Nov 24, 2022 at 9:37 PM
Healthy food is important, but not accessible to everyone, says the Network Against Poverty on Twitter. Affordable and healthy shopping takes planning, time and mental space. Vulnerable people would miss it. Is this indeed the case and how come?
If you have to live with little money, you have to make choices again and again. Food is just one of the components, just like clothing or the energy bill. Constantly having to weigh things up causes cognitive load, says Emely de Vet, professor of consumption and healthy lifestyle at Wageningen University & Research.
“Because of this cognitive load, people are less able to think for the long term and their organizational capacity decreases. Major issues, such as whether the rent can be paid this month, take precedence over health. the tax more sensitive to rewards, for example in the form of unhealthy food.”
Due to the fats, sugars and salt present, unhealthy food has a higher rewarding value than healthy food, says De Vet. “These nutrients give our brain a nice feeling. You are also more likely to look for them due to certain circumstances.”
In places where people with more and less money live together, you often see that people with less money experience greater dissatisfaction.
Emely de Vet, professor of consumption and healthy lifestyle
Budget coach Mat Heugen, who has been guiding people with little money for more than six years, agrees. “People I help often have chronic stress and are usually in a real survival mode. Studies show that this makes it more difficult to make decisions and that it can even lower IQ by up to thirteen points.”
Unhealthy food is often cheaper than healthy food
Moreover, unhealthy food is often cheaper and convenient, both experts believe. In addition, people with little money often live in places where the food supply is unhealthier. “Objectively speaking, this makes it even more difficult to make healthy choices. In places where people with more and less money live together, you often see that people with less money experience greater dissatisfaction,” explains De Vet.
This is also known as relative deprivation. This involves a subjective dissatisfaction caused by the position in relation to another. The feeling that you have less than someone else makes people more likely to look for reward.
Heugen sees this reflected in his daily work, especially with people with debts. “The average number of creditors is twelve per file. As a result, not much remains under the line and people are more likely to think: they will not take this away from me.”
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Apart from that, the budget coach indicates that some people with less money are already happy that they can eat a sandwich with cheese. “There is simply no money left for a garnish with lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Most are very creative, but are more likely to do so with bulk products such as pizza and other ready-to-eat products, pasta and soft drinks.”
De Vet sees that many of these products have increased in size in recent decades. For example, there are kilo banger and XL bags of chips or supersize menus. “If you have to get by on little money, these bulk packs are attractive, because you literally get more value for your money.”
Is healthy eating a luxury?
Moreover, there are often rituals and traditions associated with eating patterns. These can differ enormously per education level, says De Vet. People with a lower income are more likely to suffer from overweight, obesity and diabetes. The so-called diseases of affluence have become diseases of poverty, De Vet notes. “Healthy living is a luxury that not everyone can afford.”
Even though there are affordable products that contain sufficient nutrients, a healthy diet is more expensive than an unhealthy diet, says De Vet.
People with low incomes and a lower level of education live an average of seven years less and around fifteen years less in good perceived health. She thinks it’s absurd and unfair. “Overweight is not always a personal choice, but also a problem of society. Especially if more than 75 percent of the supermarket offer does not fit into the Wheel of Five and the offers are largely unhealthy.”