’t believe that the family on the film was thinking that cynically when testifying to their reasoning in making the choice that they made. However, I do believe a lot of us here in America and in the Species of man, tend to be inclined to sometime in their life “just not really want to know“, sometimes.

I’ve had to make the change. There are alternatives, reasonably priced, healthier choices. But it does take study, and searching and working at it.

A brown-rice base for a meal, with a small combination of a veggie or two diced up and seasoned with fresh spices can both be tasty and downright attractive. It can become quite fun to do the detective work, then the art of designing such a meal and oh so fulfilling to display your beautiful creation brought forth with care and consideration to those we love as a token of how much we care.   Could even win us some “points” on “Mothers Day” 🙂

By Teresa Oakley


Wow! Those were some great insights. I am so proud of these students.

Now just wait until you see what the student researchers found out about the cost of fast or convenience food versus healthy food.


Dr. Jo

About Dr. Jo

Dr. JoDr. Jo delights in sharing the message of health. She believes disease is optional if you know how to take care of yourself. And she’s a great coach to help you reverse or prevent disease.

So she writes this blog to keep you up to date with information that may undermine your health if you are not aware of it. She also provides tips on healthy living, how to reverse degenerative diseases, delicious recipes, and ways to enjoyably change your habits to healthy ones.

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